Speculation about the Education Department's college ratings plan is running high; it's expected out Friday and university administrators are anxious for details. On the Hill, meanwhile, Republicans are already going on the attack. They see the ratings plan as another example of the administration meddling in the free market and attempting to imposing its own values on millions of students.
"They're getting involved in something they have no business getting involved with," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, herself a former college administrator. "Absolutely, it's overreach."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called ratings a moral imperative, vital both to help families make wise choices and to protect taxpayers' $150 billion-a-year investment in federal student aid. But the opposition on the Hill means it will be almost impossible for the administration to attach consequences to the ratings. Duncan had hoped the department could start steering more federal aid to highly-rated campuses (and less to laggards) by 2018. That would require Congressional approval, however - and no one thinks that's going to happen.
States, meanwhile, have moved aggressively to implement performance-based funding for colleges and universities. At least 25 states now allocate some higher education funding based on metrics such as how long it takes students to earn a degree, how many low-income students graduate or how many STEM degrees are awarded.
The amount of funding at stake varies from 5 percent to 25 percent of the state's higher education appropriations. States experimenting with the model include Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Tennessee.