I realize that the University of California system is hardly a part of the private sector, but it is still closer to it than the Department of Homeland Security is. Janet Napolitano has taken the presidency of the University of California and I think it is helping her see the real world a little bit more clearly than she could before.
From the Washington Post:
Janet Napolitano, who was President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary before being named president of the University of California system this past summer, said Friday that she was “deeply skeptical” of a plan by the administration to rate colleges according to specific criteria because it is too hard to develop meaningful data points.
Napolitano, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, told Washington Post reporters and editors that she had not yet had a chance to talk to Education Secretary Arne Duncan about his plan and has until now been reluctant to voice a public opinion.
“I am deeply skeptical that there are criteria that can be developed that are in the end meaningful because there will be so many exceptions, once you get down to it,” she said. “It’s not like, you know, you’re not buying a car or a boat. And so I hope to have the opportunity to engage in a productive way in this discussion.”
She also said: “I don’t think that there are a lot of apples to apples comparisons” in regard to criteria that doesn’t have multiple exceptions and that are legitimate comparisons among institutions of higher education.
Obama and Duncan have said they will unveil federal ratings of colleges by 2015, and the Education Department is seeking the criteria that will be used in the effort. One data point that may be used — and that has generated a lot of concern among educators — is the amount of money graduates earn after they leave a college.
Obama’s and Duncan’s plan shows the same assumption as the “health exchanges” under Obamacare. Supposedly the key to efficiency and rational decision-making lies in a single system that presents all the options to the consumer. We know how well the healthcare.gov site is working out right now. Hopefully, nothing as horrible will happen with the college and university rating system. So far they haven’t claimed they are going to create a portal everyone must use to enroll in school.
But Napolitano is obviously right. There is no way to put all the pros and cons of a college into a single rating system. Or, if it could be done, it would be so complicated as to be useless for providing simplified information.
It is also condescending and demeaning to parents and potential students. Does Obama honestly think that the information is unavailable or that those who are most affected by their educational choices don’t know enough to research their options?
The entire project is a make-work boondoggle at best. But Obama’s claim he will somehow tie tuition assistance to the system means it could do real harm.