The College Rating Framework

The College Rating Framework

"The only reason to carry out a test is to improve a process, to improve the quality and quantity of the next run or of next year's Edwards Demingcrop.  Important questions in science and industry are how and under what conditions observations may contribute to a rational decision to change or not to change a process to accomplish improvements. A record of observations must accordingly contain all the information that anyone might need in order to make his own prediction.  A company that is healthy, doing well, is in excellent position to improve management, product, and service, thus to contribute to the economic welfare of itself and to the rest of us, and moreover has the greatest obligation to improve. A monopoly is in fact the best possible position to improve year by year, and has the greatest obligation to do so. A company that is on the rocks can only think survival."  ... W. Edwards Deming


Many consider W. Edwards Deming to be the preeminent leader who transformed Japanese manufacturing.  Companies like Toyota and Sony adopted  Deming's systems whereby attention was moved away from inspecting defects after products were made to focusing on designing a better system for developing products that focused design, quality at the front-end of the system, and throughout the entire process - eliminating excess need for fixing 'defects' at the end.

I wonder if Deming was around today if he could work with government, companies, and educators to design a system that insure all students graduated with a quality college / university education that would insure a productive life.  The administration is going to need the help of someone like Deming for the new College Rating System to drive the results they are looking for.

The Department of Education's (DOE) recent announcement of the College Ratings Framework is creating a great deal of dialogue across our space.  Some are supporting it, seeing it as a requirement for additional information and accountability, while others are diametrically opposed.  Walter Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) noted in a letter to members that the 'AACC does not support a federal postsecondary institutions rating system'.

What is important to note is that the DOE's initial announcement was for the framework of a college rating system only.  It was made clear that this is not version 1.0.  The plan will be for the full ratings system (at least version 1.0) to be put into place for the 2015-2016 school year.  It is also important to note that the framework is designed for predominately four-year institutions awarding bachelors degrees and above and two-year institutions  granting associated degrees and certificates.  Graduate degree only and non-degree granting institutions will not be included in the initial version of the rating system.


The DOE's objectives for the College Rating System include:

-  To recognize institutions that excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds, focus on maintaining affordability, and succeed in helping students graduate

-  To identify a few key critical measures of institutional performance

-  To help colleges and universities to measure, benchmark, and continue to improve across shared principles of access, affordability, and outcomes

-  To help students and families to make informed decisions about where to go to school (to best meet their individual needs)

-  To enable incentives and accountability structures in federal student aid programs in order to align to these principles

-  To incentivize schools to make greater progress in areas such as serving and graduating low income and first generation students while at the same time keeping the cost of college down

The measures that the DOE is considering include:

-  Percentage of Students Receiving Pell  Grants

-  Expected Family Contribution (as an indicator for students attending from lower-income backgrounds)

-  Family Income Quintiles (as an additional indicator for students attending from lower-income backgrounds)

-  First Generation College Students

-  Average Net Price

-  Net Priced by Quintile (As a comparative, provides a measure of the price students pay by family background.  This measure would only be available for students who received federal student aid)

-  Completion Rates (An important note here is that this would include only first-time full-time degree or certificate seeking undergraduates)

-  Transfer Rates (This is important given that for many students, a two-year school is a stepping stone toward the completion of a bachelors degree)

-  Labor Market Success

-  Graduate School Attendance

-  Loan Performance Outcomes (i.e. percentage of students repaying student loans on time)

What I liked about the language that has been presented so far is that it is being presented as a 'first step' and is meant to be a 'framework' and will lead to a 'version 1.0'.  This indicates that the administration and the DOE realize that this system is going to be a work-in-process for some time.  Given this, it is difficult to argue with the new system - especially with the goal being to provide the public with the information they need to make educated choices, to provide transparency in to government spending ($150 B is spent each year to fund federal student aid), and to develop a foundation for providing access and affordability with a focus on student outcomes.

For everything innovative, everything that has been invented, and everything that will ever be invented in the future, it has to start somewhere.  Inventors know the first version will require iteration.  The key to this plan will be the ability to iterate on it in a timely manner.  If that construct is put in place at the beginning - in the fall of 2015 when version 1.0 of the plan is put in place, the new college rating system has the potential to become an impactful system.


Note:  Approximately 9,000 individuals were engaged / interviewed during 160 sessions over  the past several months in order to define the initial framework. Constituents included students, parents, counsellors, college trustees, presidents, faculty administrator members of congress, state and local leaders.