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Syllabus: Week of February 10

Published:  February 15, 2013
President Obama

What will come of President Obama's bold new vision for higher education? Photo licensed CC by Intel Photos.

Welcome to the Syllabus, a weekly guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.


President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Tuesday and higher education played a feature role. “Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid,” President Obama said, “And tomorrow, my administration will release a new ‘College Scorecard’ that parents and students can use to compare schools based on simple criteria: Where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”

But what does this mean for higher education?

On Notice, Again, Libby Nelson
Inside Higher Ed

In supplementary documents that the White House released after President Obama’s speech, more specifics emerged. Last year, President Obama put colleges “on notice” saying that if they don’t control rising costs, they could lose campus-based aid. This year, higher education is on notice again, but this time instead of focusing on campus-based aid, the administration is turning its attention to accreditation. According to the supplementary documents, “The President will call on Congress to consider value, affordability, and student outcomes in making determinations to federal student aid, either by incorporating measures of value and affordability into the existing accreditation system; or by establishing a new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results.” The speech and supplementary documents, however, were still short on details about just how a system of alternate accreditation would be established or how the we would measure value.

College Scorecard Praised in Concept, but with a Few Caveats, Susan McMillan
Kennebec Journal

On Wednesday, the White House launched the College Scorecard, an online tool that will help students and families compare colleges on common metrics. While increased transparency is valuable, the new College Scorecard has shortcomings. Gregory LaPointe, executive director of institutional research and planning at the University of Maine in Augusta (UMA) is concerned that the data included on the Scorecard can be misleading. For example, the graduation rate only includes first-time, full-time students, who are only a minority of students at UMA. Additionally, the impact of the tool will be small unless it’s disseminated widely. Currently, students have to navigate to the College Scorecard web page, which they may not know exists. And some key terms on the Scorecard are not defined for students and families.


This week many of our posts on Higher Ed Watch have been dedicated to the President’s higher education proposals. Kevin Carey wrote about Obama’s plan to change accreditation and how it would reshape higher education, and I wrote a review of the College Scorecard. But we’re interested to hear what you think. Is this a bold new plan to reshape higher education?


It looks like higher ed haikus are a hit. In fact, we got some about the State of the Union:

Here’s mine:

No need for scorecard / We are the best in the world / Lies! Data say no

And a couple of others:

To measure value / 'I know it when I see it' / Does not sway the Prez -- Scott Jaschik

"On notice" again / In reauthorization / When will it be done? -- Libby Nelson

Submit your haikus below or using #higheredhaikus on Twitter!

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