Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger has serious concerns about President Obama's proposal to institute a new ratings system for colleges, and we share his concerns.
The details haven't been finalized, but Obama's plan would basically aim at judging schools by their affordability and then ranking them according to average student loan debt, graduation rates and the average earnings of graduates. Under Obama's proposal, students attending highly rated schools could receive larger grants and more affordable loans. The president will need congressional approval to tie the ratings system to federal student aid funding, but with or without the aid component, the White House plans to have the ratings system set up before the 2015 school year.
Swanger fears such a system could hurt FMCC and other community colleges by judging them by the same standards as elite institutions. He has pointed out that community colleges often are the only realistic choice available to many students, and that won't change no matter how the school is ranked by this new system.
If Obama goes forward with his plan to rank colleges, he should rank schools with a system that properly categorizes them by their size and by the purpose of the institution. FMCC provides an invaluable resource to the local community in the form of inexpensive college-level courses, courses students can use to improve their job skills or as a bridge to further education at a four-year school. Any federal proposal to tackle the ever-increasing cost of a college education should reward institutions like FMCC, not punish them.