The Obama administration is developing a college rating (not ranking) system that will be based on criteria yet to be determined but that could include data such as tuition and how much students earn when they graduate and get a job. It is intended to be used (with congressional approval) in deciding which institutions deserve federal student aid.
Naturally, President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, say it is a grand idea that will hold schools accountable to students. Critics worry that the system will be arbitrary and will hurt poorer schools and schools that do not focus on preparing students for jobs on Wall Street. They also note that all school rating systems present a limited view of the institution and that the government already publishes a great deal of information on colleges and universities that are available to the public.
While the pros and cons of the initiative are debated, one question that never seems to be asked is how much the enterprise is going to cost to develop and implement. Millions, apparently.
I asked the Education Department about cost estimates, and Dorie Nolt, press secretary of Duncan, responded in an e-mail with the following:
So far, we have used existing staff to do the college ratings system work. The President’s FY15 budget includes $10 million to support further development and refinement of a new college rating system.
Presumably it will cost plenty more to implement and keep refining. That sounds like a lot of money for a limited rating system that isn’t necessary and is likely to cause more problems than it intends to fix.