The GERS grind slowly, but they grind

How long does it take to change directions? If you push towards a given goal for 22 months, against a lot of expert advice, what exactly does it take to switch directions?

This week, USED announced that #PIRS would have no ratings. (Might note that they did not say there wouldn’t be rankings.)  Instead:

Taking into account that feedback, and to advance the overarching goals set by the President, later this summer we plan to release new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes. This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value. And as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.

This is probably a smart move. I never thought the ratings idea itself was a good idea. Government does not belong in the ratings business, other than in ways that are very much program-specific. You can read about my thoughts here and a bunch of places on this blog. One of things I have suggested is that my cynical nature causes me to wonder if “PIRS is simply a way to justify GE for all programs as a reasonable compromise.” With that in the back of my mind, and while linking to this article I noticed the posting date- June 24, 2015 – 3:00 am.

 Yeah, that was about right. I remember the ruling being announced the previous evening.
And then I remembered this article:
“The department announced this significant shift in its approach to the ratings in a Wednesday afternoon call with Inside Higher Ed, on the condition that the news not be shared until Thursday. (Click here for a Thursday blog post by Studley.)”
If you read the judge’s decision on Gainful Employment, there is a fascinating discussion beginning on page 32 about unit record data. Now, It might be just my wild-eyed optimism and interest in IPEDS-UR, but it seems to me the decision clears the way for the Department to do some very interesting things with NSLDS and other data. Emphasis on the “other data” may not be hard to overstate. So I wonder if it is possible that the Department read this ruling and said, “Whoa. We can do now universal GE – we don’t need no stinking ratings.”
I don’t know. I’m not a big conspiracy theorist. Generally I assume conspiracies are for the weak-minded that can’t conceive that their beliefs are not fact or universal truth. But I know how hard PIRS is. I also know that a number of people against GE have suggested that GE should be universal. On the other hand, I don’t know that the Department (and anyone else that might be involved) can move this quickly. I guess I would like to believe that they can, or, perhaps that they had multiple decision-trees ready based on a variety of events, specifically an up or down on GE.
After all, does the Department really need both GE and PIRS? I’ve never thought so.
Forgive me this nonsense, but just in case I am right, I want it documented. This is the way my mind works – I see opportunities and connections.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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