“With President Obama promising to release his controversial college-rating plan this fall, college leaders are on high alert. They worry that they’ll look bad, that they’ll be judged unfairly, and that the plan will have a host of unintended consequences,” The Chronicle of Higher Ed reports.
“But if recent history is any guide, they needn’t be so nervous. Time and again, when confronted with criticism from colleges, this administration has softened its stance or bent the rules to accommodate them. In the end, it has almost always arrived at a position that colleges (for-profits excepted) could live with, if not exactly embrace.
This fall alone, the Education Department relaxed its criteria for awarding PLUS loans, spared some colleges with high student-loan default rates, and scrapped an unpopular metric in its ‘gainful employment’ rule. In each case, the change made more colleges, or more borrowers, eligible for federal student aid.
To student and consumer advocates, such shifts are signs of weakness. They have accused the administration of caving to pressure from colleges and letting underperforming institutions off the hook.
For-profit colleges, meanwhile, have charged the department with favoritism—placating community colleges while ignoring their own concerns.
But for anxious college leaders, the recent reversals and reprieves are cause for optimism. If the department has been willing to compromise on so many other controversial rules, chances are it will be willing to negotiate on ratings as well. Already, the administration has retreated from its pledge to release ratings metrics this fall; these days, it’s promising a conceptual framework.”