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California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools

Duncan Defends Ratings System to Congress

04/10/2014

Inside Higher Ed. April 9, 2014.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system to several Republican lawmakers, who criticized the plan. Testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department’s budget, Duncan said that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department’s 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system.

 “I question whether this is the best use of taxpayer dollars and whether higher education resources could be better-focused on federal student aid or other established programs,” said Representative Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, a Republican.

Representative David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, cited a December poll that found a majority of college presidents doubted the administration’s proposal would be effective in making college more affordable.

Duncan reiterated that the administration’s goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. “Taxpayers spend 150 billion each year in grants and loans,” he said. “Virtually all of that is based on inputs. Almost none of that is based on outcomes.” Department officials have previously said they plan to produce a draft outline of the ratings system by the end of this spring.

Separately, Duncan also sidestepped a question about whether college athletes should have the right to unionize. Echoing the remarks he made in an interview last month prior to a preliminary ruling in favor of Northwestern football players, Duncan said Tuesday he was concerned that athletic coaches’ salaries do not provide the proper incentives for academic performance.