[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 242 (Tuesday, December 17, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76289-76291]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-30011]


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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

[Docket ID ED-2013-IES-0151]


Request for Information To Gather Technical Expertise Pertaining 
to Data Elements, Metrics, Data Collection, Weighting, Scoring, and 
Presentation of a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System

AGENCY: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of 
Education Sciences, Department of Education.

ACTION: Request for information.

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SUMMARY: To assist the Department of Education (Department) in its 
efforts to develop a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), 
the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) invites the 
submission of information about data elements, metrics, methods of data 
collection, methods of weighting or scoring, and presentation 
frameworks for a PIRS for assessing the performance of institutions of 
higher education (IHEs) and advancing institutional accountability 
while also enhancing consumer access to useful information.

DATES: Written submissions must be received by the Department on or 
before January 31, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal 
or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. We will not 
accept comments by fax or by email. To ensure that we do not receive 
duplicate copies, please submit your comments only one time. In 
addition, please include the Docket ID and the term ``Postsecondary 
Institution Ratings response'' at the top of your comments.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information 
on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency 
documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket, is available on 
the site under ``Are you new to this site?''
     Postal Mail, Commercial Delivery, or Hand Delivery: If you 
mail or deliver your comments, address them to Richard Reeves, National 
Center for Education Statistics, Attention: Postsecondary Institution 
Ratings System RFI, U.S. Department of Education, 1990 K Street NW., 
8th Floor, Washington, DC 20006.
     Privacy Note: The Department's policy for comments 
received from members of the public (including comments submitted by 
mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery) is to make these 
submissions available for public viewing in their entirety on the 
Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Therefore, 
commenters should be careful to include only information that they wish 
to make publicly available on the Internet.
    Submission of Proprietary Information: Given the subject matter, 
some comments may include proprietary information as it relates to 
confidential commercial information. The Freedom of Information Act 
defines ``confidential commercial information'' as information the 
disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to cause substantial 
competitive harm. You may wish to request that we not disclose what you 
regard as confidential commercial information.
    To assist us in making a determination on your request, we 
encourage you to identify any specific information in your comments 
that you consider confidential commercial information. Please list the 
information by page and paragraph numbers.
    This is a request for information (RFI) only. This RFI is not a 
request for proposals (RFP) or a promise to issue an RFP or a notice 
inviting applications (NIA). This RFI does not commit the Department to 
contract for any supply or service whatsoever. Further, the Department 
is not seeking proposals and will not accept unsolicited proposals. The 
Department will not pay for any information or administrative costs 
that you may incur in responding to this RFI. If you do not respond to 
this RFI, you may still apply for future contracts and grants. The 
Department posts RFPs on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site 
(http://www.fbo.gov). The Department announces grant competitions in 
the Federal Register (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys). It is your 
responsibility to monitor these sites to determine whether the 
Department issues an RFP or NIA after considering the information 
received in response to this RFI. The documents and information 
submitted in response to this RFI become the property of the U.S. 
Government and will not be returned.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Richard Reeves, (202) 502-7436, 
Richard.Reeves@ed.gov. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD) or a text telephone (TTY), call the Federal Relay Service 
(FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    A postsecondary education is among the most important investments 
students can make in their own futures. However, obtaining such an 
education has grown increasingly expensive. The average tuition at a 
public four-year college has increased by more than 300 percent over 
the past three decades, while incomes for typical families grew by only 
16 percent, according to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System 
(IPEDS) and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Declining State funding 
has moved an increasing share of the cost of postsecondary education 
from State taxpayers to students; tuition has almost doubled as a share 
of public college revenues over the past 25 years, from 25 percent to 
47 percent. While a college education remains a valuable investment 
overall, the average borrower with a bachelor's degree now graduates 
with more than $29,400 in debt, according to 2012 data from the 
National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. Moreover, college completion 
rates are relatively low: only 58 percent of full-time students who 
began college in 2004 earned a four-year degree within six years. Loan 
default rates are rising, and many young adults are burdened with debt 
as they seek to start a family, buy a home, launch a business, or save 
for retirement.
    The Department provides over $150 billion each year in student 
financial aid, while States collectively invest over $70 billion in 
public colleges and universities. Almost all of these resources are 
allocated based on the number of students who enroll, not the number of 
students who earn degrees, how much students learn, or the return on 
investment to the students and society for the cost of their degrees.
    In August 2013, President Obama announced a new agenda that will 
increase college value and affordability for American families. As part 
of this plan, the President has directed the Department to develop and 
publish a new college ratings system before the 2015-16 school year.
    The ratings system will help students compare the value and 
affordability of

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colleges and encourage colleges to improve. The ratings will be based 
upon such measures as:
     Access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell 
grants;
     Affordability, such as average cost of attendance, 
scholarships, and student loan debt; and
     Outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, including 
those for Pell grant recipients, graduate earnings, and advanced degree 
attainment of graduates.
    The Department intends, through these ratings, to compare colleges 
with similar missions and identify colleges that do the most to help 
students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds, as well 
as colleges that are improving their performance. The ratings system is 
not intended to rank institutions. Instead, it will provide information 
about an institution's performance on a specific measure or a specific 
set of measures. In the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher 
Education Act, the President will propose allocating financial aid 
based upon these college ratings by 2018.

Introduction

    The Department invites IHEs and systems of IHEs, their faculty and 
staff, students and parents, college counselors, research and data 
experts, State higher education agencies, associations, advocacy 
groups, think tanks, publishers, experts in ratings in other 
industries, consortia of any of the above entities, or any other 
interested party, to provide information about potential data elements, 
metrics, methods of data collection and analysis, methods of weighting 
or scoring, and presentation frameworks of a PIRS that will be used to 
advance institutional accountability, enhance transparency, and improve 
consumer decision-making. Organizations that have developed, or are 
developing, ratings systems for postsecondary institutions or other 
non-education entities are also strongly encouraged to respond. This 
RFI is specifically inquiring into the following: (1) Metrics necessary 
for rating the performance of postsecondary institutions using both 
data elements currently available to the Department and other Federal 
agencies, and data elements not currently available to the Department 
or other Federal agencies but that could be collected in the future; 
(2) empirical methods for weighting, scoring, or otherwise combining 
the various metrics into a single dimension or a set of dimensions; (3) 
empirical methods for weighting, scoring, or otherwise adjusting 
metrics or grouping institutions to ensure appropriate comparison and 
calibration within the PIRS; (4) options for presenting the information 
in the PIRS for both accountability and consumer information purposes; 
and (5) models of ratings systems for entities other than postsecondary 
institutions. The Department is interested in a PIRS that takes into 
account information important to the Federal government in promoting 
college value and affordability, ensuring the integrity of Federal 
student aid programs, and carrying out its fiduciary responsibility for 
taxpayer investments in postsecondary education.
    Through this RFI, the Department is interested in suggestions that 
address the challenges in measuring the affordability and value of 
postsecondary education. The Department is interested in specific 
examples of ratings systems that best measure postsecondary 
institutions' value to students and the Federal taxpayer. The 
Department is also interested in specific examples of empirical methods 
for taking into account the diversity of institutional missions and for 
comparing performance across similar institutions. In particular, the 
Department is interested in how such factors as institutional resources 
(e.g., State investment in postsecondary education) and student 
characteristics (e.g., postsecondary readiness) should be addressed as 
part of the ratings system. Finally, the Department is interested in 
specific suggestions for minimizing unintended consequences such as the 
undervaluing of certain kinds of postsecondary credentials or learning 
experiences or creating disincentives for institutions to enroll 
underrepresented student populations.
    Information gathered through this RFI will inform the development 
of a PIRS designed to advance institutional accountability for the 
investment of Federal dollars in IHEs while at the same time improving 
public information about college access, affordability, and outcomes 
for students and families.
    In addition to significant outreach that the Department is 
conducting to communities and stakeholder groups throughout the 
country, development of a PIRS will employ three specific steps. First, 
NCES is issuing this RFI to collect information about data elements, 
metrics, methods of data collection, methods of weighting or scoring, 
and presentation frameworks. We pose a series of questions to which we 
invite interested parties and members of the public to respond. Second, 
NCES will host a symposium of external experts to discuss and 
deliberate on these issues in greater depth. Third, NCES will publish a 
summary of the recommendations developed from the RFI and the 
symposium, as well as other resources identified by symposium 
participants, on the Department's college affordability and completion 
Web site (http://www.ed.gov/college-affordability).

Context for Responses

    The primary goal of this RFI is to gather information that will 
help the Department develop a PIRS that advances the accountability of 
postsecondary institutions and that provides enhanced transparency and 
consumer information. We have developed several questions to guide 
input. Because the questions are only guides, you do not have to 
respond to the specific questions and you may provide comments in a 
format of your choice. However, we strongly recommend that you provide 
specific examples in your responses. You may also provide information 
that is not responsive to a particular question but may be helpful.

Questions

1. Questions Regarding Data Elements, Metrics, and Data Collection

    1.1. Using data currently collected by the Department or other 
Federal agencies, and given the Administration's focus on access, 
affordability, and outcomes, what metrics are possible for rating the 
performance of postsecondary institutions? What metrics are appropriate 
for consumer information purposes? What metrics are appropriate for 
accountability purposes? What metrics are appropriate for consumer 
information and accountability purposes? For each metric, include 
information about data sources, quality, availability, and limitations.
    1.2 Using data not currently collected by the Department or other 
Federal agencies, and given the Administration's focus on access, 
affordability, and outcomes, what metrics are possible for rating the 
performance of postsecondary institutions? What metrics are appropriate 
for consumer information purposes? What metrics are appropriate for 
accountability purposes? What metrics are appropriate for consumer 
information and accountability purposes? What is the best way to 
collect data that will inform those metrics? What are the challenges in 
collecting such data?
    1.3 What metrics should apply to all types of postsecondary 
institutions?

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    1.4 What metrics should apply to institutions with specific 
missions? How should those missions be defined?
    1.5 How should existing limitations in Federal postsecondary data 
and data collections be addressed?

2. Questions Regarding Weighting or Scoring

    2.1 What empirical methods for weighting, scoring, or otherwise 
reducing a large and complex amount of information into a single 
dimension or a set of dimensions should be used in a PIRS?
    2.2 What empirical methods for weighting or scoring are appropriate 
for consumer information purposes?
    2.3 What empirical methods for weighting or scoring are appropriate 
for accountability purposes?
    2.4 What empirical methods for weighting or scoring are appropriate 
for both purposes?
    2.5 How should metrics be adjusted to account for institutional 
differences, such as mission, and student characteristics? How should 
those characteristics be defined?
    2.6 How should metrics be adjusted to reflect institutional 
improvement over time?

3. Questions Regarding the Development of Comparison Groups

    3.1 What empirical methods for developing institutional comparison 
groups are appropriate for consumer information purposes?
    3.2 What empirical methods for developing institutional comparison 
groups are appropriate for accountability purposes?
    3.3 What empirical methods for developing institutional comparison 
groups are appropriate for both purposes?
    3.4 Should students be disaggregated for comparison purposes and if 
so, by what sub-groups?

4. Questions Regarding the Presentation of Ratings Information

    4.1 What models for presenting institutional ratings are 
appropriate for consumer information purposes?
    4.2 What models for presenting institutional ratings are 
appropriate for accountability purposes?
    4.3 What models for presenting institutional ratings are 
appropriate for motivating consumers to make choices that promote 
institutional accountability?
    4.4 How could the PIRS strengthen States' and others' oversight and 
fiduciary responsibility for postsecondary education?

5. Questions Regarding Existing Ratings Systems

    5.1 What are examples of systems used to rate the performance of 
other types of entities or services that could be used to inform the 
development of a PIRS?
    5.2 What examples of existing ratings systems used to rate the 
performance of postsecondary institutions could be used to inform the 
development of a PIRS? What lessons learned from existing systems could 
inform a PIRS?
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or compact disc) on request from Warren Farr at (202) 377-
4380 or Warren.Farr@ed.gov.
    Electronic Access to This Document: The official version of this 
document is the document published in the Federal Register. Free 
Internet access to the official edition of the Federal Register and the 
Code of Federal Regulations is available via the Federal Digital System 
at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys. At this site you can view this document, as well 
as all other documents of this Department published in the Federal 
Register, in text or Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF). To use PDF 
you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available free at the 
site.
    You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at: 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published 
by the Department.

    Authority: 20 U.S.C. 3402(4).

John Q. Easton,
Director, Institute of Education Sciences.
[FR Doc. 2013-30011 Filed 12-16-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P