Good Observations on Obama’s College-Rating Plan

by George Leef

Back on October 16, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece by Mitchell Reiss, the president of a small college, in which he explained why he was not enthusiastic about the Obama administration’s ideas on rating colleges and then linking federal student-aid money to those ratings. In today’s paper, we have some good reply letters and I copy the best among them below. Mr. Bortone is absolutely right that whatever the specifics of the plan, colleges will focus on finding ways to game the system, to the detriment of actual education for students.

In regard to Mitchell B. Reiss’s “Federal Ratings for Colleges? Sounds Like Trouble” (op-ed, Oct. 16): I agree with his negative stance on the Higher Education Act. Many public schools have already endured a system similar to the one the act aims to implement for colleges and universities. In Florida, public high schools were rated and allocated funding based on graduation rates and state achievement-exam scores, which resulted in the entire focus of the school being put on passing students who could not read, write or compute simple arithmetic. Teachers were hammered by administration members and regulators to enforce basic F-CAT preparation in classrooms, even in advanced placement courses. The results were terrible and tremendous amounts of time were wasted. I feel I was cheated out of the education I should have received simply because the school’s sole purpose was to “win” even more state funding based on the same qualifications proposed in the Higher Education Act. Personally, I believe the Higher Education Act will corrupt even the most prestigious universities by taking the focus off the student and redirecting it to a uniformed standard that is unrealistic.

Alexander J. Bortone

Pensacola, Fla.