Comment on FR Doc # N/A

Comment

Docket #ED-2013-IES-0151
Postsecondary Institution Ratings Response
LASELL COLLEGE, Newton, MA
Michael Alexander, President

At Lasell College we believe that any young man or woman who would like to attend college, should be afforded that opportunity. There are, however, many roadblocks for middle- to low-income families, not the least of which are accessibility and affordability. As a college president, I worry all the time about how to provide the highest quality education while containing costs. In August 2013, President Obama proposed a rating system that would tie individual students' financial aid to government ratings of the college they attend, based on graduation rates and post-graduation employment and income. It is impossible to believe that there is one formula that would be equitable among all colleges and universities. Except for elite institutions, graduation rates are not an adequate measure of success, and are actually misleading. The government's definition of graduation rate does not take into account a student who entered Lasell as a freshman, but transferred with newfound confidence to another school where he or she eventually graduated Isn't that a successful outcome? Nor does that definition account for students who transfer into Lasell and go on to graduate here, clearly a successful outcome. Also ignored are part-time students and students who start in January. We would recommend a system that can follow admitted college students through graduation even if they transfer to multiple schools along the way. This would allow a more accurate and fair way to assess degree completion. At Lasell, we are proud to say that over 40% of our students are first generation college-goers. Thirty-four percent are Pell eligible and many come from the inner-city. These are the most vulnerable of our student population. It is a fact that poverty, poor preparation, commuter, part-time students and non-traditional adults are all highly corrected with lower completion rates. In addition to the federal aid our students receive, we grant over $21 million in institutional aid. If nothing else, this investment should demonstrate our commitment to the success of our students. But the slowly recovering economy, persistent unemployment and under employment and the decline in family income often force a student to drop out of school. Many transfer to public institutions, which over the years have suffered from repeated state budget cuts, thus impacting the quality of the education received. The profile of our student body is one factor, but another important piece of information is the major and career goal a student is pursuing. The earning potential of engineers, architects and pharmacists is much greater than that of a teacher, social workers and human service professionals. In this country, all private colleges are accredited by external organizations that have very high standards. When the accrediting team is organized, individuals from peer schools (or schools to which one aspires) are on site to evaluate academic programs, faculty, finances, etc. There is something to be said about measuring an institutions success compared to others with similar characteristics. Rather than spending energy and resources on devising an equitable rating system, we would prefer to expend that time and money on innovative ways for students to complete their degrees in fewer than four years--thus reducing the cost of tuition. We would also encourage the federal government to pursue incentives that would influence the fifty states to reinvest in public higher education, the traditional port of access for students with limited financial resources. We also encourage the federal government to provide consumer information, particularly as it relates to making some key data points commonly available to help students find a best fit college. Just like most relationships, it all comes down to the "fit." A better fit may from the outset help the student complete the degree. Students are graduating with on average $29,400 of debt, and they should see that as an investment in their future. The question is what return will they get on that investment? The evidence still indicates that the lifetime return on an investment in higher education is the greatest and most reliable investment one can make. Institutions like Lasell have very little influence over how much debt a student and his family take on. We would support legislation that gave institutions more control over the ability of families and students to accumulate private loans above a certain amount. We will continue to embrace our shared interest in working with the Administration on the common goals of access, affordability, and transparency. We request that care be taken to ensure the efforts in this area are fair and equitable.

Michael Alexander, President
Lasell College
 
 
Comment Period Closed
Jan 31 2014, at 11:59 PM ET
ID: ED-2013-IES-0151-0076
Tracking Number: 1jy-8a6k-gu6l

Document Information

Date Posted: Feb 6, 2014
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Submitter Information

Submitter Name: Michael Alexander
City: Newton
Country: United States
State or Province: MA
Category: College President