TIME White House

Education Department Dials Back Plan to Rate Colleges

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The Department of Education announced this week that it’s backing off its ambitious and controversial plan to rate all of the nation’s colleges and universities, marking a win for institutions and the vast higher education lobby that vehemently opposed the idea.

Administration officials promised nearly two years ago that they would roll out a new federal ratings plan, the Post-Secondary Institution Rating System (PIRS), to help push students toward high-quality schools that would give them the best return on their money. President Obama also suggested that the system could eventually be used as a tool to hold institutions accountable, by tying federal financial aid to institutions’ ratings.

The Education Department announced yesterday that it would instead release a different, significantly less ambitious “ratings tool” that will simply provide information about all of the more than 7,500 colleges and universities in the country, so students can “reach their own conclusions about a college’s value.” The new tool will not explicitly rate the institutions based on any measures of quality nor tie federal aid to a school’s performance. (The announcement prompted a cheeky discussion on Twitter about how, exactly, that could be called a “ratings tool” at all.)

Administration officials insisted that the Education Department’s decision to back off on the ratings system did not mark a significant policy shift: the original rating plan was designed primarily as a consumer-facing tool, to help students make informed decisions; the new tool will play precisely role.

Still, many advocates were disappointed. Ben Miller, the senior director of post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress, says it was “a decent step back from putting colleges on notice.”

“The problem I have is that anyone can create a consumer tool” that provides information about schools to students, he said. The Education Department’s College Scorecard and the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator already do some of that.

“What the Education Department does have is an accountability role over every college and university in the country,” he said. “So that’s my disappointment. I wish it would use that unique role more and not do something anyone can do.”

Rachel Fishman, a policy analyst with New America’s Education Policy Program, saw the Education Department’s reversal this week as a “major win for institutions,” which, along with the higher education lobby and a coalition of mostly Republican lawmakers, opposed the ratings plan from the start. They argued that it was little more than a government-led effort to publicly shame certain schools on the basis of incomplete federal data and biased formulas that would reward schools for doing things like, say, admitting high percentages of low-income students.

The higher education lobby argued that PIRS, which was never completed, would be inherently unfair, “since it would be based on incomplete federal data on student achievement,” Fishman said. “They’re right that there’s incomplete data, but the reason for that is because the higher education lobby fought for a ban on that data,” she said. (The government’s ability to collect student records is currently very limited.)

Andrew Kelly, the director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, saw the Education Department’s reversal on its rating plan as an indictment of the plan itself. “It’s easy to chalk this up to the higher education lobby’s power, but that implicitly suggests that the policy itself was sound and was the right way to go, and I think that’s not correct,” he said. “I think the notion of the federal government rating colleges wasn’t particularly appropriate in the first place. Where they would up is probably where they would have started.”

Administration officials argued that it hasn’t dropped the ball on holding institutions accountable; it’s just using other tools. For example, on Tuesday this week, a federal court judge threw out a lawsuit brought by for-profit colleges that attempted to overturn the federal government’s new “gainful employment rules,” which will require for-profit and a very limited number of other colleges to meet certain benchmarks of quality—like whether alumni get jobs that pay them well enough to repay their loans—in order to receive federal financial aid. The new rule are now set to go into effect next week.

MONEY colleges

Department of Education Backs Away from Plan to Rate Colleges

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Grant Faint—Getty Images

The Obama administration's plan to officially rate colleges appears to be cancelled.

The U.S. Department of Education appears to have scrapped plans to create a college rating system, according to an announcement on the agency’s official website.

In a blog posting Thursday, Deputy Under Secretary for Postsecondary Education Jamienne Studley said the department would be releasing a tool this summer that will “provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes” in order to “Help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value.” The new system will still provide information on colleges, but refrain from assigning a ranking.

That policy differs starkly from the president’s original plan, announced in August of 2013, to develop a rating system for colleges and tie federal financial aid to each institution’s performance. The ratings would have been based on factors like better access for lower-income students, affordability, and outcomes such as graduation rate and graduate earnings.

However, the rankings initiative met stiff opposition from educators who accused the administration of embracing a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Applying a sledgehammer to the whole system isn’t going to work,” Robert G. Templin Jr., president of Northern Virginia Community College, told the New York Times last year. “They think their vision of higher education is the only one.”

While some officials initially claimed the creation of a college ratings system would be a relatively simple endeavor—Deputy Under Secretary Studley previously compared rating colleges to “rating a blender”—the department seems to have come around to Templin’s position.

“Through our research and our conversations with the field, we have found that the needs of students are very diverse and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely,” wrote Studley on Thursday. “By providing a wealth of data–including many important metrics that have not been published before–students and families can make informed comparisons and choices based on the criteria most important to them.”

In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell did not explicitly say the ratings plan had been cancelled, but admitted the department would “be focusing on the consumer-focused tool for this year’s project.” The ratings system was originally scheduled for release before the 2015 school year.

Even though the government has pulled back from providing official college ratings, the new system will be built to assist third parties in creating their own rankings. Studley’s blog post included a promise to “provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.”

Last summer, MONEY debuted its own “Best Colleges” rankings. Those ratings used a number of metrics to determine a college’s quality affordability, post-graduation outcomes, and affordability and then compose an overall ranking based on those features.

TIME India

You Now Need to Score 99% to Study English at One of India’s Top Colleges

Admissions at Delhi University
Ramesh Sharma—India Today Group/Getty Images Students arriving at the Delhi University to fill their admission form on June 9, 2015

It's literally only accepting the top 1%

St. Stephen’s College in New Delhi has long been one of India’s premier and most sought-after educational institutions, counting notable personalities from fields as diverse as politics (including the former Presidents of three different countries), science, business, writing and acting among its alumni.

The elite college has always been notoriously difficult to get into, but took its entry criteria to near-farcical proportions this year by setting a cutoff of 99% for students applying for its English honors course from the commerce stream.

Students applying from the science fields have it slightly better, needing to score above 97.75% to be eligible, while humanities students can get in with 97.5%, the Indian Express newspaper reported. The Economics honors course comes in a close second, with the bar set at 98.5%, 97.5% and 97%, respectively.

And that’s just the beginning — successful students will then face an interview, as well as a 30-minute aptitude test introduced this year, in order to be deemed worthy of studying at St. Stephen’s.

The high bar set by the reputed New Delhi school, which operates as part of the University of Delhi and is consistently ranked among the nation’s top five, reflects the increasingly cutthroat competition to get into elite institutions in the South Asian nation.

“We have received the maximum applications this year,” college spokesperson Karen Gabriel told the Express. “While 27,000 candidates had applied in 2013, this year’s figure is the highest in the college’s history.”

A record 32,100 applications came in this year, of which only 400 will eventually become “Stephenians.”

[Indian Express]


Texas Lawmakers Pass Bill to Allow Concealed Carry at Public Colleges

Mike Schoefield
Eric Gay—AP Rep. Mike Schoefield packs up his desk after the House adjourned on the final day of the legislative session in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol on June 1, 2015, in Austin, TX.

If governor signs bill, openly carrying guns on campus would remain prohibited

The Texas state legislature passed a bill Monday that would allow people to carry concealed guns in buildings on public college campuses, and Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign it.

The new law would remove a blanket ban on guns on campus at public Texas colleges, though school administrators could still ban guns from specific buildings, CNN reports. Backers of the bill claim it will provide increased individual protection to properly licensed gun-owners, but opponents argue campus shootings could increase and schools will have to pay up to boost security.

Texas is the first state to have a campus-carry bill reach the governor’s desk to be signed. Private universities won’t be affected by the new bill, and openly carrying a weapon on a public college campus would remain prohibited.


Read next: Vince Vaughn Says Banning Guns ‘Like Banning Forks’

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. McDonald’s is raising wages for 90,000 employees. That’s a good start, and a strong message to other fast food outlets.

By Shan Li and Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times

2. “It must be right:” The human instinct to trust the authority of machines can be dangerous when life is on the line.

By Bob Wachter in Backchannel

3. As college acceptance letters roll in, women should ask about sexual assault prevention on campus.

By Veena Trehan at Nation of Change

4. When corporate values clash with policy in conservative states, big business has a powerful veto tool.

By Eric Garland in Medium

5. Amazon’s Dash button isn’t a hoax. It’s a step toward a true “Internet of Things.”

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles in the Wall Street Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Al Qaeda and ISIS are locked in an ideological war, and for once, it’s good to be their mutual enemy.

By Daniel Byman and Jennifer Williams in Lawfare

2. For the millions left behind by America’s new economy, disability claims — legitimate or otherwise — are skyrocketing.

By Chana Joffe-Walt in Planet Money by National Public Radio

3. Maybe universities shouldn’t measure prestige by the number of applicants they turn away.

By Jon Marcus in the Hechinger Report

4. When younger women have heart attacks, they’re twice as likely to die as their male counterparts. Is medicine’s gender bias to blame?

By Maya Dusenbery in Pacific Standard

5. Can the triumph and tragedy of soccer help Harvard students appreciate the humanities?

By Colleen Walsh in the Harvard Gazette

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Independent and third party candidates could break D.C. gridlock — if they can get to Washington.

By Tom Squitieri in the Hill

2. A new software project has surgeons keeping score as a way to improve performance and save lives.

By James Somers in Medium

3. The New American Workforce: In Miami, local business are helping legal immigrants take the final steps to citizenship.

By Wendy Kallergis in Miami Herald

4. Policies exist to avoid the worst results of head injuries in sports. We must follow them to save athletes’ lives.

By Christine Baugh in the Chronicle of Higher Education

5. Sal Khan: Use portfolios instead of transcripts to reflect student achievement.

By Gregory Ferenstein at VentureBeat

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Education

More Than 60 Colleges Attend Dartmouth’s Sexual Assault Summit

Administrators face pressure to end the mishandling of assault investigations and put effective prevention measures in place

Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon wants parents of women on his campus to know that the school is working to address the issue of sexual assault. During a hour-long conversation on New Hampshire Public Radio Tuesday, Hanlon said the school is “open” and “upfront.” “You should not be worried if a campus is talking about [sexual assault],” Hanlon said. “You should be worried if a campus is not talking about it.”

And Dartmouth is certainly talking about it. The school is hosting nearly 300 representatives from over 60 colleges, national experts, and government officials for a four day summit on preventing campus sexual assault, just days after a Congressional survey found that 41% of colleges polled have not investigated a sexual assault on their campuses in the past five years.

The Department of Education also launched investigations into 55 schools across the country this year, including Dartmouth, for allegedly mishandling of incidents involving an assault. This week’s summit is an opportunity for school and government officials to discuss best practices for addressing the issue, with representatives from Duke University, Rice University, Pomona College and Georgetown University on hand to discuss interactions between students and school administrators.

Hanlon said Tuesday that Dartmouth intends to position itself as a national leader in the effort to combat sexual assault on campus. He’s been in office for one year and named the issue one of his top priorities. In June, the college implemented a new policy for handling reports of sexual assault that requires outside investigators to look into complaints The policy also requires mandatory expulsion for some perpetrators of assault.

“As a nation we will reach a tipping point where nonconsensual sexual encounters on our college campuses are a thing of the past,” U.S. Representative Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) said Sunday at an opening session of the summit. Research has shown that one in five college women will become a victim of an attempted or actual sexual assault while on campus. A TIME cover story from May detailed the crisis, which has been called an epidemic, and also examined the efforts to curb the trend.

On Monday, representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice addressed the summit attendees affirming the federal government’s commitment to keeping student’s safe. “Every student needs to be safe,” said Catherine Lhamon of the Department of Education’s office of Civil Rights. Attendees have also been actively engaged on Twitter where conversations around the absence of males, student voices, and the need for more collaboration proliferated.

https://twitter.com/DartmouthChange/status/488760727008989184 https://twitter.com/DancingGrapes/status/488716002776322049

TIME Sexual Assault

The Debate: How Should College Campuses Handle Sexual Assault?

From survivors to politicians, activists and lawyers for the accused, TIME has gathered opinions from across party lines to weigh in on how to keep students safe. Here's what they had to say.

Recent research revealed that one in five women report being assaulted on college campuses. That shocking number has students, parents and politicians questioning the way schools protect students and adjudicate the cases of sexual assault. Read more in this week’s cover story about the sexual assault crisis on American college campuses.

VIDEO: My Rapist Is Still on Campus

Step Up. It’s Time by Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States

Rape Culture Is a Panic Where Paranoia, Censorship, and False Accusations Flourish by Christina Hoff Sommers, scholar

We Will Not Allow These Crimes to Be Swept Under the Rug Any Longer by Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator

Society Continues to Misplace Blame on Survivors by Mariska Hargitay, founder of Joyful Heart Foundation and star of Law & Order: SVU

Sexual Assault Prevention and Bystander Intervention by Philip J. Hanlon, President of Dartmouth College

The Battle Over Sexual Assault Is the Civil Rights Movement of Our Time by Gloria Allred, attorney and activist

He Was Turned On by My Distress by Emma Sulkowicz, student survivor

Some Rules About Consent Are Unfair to Male Students by Matthew Kaiser, attorney

We Need Transparency On the Issue of Fraternity Rape by Caitlin Flanagan, journalist

Violating Student Victims’ Rights Is Expensive by Nancy Chi Cantalupo, law professor

Overbroad Definitions of Sexual Assault are Deeply Counter-Productive by Jed Rubenfeld, law professor

Consent Must Be Created, Not Given by Jonathan Kalin, student activist

Universities and Fraternities Must Tell the Whole Truth by Douglas E. Fierberg, attorney

We Must Look at How We Teach Our Boys What It Means to Be a Man by Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape

‘I’m Proud’ to See My Alma Mater Investigated For Mishandling Rape by Jaclyn Friedman, activist and author


TIME Education

The Most Popular Law Schools of Supreme Court Justices

Not all law schools are created equal, and only a precious few have been turning out Supreme Court Justices in recent years

With its rigorous postgraduate education, grueling exams and highly competitive job market, law is one of the hardest professions to enter.

But the process wasn’t always so complex. In fact, the early lawyers and judges of the United States of America didn’t go to law school, and 57%—64 out of all 112—Supreme Court Justices of the United States never got their Juris Doctorate degree.

How is that possible?

In lieu of going to law school—which was uncommon in the U.S. until the late 1800’s—20 justices simply studied law under a current judge or lawyer. Forty-four others attended law school, but never graduated, pursuing a scholarly education outside of their universities instead.

The first justice to attend, but not graduate from law school, was John Blair Jr. in 1756, and the last was Robert Houghwout Jackson in 1912.

It wasn’t until 1832, when Benjamin Robbins graduated from Harvard University, that the first justice-to-be obtained a Juris Doctorate degree.

But even then, justices continued to enter the Supreme Court without a J.D. until 1941, when the last two men without the degree—James Frances Byrnes (never attended law school) and Robert Houghwout Jackson (attended Albany Law School, but never graduated)—entered the court.

In all, 48 Supreme Court Justices of the United States successfully graduated from law school. The ones that produced the most justices are Harvard (15), Yale (6), and Columbia (2).

Every member of today’s Supreme Court got their J.D. from one of the top three most common schools.

Five went to Harvard (John G. Roberts Jr., Atonin Scalia, Athony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, and Elena Kagan), three went to Yale (Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Sonia M. Sotomayor), and one went to Columbia (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

This article was written for TIME by Kiran Dhillon of FindTheBest.

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