Editorial: A missed opportunity for White House’s college scorecards

By The Daily Illini Editorial Board

During his weekly address on Saturday, President Barack Obama announced the launch of a new research — not ranking — site for colleges.

The site offers comprehensive data that allows students and parents to compare colleges based on factors that are important to them, such as graduation rates, income after college and annual tuition. Though it might have data not found elsewhere, like employment outcomes, it looks to be, simply, another way of comparing schools — another form of College Board, with less specificity.

It’s another site we can use, but it’s not the site we deserve.

In terms of college rankings, we’re limited to profit-driven systems such as Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report, which use the rankings to sell books. These reviews are based on schools willingly submitting information to the aforementioned institutions. This isn’t always reliable — in the past, there have been instances of schools lying about scores on their surveys.

According to an article in The New York Times, the President’s initial plan was even broader than providing an end-all, be-all ranking site. He initially planned to create a ranking system that held schools accountable — especially ones with low graduation rates and poor rates of income after college.

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    Given the government’s involvement in higher education funding, it only makes sense that they would have an interest in providing definitive, unbiased rankings of the nation’s different colleges with no ulterior motives.

    But despite his efforts, the institutions he would be ranking pushed back against the idea, citing that he would be forcing colleges to place majors that had better post-graduate income over other majors. Others said he wouldn’t be able to compete with U.S. News & World Reports or Princeton Review.

    The White House’s site could have provided us with an unbiased ranking that takes everything into account and had multiple criteria upon which to judge schools.

    During the announcement of his initial plan at the University of Buffalo in 2013, President Obama even mentioned that low-ranking schools would lose access to student federal aid money.

    It’s important for prospective students to have a way to rank schools that is unbiased and all-encompassing, instead of relying on the assistance and opinion of the administration. More importantly, students need one definitive source instead of the mess of websites they have to look at that might have conflicting information.

    Instead, we’re left with another comparison site with data that can be found elsewhere instead of the ranking site that would offer us an unbiased, definitive ranking of colleges.