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Higher Education’s New Caste System

Washington Monthly

By Rachel Cohen

September 05, 2013 9:07 PM


Yesterday, the Washington Monthly, in collaboration with the New America Foundation, hosted a panel discussion exploring, among other things, the White House’s recently proposed plan to develop alternative college ratings. 

James Kvaal, the Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, who spoke at the event, explained that the new ratings, expected to be released by 2015, will focus on how accessible, affordable and successful a college is at helping students to graduate, achieve a degree or transfer to another institution. 

Kvaal emphasized that these ratings would not be rankings. They would not be designed to punish schools but rather as an impetus to help institutions improve. “We want to give people a broad sense of which institutions are providing value,” said Kvaal.

Washington Monthly Editor-in-Chief Paul Glastris asked a follow-up question: is it even possible to devise a rating system that won’t be ultimately “gamed by the system”? Kvaal answered that while it’s essentially unclear at this point, the idea would be for the rating system to consist of broad categories, therefore making it difficult for institutions to simply tweak something small and expect a rating boost. The design, in theory, would encourage colleges to enact more fundamental changes to their mentality and culture if they wish to see their ratings improve.