President Barack Obama has a plan to rate colleges based on things like tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of poor students in the colleges. Eventually he intends to distribute federal money at least partially based on this information.

It’s somewhat controversial (intrusion of federal power and all that) but one state, New Jersey, appears to have a plan to be even more punitive, at least to for-profit colleges. According to an Associated Press article:

New Jersey’s higher education secretary would be allowed to revoke the ability of for-profit colleges to award degrees if they fail to achieve minimum graduation rates under a bill advanced by lawmakers Thursday.

Assemblyman Joe Cryan, a Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, says 15,000 to 20,000 students in New Jersey are in the [for-profit] schools’ programs in any semester.


More specifically,

Under his proposal, schools could lose their ability to grant degrees if their graduation rates are too low. He wants to set the threshold at 75 percent of full-time students in four-year degree programs graduating within six years and the same percentage of full-time students in two-year programs finishing within three years.

This sounds interesting, but it’s an awfully ambitious graduation rate goal. It looks rather like Cryan chose it in order to shut down for-profit colleges. “I don’t accept that reasonably well-run institutions can’t do it,” Cryan said last week at a hearing about the bill.

Really? Because it appears many state schools in New Jersey don’t even meet that 75 percent threshold now.

The Obama college rating plan might not go that far, considering the intransigence of Congress lately. Something like New Jersey’s attempt to regulate colleges on its own may be a promising strategy for education reform in the future.

But let’s see how far that one gets. It’s an exciting idea, but right now such an anti-corporation bill looks like the sort of thing that has a Chris Christie veto all over it.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer