...What brought [UC-Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks] to Washington, among other business, was a meeting with top U.S. Education Department officials to discuss President Obama’s plan for the federal government to rate colleges on value by the start of the 2015-16 school year. Obama announced the plan in August, part of what was billed as an effort to increase college affordability.
The rating system is still under design. Obama proposed that ratings should be based on measures such as the percentage of students receiving Pell grants; the average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt at a college; and outcomes, including graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings and the number of advanced degrees earned by a given college’s graduates.
Many higher education leaders have mixed feelings about Obama’s initiative. Dirks is no exception. But he said that it’s better for universities to participate in the discussion than to boycott it. “We don’t have an option but to engage,” he said. One of his bottom lines: Dirks is adamant that schools should not be rated based on the earnings of their graduates. “No. No prevarication. Just n-o,” Dirks said when asked whether it would be a good idea to factor earnings into a college rating system...