Those Damn Ratings–I Mean, Regulations!

In case you missed it, Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, held a hearing on “burdensome regulations” in higher education. Well, there is some terrible “red tape” in higher ed, mostly involving the research-stifling institutional review boards Zachary Schrag wrote about for WaMo last year. But as Daniel Luzer explains at College Guide today, that’s not what Lamar! had in mind:

Recently, President Barack Obama proposed a system of college ratings, which would measure student outcomes, in addition to other things, and give colleges ratings based on how well they perform. Eventually, colleges could be rewarded or punished with federal money based on how well they did keeping college affordable and graduating students.

Colleges got nervous. It’s sort of a nice system they’ve got in place there. As Louisiana State University President King Alexander put it, when it comes to funding from Washington, private universities prefer the feds just “put the money on a tree stump and leave.”

Lamar Alexander was there to help. The colleges and institutions involved in advising HELP include such behemoths as University of Maryland System, Vanderbilt University, the American Council on Education. They want make sure to really cut down all of those nasty regulations.

Nobody likes red tape, and actually, beneficiaries of federal money would prefer no one hold them accountable for its use. But it’s interesting to see a Republican Senate committee “help” colleges–you know, those liberal elitist institutions they’re always complaining about–avoid transparency with students and parents for what they are doing with taxpayers’ dollars.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.