In his presentation at the University of Buffalo on 8/22/13 President Obama said he will direct the Department of Education to publish a new system of college evaluations by 2015. The evaluations are reportedly to be based upon issues such as graduation rates, student debt and quantitative measures that demonstrate access to schools by poorer students. The suggestion is that the data will be accessible to the public by which it can draw its own conclusions regarding students' success, creating ratings and rankings as desired. The overall objective is to avoid having colleges "game the system" by avoiding private institution/private reporting service (e.g., U.S New and Review) information interchange that is favorable to individual or groups of colleges.
Particularly in the face of a challenged job market, it is increasingly unacceptable to have the government provide educational loans and grants to individuals and programs without the colleges demonstrating that they are at least producing graduates; even better if increasingly employable. Schools are afraid that President Obama might push Congress to pass laws that would subdivide money made available based upon the federal government's interpretation of the new data. Colleges have been loathe to answer the "chicken versus egg" questions regarding learning and graduation. Now schools will have to ramp up their remedial programs, tutoring programs, complementary teaching (outside of classroom) programs and even consider academic activity/performance agreements with students to assure that they go beyond just labeling themselves as inclusive, serving the under-served, and providing a niche for those from challenged demographic segments of the population. It will no longer be acceptable to simply enroll these students and the otherwise unremarkable average student, rather colleges will need to establish circumferential plans for students' success.
Without answering the "chicken versus egg" questions, Tier I colleges and universities will continue to do business as usual. But, like the local, under-performing primary school that is destined to be defunded, a substantial number of state and specific-demographic population serving schools will be scrambling to update their business plans to avoid demise of their institutions or losses of potential students if federal money were to become available only for use at "higher rated" institutions.
The President's entry into "pay for performance" type discussions regarding colleges and universities lead to higher education lobbying groups suggesting that colleges would have to handpick the brightest and richest students to fill their classes. They suggested that the new process would punish some institutions yielding unintended consequences that would harm schools and a disproportionate number of low-income students. But, earnestly, schools already compete for the most competitive and most able to pay. The issue is how they round out their classes after filling up as much as they are able with the ideal candidates, and how the schools manage "the fill". Academically, if the colleges have historically managed thei second and third tier students suboptimally, there should be an alternative solution: defund the schools/students, or change the schools and students service/performance rubrics.
Most do not wish to defund the schools and students. As such, all but the Tier I schools and students should earnestly reconsider their service-performance rubrics, with consideration of developing service/performance contracts that are co-signed by staff and students, pointing the way to students' success.