In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama proposed several measures to lower college tuition. University leaders responded cautiously, warning that cost-cutting reforms might also cut into instructional quality.
But here's the big open secret in American higher education: Most institutions have no meaningful way to measure the quality of their instruction. And the president didn't ask us to develop one, either.
Instead, he suggested that the federal government tie student aid to colleges' success in reducing tuition and in helping students move forward. In a follow-up speech at the University of Michigan on Friday, he called for a "college score card" that would rank institutions according to cost, graduation rates and future earnings.
"If you can't stop tuition from going up, your funding from taxpayers will go down," Obama warned. "We should push colleges to do better; we should hold them accountable if they don't."