Today, APLU hosted a forum on Alternatives to Ratings. Listening to it stream online got me thinking dangerous thoughts.
All through this ratings system conversation I have been thinking about the essential uselessness of creating yet another government website for students. I don’t believe most students think of the federal government as being the authority on schools and colleges. If the ratings are supposed to be consumer information, how do you put them in front of the targeted consumers?
I have also been thinking about the ratings as being rectangular tiles, color-coded to David Bergeron’s proposal – lead, bronze, silver, gold, platinum.
And I thought about the US News & World Report America’s Best College badge. You can see an example here.
But that medal you wore on your chest always got in the way
Like a little girl with a trophy so soft to buy her way
So, the feds could simply add another piece to Title IV eligibility requiring institutions to display the appropriately earned PIRS Badge on their websites. Plural. It is not enough to display it on the admissions and/or financial aid page. Instead it should be required to be displayed in the footer of every single page. Perhaps even the header.
Of course, this falls apart for the Lead institutions once they lose their Title IV eligibility. Which means any institution without a badge would be suspect. Unfortunately, this would be unfair to certain institutions that have chosen not to participate in federal aid programs. For those institutions, USED could issue a badge of non-participation.
I think this is an elegant solution to make the ratings meaningful to consumers. And make sure they see them.