A new Gallup poll shows that most college presidents don’t think much of President Obama’s plan to “make college more affordable” by rating them.

The Obama plan relies on metrics to determine which colleges are best and most affordable and assumes that student consumers will use this information to make better choices.

Somehow, this process is supposed to make college “more affordable,” although it does nothing to actually lower the cost to students.

According to the account by Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed,

Most college presidents doubt that President Obama’s plan to promote affordable higher education will be effective, or that it will lead students to make better informed choices. Further, they expect that the wealthiest colleges and universities will be most successful in the ratings system Obama has proposed.

Those are the findings of a poll by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed of American college and university presidents, which attracted responses from 675 of them. Gallup has a 95 percent confidence level that the margin of error is plus/minus 3.8 percentage points. The presidents were given complete anonymity so they could answer without regard to the politics of opposing a plan that has become a top priority for the Obama administration.

The plan — proposed in August — would, among other things, create a new rating system for colleges in which they would be evaluated based on various outcomes (such as graduation rates and graduate earnings), on affordability and on access (measures such as the proportion of students receiving Pell Grants). Then the plan would link student aid to these ratings, such that students who enroll at high-performing colleges would receive larger Pell Grants and more favorable rates on student loans.

Only 2% of the college presidents said the plan would be “very effective.” Another 32% said it would be “somewhat effective.” Only 16%  said the plan was a good idea.

One of the criticisms of the Obama plan from the start is that it would favor the wealthiest institutions, which tend to attract the best-prepared students (and so have high graduation rates), enroll students who are well-connected (which, combined with their good preparation, lands them good jobs) and have the endowments to support generous financial aid packages. Fifty-two percent of presidents agree or strongly agree that wealthier institutions will fare best under the Obama ratings.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said that the results were consistent with what she is hearing from college presidents, which is a lot of concern “about unintended consequences that may come from a well-intentioned set of metrics.” She stressed that most college presidents are “fully aligned with President Obama’s ultimate goals — expanding access and making college more affordable.”

But she said that there are doubts among many presidents both about the idea that these data will help students, and that ratings can be done correctly. She noted that most colleges already share considerable data — often covering information similar to what President Obama says should go into ratings. “But there’s not much evidence that the array of key data metrics that most institutions routinely post have made a huge difference,” she said.

At the same time, she said she worries about the impact of ratings. If one looks at existing rankings systems, most college leaders “are skeptical but we pay a lot of attention to them.” Broad said that she feared a new ratings system might have create the wrong incentives. “There’s a real concern that some of the measures might cause institutions to alter their admissions and aid awarding in ways that don’t advance access to low-income college students,” Broad said.

Secretary Duncan defended the approach of the Obama plan. He assumes that data–as in Race to the Top–will solve all vexing problems.

If college costs are too high, wouldn’t it make sense to increase student aid, instead of collecting more data and trusting to the marketplace to magically lower costs?
Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/16/most-presidents-doubt-obamas-plan-promote-affordable-higher-education#ixzz2neXL6NEs
Inside Higher Ed