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Outside the Golden Crescent - Tidewater, Richmond, NoVa

by Tod Massa 19. April 2014 08:23

I've actually taken the last few days off and am trying to catch up on everything that has been going on, so this is just a brief thought. My wife and I spent part of the week at Douthat State Park for our 25th wedding anniversary. These few days have reinforced my opinion that applying a ratings system to community colleges for consumer information probably borders on the insane.

If you are potentially a college student in the Clifton Forge area, your available institutions within less than an hour drive are Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Virginia Military Institute and Washington & Lee in Lexington, and Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista. These last three institutions offer very specific and fairly unique experiences for specific types of students. An hour's drive opens up opportunities in Roanoke and the surrounds, but an hour-long commute might be too much to expect.

Reviewing the list of programs that DSLCC offers, it is clear that there are opportunities that appear to be tailored for regional needs with appropriate workforce development options. As a package, all of these programs and offerings look to be the sort to build the economic viability of a region.

So, I ask this question: What value would a federally-imposed ratings system add? 

Beyond basic Title IV eligibility, would any other rating add consumer value? I can see a ratings model that might help state policy-makers understand the success of an institution like DSLCC compared to say, Eastern Shore CC, but I have great difficulty believing the feds could develop better data than what we or the VCCS have already. Certainly, comparisons could be made to very similar community and technical colleges in other states, but I expect the regional differences might trump the similarities between colleges. 

So, in the end, I stick by what I said in my remarks at the technical symposium on college ratings:

Beyond direct measures of this type, community colleges should not be rated. They should be transparent, but they should not be rated. The large numbers of place-bound students these colleges serve don’t need ratings. They need academic support and financial aid. They will benefit from increased transparency about wage outcomes, employment market, debt, and transfer outcomes.


 

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