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Obama’s Big Higher Education Push: Does it Have a Shot?

By Alyson Klein — August 22, 2013 1 min read

The big news today is President Barack Obama’s push to create a new rating system for colleges. The proposed system would take into account affordability, outcomes such as graduation rates, and how well schools provide access to populations such as Pell Grant recipients. The rating system could be tied to the $150 billion in student financial aid the federal government gives out each year.

The administration is also encouraging colleges to become more innovative, by promoting dual enrollment, for example. Much more from my colleague Caralee Adams, of College Bound fame.

So the question is, can this pass in Congress? The best shot is through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. But Obama put out a somewhat similar (though more limited) proposal last year, and that didn’t fly with lawmakers. So it’s hard to say whether this plan will gain much traction.

The early reaction from GOP lawmakers isn’t super promising. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, said:

I remain concerned that imposing an arbitrary college ranking system could curtail the very innovation we hope to encourage—and even lead to federal price controls. As always, the devil is in the details, and I look forward to examining the president's proposal further."

But key Democrats, including Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House education committee, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, put out supportive statements.

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