In 2013, President Obama outlined and introduced an ambitious agenda to tackle affordability and the rising college costs through providing a new ratings systems for families and students to best select schools based on their financial circumstances. Last February, the Administration and Department of Education released the initial framework for public opinion from policy and higher education stakeholders. The framework itself consists of a two rating system, one pivoted towards consumers, the other for policy makers and academia. Four year institutions will be compared independently from two year institutions, and the ratings will not be limited to academic prestige. Metrics used in the systems are categorized into 3 different divisions, accessibility, affordability, and outcomes. The new system will readjust federal aid for academic institutions based on the new exhibited values, hoping to hold higher education institutions more accountable for the $150 billion that is awarded in federal loans and grants. Although the administration has positive hopes, public universities and academia rose quickly in criticism of the new ratings system and there are speculations to how this may adversely affect music education at a higher level. Many collegiate presidents have expressed the new rating system would elevate financial concerns for institutions that consist of greater populations of students majoring music, arts, and liberal arts education programs that typically do not lead to consistently high-earning careers post-graduation. Although graduation rates is the staple in the new system, specifics regarding how the metric is calculated has yet to be public. Questions are raised on whether calculations will be based on a student’s graduation in 4 years, or more. This is a concern to future educators as many education programs utilize practicum program semesters, which are required after four years of classroom study. Since academic accessibility is a primary concern, universities may need to invest further in infrastructure, facility, and accessibility improvements to meet the future increase demand of students. Most recently, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), filed an education amendment for the Senate’s Budget resolution, which would block President Obama’s college ratings system from being implemented. For now, the finalized version of the new college rating system is on track to be released in August, 2015 and will be utilized for the upcoming 2015-2016 academic year.
Ronny Lau, Special Assistant, Center for Advocacy and Constituency Engagement, March 2, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).