Obama can rate colleges without Congress

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Intended to help students find the best value in a college education, the system would rank schools by cost, graduation rates and graduate earnings. The ratings would appear on a scorecard and would be continuously refined to give schools a chance to improve their standing.

“I'm very interested in growth and gain, how much folks are improving,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during remarks aboard Air Force One on Thursday afternoon. “So are graduation rates going up?  Are they keeping down costs?  Do young people have access to good jobs at the back end?”

Duncan said the agency would solicit feedback from lawmakers, the public and other interested parties while developing the system.

The administration plans to push for legislation that would overhaul the way federal aid is awarded by tying it to the ratings. Students attending high-performing colleges could get larger Pell grants and cheaper student loans.

“There are schools out there who are terrific values.  But there are also schools out there that have higher default rates than graduation rates,” Obama said. “And taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing students to go to schools where the kids aren't graduating.”

But such a bill could face resistance from Congress. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce was among the first to raise concerns following Thursday’s speech. 

Kline said he would examine the proposal further.

“While I am pleased the president’s new plan recognizes the importance of promoting innovation and competition in higher education, I remain concerned that imposing an arbitrary college ranking system could curtail the very innovation we hope to encourage – and even lead to federal price controls,” Kline said.

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