The U.S. Department of Education has changed its plans for President Barack Obama's controversial college rating system. Instead of scoring institutions, as previously announced, the system will simply be a tool providing data about how schools compare to each other, the department announced Thursday in a blog post.
"We really heard that what people want is the customizable approach," deputy under secretary of education Jamienne S. Studley told the Chronicle of Higher Education. She said with the new tool, visitors can analyze schools "on whatever measures are important to them."
Announced in August 2013, the college rating system was another move by the Obama administration to hold colleges and universities accountable for their students' success. The system's eventual goal was to tie institutions' federal aid to academic performance -- a proposal the White House said it would introduce before Congress in 2018 but experts argued was unlikely to pass if the GOP remained in control. Schools were wary from the start about how the ratings would account for diverse student populations, Inside Higher Ed reported.
After 15 months of development, the White House announced in December a bare-bones framework for the ratings system. Schools would be labeled as high-, middle- or low-performing based on 11 metrics, including how many of a college's students were receiving Pell Grants, average net price of attendance, transfer rates and graduate school attendance.
With Thursday's news, the system was still on schedule to debut before the 2015-2016 school year, but the other factors have changed. The new tool will give Americans access to the data and let them analyze the cost and outcomes themselves, according to the blog post. Specifics were still under discussion.
"We have found that the needs of students are very diverse and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely," Studley wrote in the blog post. "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."
Researchers, institutions and app developers will also be able to use the White House's college tool to look at data.