[Paleopsych] CHE: President Plans No Price Controls or Strict Accountability Rules for Colleges, New Education Secretary Says in Interview
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Mon Feb 7 21:07:53 UTC 2005
President Plans No Price Controls or Strict Accountability Rules for
Colleges, New Education Secretary Says in Interview
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.2.7
By JEFFREY SELINGO
The Bush administration has no plans to impose price controls on
college tuition or to extend strict accountability measures to
postsecondary institutions, the new U.S. secretary of education,
Margaret Spellings, told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview on
In a wide-ranging discussion at the end of her first official week on
the job, Ms. Spellings also said that states and college governing
boards, not the federal government, should be responsible for ensuring
that campuses foster a variety of political and religious beliefs.
The comments were the first extended remarks Ms. Spellings has made
about higher-education issues beyond her confirmation hearing last
month. As the president's domestic-policy adviser in his first term,
Ms. Spellings was one of the chief architects of the No Child Left
Behind Act, which in 2002 introduced nationwide standards and
mandatory testing to elementary and secondary schools. Some college
officials have feared that she would use the law as a template for
similar measures in higher education (The Chronicle, November 26,
But the secretary said on Friday that the administration's efforts in
higher education over the next four years would focus mostly on
providing better information to parents and students. As the parent of
a high-school senior, the secretary said, she has experienced
firsthand how difficult the college-search process can be for
"It's a hard process to navigate ... where your kid ought to go to
college," Ms. Spellings said. "I think we can do better."
Without accessible and easy-to-use government sources of information
about colleges and financial-aid options, the secretary said, families
have come to "rely on, for right or wrong, the U.S. News & World
Report, the Princeton Review, and some of these other sorts of
rankings, which are fine and good, but I'm not sure there is an
understanding about what all goes into that."
While Ms. Spellings was not specific about the range of information
that should be made available to the public, she said, as an example,
that parents should be able to find out easily how long it will take
their child to graduate from a particular institution, how much it
will cost, and what are the chances their child will still be enrolled
after two years.
She did not give any details about how the administration would
require colleges to provide such information or on how the government
would disseminate what it collects to the public.
"We're very early in this whole process," Ms. Spellings said. "The
first thing you would want to do is start at the beginning and say
what do you want to know that we don't know, what do we know. That's
where we ought to start."
Better information would particularly be helpful, she said, when it
comes to tuition. Last year Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon, the
California Republican who heads the principal subcommittee on higher
education in the U.S. House of Representatives, dropped a proposal
that would have penalized colleges that raised their prices too high
by preventing them from participating in some federal student-aid
programs. Some Republicans and Democrats said his proposal would have
amounted to price controls in higher education.
Ms. Spellings said that in putting together its proposals for the
reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the federal law that
governs most federal student aid programs, the administration
"wouldn't start with price controls."
"This is where information can play a real part," she said. "What are
the costs, how fast are they escalating, what are the reasons."
So far, Ms. Spellings said, she has been encouraged by the reaction of
colleges to the administration's call for more and better information
for families. "I think they want to be able to tell their story
better," she said. "They are served when they can do that with real
data and no anecdotes."
When asked if college campuses have a liberal bias, Ms. Spellings
said, "Some institutions do and some institutions don't." But she said
the federal government should not get involved in policing professors'
politics, even after incidents like the controversy at the University
of Colorado at Boulder in which a faculty member compared the victims
of the September 11 attacks to Nazis (see a related article).
"That's not something the federal government is going to get into,"
she said. "It's a local-control thing. That's something for states and
governing boards and academic faculties to see about. I hope they do
worry about those things."
More from the interview with Secretary Spellings will appear in next
week's issue of The Chronicle.
* Republicans in U.S. House Introduce Bill to Renew Higher
Education Act That Mirrors Last Year's (2/3/2005)
* Congress Should Not Impose Cost Controls on Colleges, Senate
Republican Says (2/2/2005)
* Spellings Takes Office as Education Secretary; Stroup Says
She'll Stay On in Top Higher-Education Post (2/1/2005)
* President's Choice for Education Secretary Wins Unanimous
Approval From Senate Panel (1/14/2005)
* A New Face for Education in a Second Bush Term (11/26/2004)
* Worried on the Right and the Left (7/9/2004)
* Plan to Punish Big Increases in Tuition Is Dropped (3/12/2004)
* Will Congress Require Colleges to Grade Themselves? (4/4/2003)
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