To be fair, it goes both ways. As I’ve argued here, there, and everywhere, conservative intellectuals have long disputed the influence of the federal government in education. Now, President Obama jabs back: A new college scorecard simply left leading conservative schools off its list. The message is clear, and creepy even for non-conservatives like me.
In President Obama’s release of the new guide to colleges two weeks ago, he promised,
Americans will now have access to reliable data on every institution of higher education.
EVERY institution. If you don’t see a school on the list, it doesn’t exist.
Except they do. And the ones that were left off have glaring similarities. All of them are robustly conservative schools. Schools such as Grove City College in Pennsylvania, Hillsdale College in Michigan, Christendom College in Virginia, New Saint Andrews College in Idaho, and Wyoming Catholic College.
The schools were left off because they refuse to accept federal dollars for their students. Because of that, they do not have to file student data with the federal government. Because of that, the feds don’t have the information they need to put these schools on the scorecard.
Naturally, the schools themselves didn’t like it. According to the Washington Post, Paul McNulty of Grove City College issued the following statement:
However well-intentioned, the Scorecard as it exists now is incomplete and does not fully disclose comprehensive data that families need to make informed decisions. For now, the Department should, at the very least, include a disclaimer that the Scorecard is not comprehensive or reflective of all college and universities.
Hillsdale College had it worse. When the student newspaper inquired as to why Hillsdale was left off the list, it was told that the school granted a plurality of certificates, not degrees. Hillsdale told Fox News that it just wasn’t true. Hillsdale students are almost all in degree programs.
I’m no conservative, but I think these schools have every right to complain. To my mind, the creepy part of this story comes on two different levels.
First, I worry about any ranking of higher education based mainly on economic factors. I don’t think anyone intended for this scorecard to be the only measure of educational quality, but President Obama made no secret of the values inherent in this scorecard. As he put it,
You’ll be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loans…
That’s helpful information, but I don’t like the implication that such factors are the proper way to measure higher education. Even worse, any scorecard that claims to rank all colleges really should. By leaving out conservative schools who have not played ball with the federal government, this scorecard seems to be making a crude power play.
Again, I don’t agree with the guiding philosophies of any of these schools, but I think they have every right to be included in any list of “every” college out there.