The Obama proposal (brief description below) is wrong, regressive, and clearly designed to benefit finance capital. Masking itself as a way to confront student debt, it is actually a vehicle for pressuring colleges and universities to steer students and resources toward high paying positions.
What sorts of positions are high paid? Not teaching, service, organizing, ministry, or art. Not government work/civil service, not non-profit work, not publishing, not nursing or childcare. In an extremely stratified capitalist context, a system that evaluates colleges highly for producing high paid graduates is one that awards those who are already awarded. The effect will be to push colleges away from offering majors in classics, music, comparative literature, studio art, anthropology, creative writing, and philosophy. It will push colleges toward economics, finance, business, accounting, and engineering. And what about community colleges? They provide essential educational services yet their graduates are rarely highly paid. At a time when we should be reinvesting in community colleges, developing programs that increase workers' skills and capacities (plumbing, building, electrical), Obama proposes that we do more to enhance the one percent, that is, to incite ever more competitive pressure to become part of .1%.
Because of the emphasis on retention, the rating system will push colleges to make fewer accomodations to students who want to move in and out of college, taking a semester or a year off to pursue other interests, projects, and needs.
The class-based suppositions of this new rating system are clear in the very priority of "affordability." If education were free, as it should be, affordability would not be an issue. If it were free, student debt would not be a problem. Instead, education would be understood as one of the ways that society reproduces itself, the way we impart knowledge, skills, and values in new generations, the way we help new generations think, criticize, challenge, and rearrange society. Affordability is confined to a narrow, individualist, consumer choice.
Society itself can't afford to continue in this myopic way of thinking, a way that channels money narrowly and upward. What we can't afford is neglecting infrastructure, ignoring high unemployment, and a financial system anchored in the idea that banks are too big to fail and people are too small to matter.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday will unveil a sweeping new plan for rating colleges based in part on affordability, with the goal of eventually linking those ratings to federal financial aid awards.
The new ratings system, which the president wants implemented before the 2015 school year, would evaluate colleges on a series of measures, including average tuition and student loan debt, graduation rates, and the average earnings of graduates. Obama is also seeking legislation to link the new rating system to the way federal financial aid is awarded, with students attending highly-rated schools receiving larger grants and more affordable student loans.