February 22, 2023
In January, the U.S. Department of Education asked for feedback on a plan to publish a list of college programs with low financial value to students and solicited opinions on what factors the agency should consider when constructing the ranking.
The announcement mimics an earlier idea from the Obama administration, which crafted a plan to rate all U.S. colleges and shame bottom-ranking institutions that saddled students with debt burdens they couldn’t afford. That system never came to fruition amid heavy criticism, echoes of which can be heard in concerns about the Biden administration’s new stripped-down version.
The Education Department gave the public until Feb. 10 to provide feedback. Comments poured in from every corner of the higher education sector, including policy advocates, student borrowers and groups representing private and public colleges. Though many voiced support for the list and offered up ideas for how it should be built, other influential groups rejected the idea altogether.
Those opposed include higher education’s top lobbying group, the American Council on Education. ACE President Ted Mitchell, a former under secretary in the Education Department during the Obama administration, wrote a letter on behalf of almost two dozen higher education organizations, including those representing land-grant institutions, community colleges, financial aid administrators and student affairs officials.
While Mitchell applauded the Education Department’s goal of ensuring colleges don’t leave students with onerous debt levels, he argued it’s not possible to create a metric that would determine programmatic value across a wide variety of colleges.