Why does federal bureaucracy need a bigger role in higher education? This is the question many of us are asking as the Obama Administration continues to propose policies that further government intrusion into our education system. Ensuring the opportunity for a quality education is important to America’s future. However, we have seen that more federal government in education means more ineffective policies that ultimately lack critical flexibility and decision-making power needed by individual states, schools, educators, parents, and students.
One of these troubling policies is the Department of Education’s plan to develop a ratings system for colleges and universities. While the system is set to be enacted prior to the start of the 2015 school year, details about this plan that would potentially tie financial aid to an institution’s rating are lacking. Students choose their schools for a variety of reasons like fields of study available, family tradition, religious affiliation, and many others. The ratings system would attempt to rate schools based on criteria that are difficult to judge the value of, like graduate pay. Would a university that graduates more students with high-paying jobs be rated higher than a school where many students go on to focus on humanitarian work or enter the ministry? Surely the federal government would not penalize a university because of this? The federal government cannot place an arbitrary value on an individual’s education.
Concerns about this proposal have been raised by many, including 50 presidents of Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. I have introduced H. Res. 26 in the House of Representatives, which strongly supports the quality and value of diversity in our higher education system and makes clear that the Administration’s proposed college ratings system is not feasible, would decrease choice, diversity, and innovation, and must be halted.
Additionally, President Obama recently announced a proposal to give two years of free community college to deserving students. Encouraging students to pursue a college degree if they so choose is something we can all get behind, but this proposal does not even seem fully thought out. The estimated cost to provide free community college is $60 billion over the next 10 years, and ironically, one of the President’s suggested ways to pay for this is taxing college savings plans, the very plans responsible families use to help save for college. It’s also worth mentioning that programs like these are already operating effectively at the state and local level, including in the Sixth District, without Washington’s interference. Community colleges may also be forced to meet new guidelines to qualify, placing new burdens on them.
These are just two examples of the federal government intervening in the education system, adding more red tape and bureaucracy. Rather than just working to comply with federal mandates, schools should instead be working to meet the needs of students. We should not tighten the grip of bureaucracy on higher education.