Congress has proposed an amendment to the Higher Education Act that would require all colleges and universities to submit an annual “institutional report card” to measure a school’s performance.

The Career College Association, a Washington, D.C. based for-profit group, made this proposal to Congress in March 2003 after concerns that some students were graduating from expensive private schools without learning fundamental information.

Their planned purpose for the report cards would be to hold colleges accountable and to measure if they are actually achieving their set goals. The report cards would be overseen by Congress and would ask schools to assess their performance in retaining and graduating students, as well as preparing students for their careers.

The CCA also believes the report cards would give students and parents another source of information when deciding on a college. The report cards would include statistics about transfer rates, graduate and professional school admissions, job placement rates and employer satisfaction, along with other information pertinent to the college decision process.

Scott S. Fleming, assistant to the president for federal relations at Georgetown, agrees that giving students and parents information about a school’s performance is important, but finds the proposed report card would be an inadequate source.

“We have more substantive information on our Web site than this,” Fleming said.

College guidebooks, as well as institution-specific Web sites, currently contain the information required by the report cards, and often much more. The proposed report cards would measure all institutes of higher education, including vocational schools, community colleges and four-year universities, on the same criteria.

“Colleges are competitive within their relative spheres,” Fleming said. “These report cards deny the full information, and by judging all schools on the same criteria, they cannot be fair and responsible. The diversity of American universities is what makes higher education in this country so rich and able to achieve all it does.”

With the cost of college in America at an all time high, Congress would like to make sure that families are getting what they pay for. The report cards would include a written mission and statistics to prove that the goal is being achieved.

While Fleming agrees that colleges should be held accountable for achieving their objectives, he said he believes there is already a system in place to measure just that.

“Accreditation is an arduous process and it is the system in place in this country to measure the quality of schools,” he said. To become accredited, schools must complete reports, document statistics and undergo rigorous evaluations by officials who specialize in higher education. If a school is accredited, then it can be counted on to achieve its goals.”

Accreditation is issued by government-sanctioned entities that are held responsible, yet are also one step removed from the government. Fleming believes this is the best way to measure the quality of schools because if Congress is directly in charge of grading schools, “political pressure can become involved.”

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