What a big week for PIRS – the President’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System!
Well, at least in my little world.
On Monday, I was back at Ferrum College for the first time since my son’s graduation a year ago for SCHEV’s meeting with the Private College Advisory Board (the private college presidents) and our regular May meeting of Council. At the very end of the meeting I was asked to give an update of my activities with the wage and debt reports. During this briefest of updates I also volunteered supportive responses to issues raised during the meeting. (Of course, “supportive responses” were really along the lines of “If you would look at the damn website you would see that these things you are asking for already exist in great detail.”) When I asked for questions, I received one, “Can you tell us about your involvement with the ratings system?”
It was kind of a set-up, in that I had spoken with that president just prior to the meeting and so he knew something of my involvement. I gave about a four sentence response summarizing my presentation at the symposium, which was greeted with the only applause of the day. The reception following the meeting contained a number of side conversations about the topic and requests for materials.
Parallel to all this, due to the marvels of mobile email, there is an exchange on this topic with my boss and a public college president, and the sharing of my presentation with that president.
Tuesday night was the time for pair of separate email conversation with a public and private president, both of whom have become highly involved in the topic and have been offering alternatives to USED and members of Congress. I’m really glad to see that they have been engaged and are offering some thoughtful, and good, suggestions.
Wednesday we saw the blog post from Jamienne Studley that announced that draft ratings system release would be delayed until fall. Many of us were not surprised by this news. This is a big project with high stakes – the initial release sets the tone as to whether Congress might actually tie Title IV eligibility to the ratings.
One of Tuesday night’s conversation led to a call from a congressional staffer. During the course of the discussion I learned there was a proposed budget amendment to prevent the department from spending any money on PIRS. This is a reaction to Duncan’s commitment last month to continue the project, even if Congress does not provide the $10 million requested for PIRS.
So, now we have a bit of horse race to watch.
Will PIRS make it out the door before October 1? (The federal fiscal year ends September 30.)
Will Congress pass a budget before PIRS is released?
Will the budget have an amendment killing PIRS?
If PIRS hits the street before next year’s budget is passed, and is a good product, then it has a chance. If delayed too much in the fall, it is quite likely dead. (One might wonder how much intention is in this delay….)
Today’s letter opposing Gainful Employment from 34 members from both parties might be an indicator of where this might go. PIRS is merely GE at the institution level. If the initial draft places large numbers of for-profits in the lowest ratings, I suspect we will see a very similar letter from members.
So, all told, I give PIRS three stars out of 10. It had a better chance if the Department had been able to keep to its announced schedule. It seems to me that an August release of a good product is necessary for its survival. I understand the need for a delay, it is a big project and I have delayed quite a few myself. Unfortunately, political realities can get in the way.
Non-urgent update, basically a late, “See? I told you!”