The PJ Tatler

The Obama Admin Has a Good Idea, but They're the Worst Thing in the World for Implementing It

Let’s start this post on a basic premise: There ought to be more accountability in higher education. Without much accountability, which is what we have right now, tuition rates zoom up well past the point at which most families can afford college without going into debt, universities become administration-heavy and teacher-light, and ridiculous fields of study pop up based more on activist whims than anything else. Also, politicians start pulling strings to get their underperforming relatives spots at prestigious institutions — University of Texas, I’m looking at you.

Accountability would be a good thing in higher ed, and there’s precious little of it. The Ivory Tower heaps hot tar on anyone who tries to introduce any level of market-based accountability.

The Obama administration has an idea to increase accountability. But it’s a terrible idea, and would be implemented by a gang of politicians who themselves have shown that they don’t even know what the word “accountability” means.

Put it this way: Do you trust the group that still employs the man who failed to clean up the Veterans Administration, and which kept failure Kathleen Sebelius around long after the botched Obamacare rollout, to demand and get real accountability from anyone else? This is a man who rose to the dizzying heights of adjunct professor in his stellar academic career. So, sure, he’s now qualified to tell university presidents what to do and how to do it.

WASHINGTON — The college presidents were appalled. Not only had President Obama called for a government rating system for their schools, but now one of his top education officials was actually suggesting it would be as easy as evaluating a kitchen appliance.

“It’s like rating a blender,” Jamienne Studley, a deputy under secretary at the Education Department, said to the college presidents after a meeting in the department’s Washington headquarters in November, according to several who were present. “This is not so hard to get your mind around.”

The rating system is in fact a radical new effort by the federal government to hold America’s 7,000 colleges and universities accountable by injecting the executive branch into the business of helping prospective students weigh collegiate pros and cons. For years that task has been dominated by private companies like Barron’s and U.S. News & World Report.

College presidents appalled because the government is proposing a top-down, Washington-centric solution to a problem? Or are they appalled at the idea of accountability itself?

These are people who pull down lavish salaries while, in many cases, their universities give them a house and a car or two and a driver while picking up a heavy portion of their living expenses. These are people who have done nothing at all to keep costs for students down. These are people who by and large favor Washington-centric top-down approaches as long as they’re imposed on other people and other industries. These are not people who deserve our sympathy.

And yet they have a point. And so does the Obama administration, as I’ll explain on the next page. Tuition is skyrocketing (a verb that Obama grins and unilaterally imposes when it comes to energy prices) and debt loads are growing, while the economy stagnates. Of course, Obama’s policies are largely behind that stagnation, and that fact doesn’t phase the college presidents a bit. As universities should have found out long ago, once you accept federal cash, you also accept federal strings. We’ve never had a stringier president than Barack Obama.

The college presidents aren’t amused.

Many college presidents said a rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.

They also predicted that institutions that serve minority and low-income students, many of whom come from underfunded schools and have had less college preparation, would rank lowest in a new rating system, hurting the very populations the president says he wants to help.

Playing the race card against President Post-Racial Lightworker the Magnificent? You can’t do that!

In interviews, several college presidents expressed deep reservations about the idea.

“As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination,” said Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Falk said the danger of a rating system is that information about the colleges is likely to be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.”

Heh, that’s what this president does. Oversimplifies. Demagogues. Misleads. That’s pretty much all that he does with any skill. These smarty-pants college presidents sure are slow to learn.

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, said a rating system for colleges is a bad idea that “cannot be done well.” He added, pointedly, “I find this initiative uncharacteristically clueless.”

“…uncharacteristically…”? What policy has this president implemented without a heaping helping of cluelessness?

And guess what? Obama is treating college presidents the way he has treated those of us who objected to Obamacare, his war on coal and other heavy-handed policies: With a shrug and an “I won.”

Ms. Muñoz [director of the White House Domestic Policy Council] countered that Mr. Obama had no patience for anyone who attempted to block the effort.

“For those who are making the argument that we shouldn’t do this, I think those folks could fairly have the impression that we’re not listening,” Ms. Muñoz said. “There is an element to this conversation which is, ‘We hope to God you don’t do this.’ Our answer to that is: ‘This is happening.’ ”

Honestly, I can’t stop laughing. You people elected this egotistical, tyrannical clown. Now you finally get a taste of what he’s really all about.