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U.S. Education Department plan calls for closer scrutiny, more cost-control measures

March 11, 2002

A proposal written by the U.S. Education Department and released in mid-February calls for increased scrutiny of colleges' graduation and retention rates as a measurement of effectiveness, according to an article in the Feb. 27 issue of "The Chronicle of Higher Education."

It also would expand reporting requirements to include breakdowns of graduation and retention by student race, gender and ethnicity.

Although colleges already report their graduation rates to the Department's National Center for Education Statistics, the statistics have not been used to monitor effectiveness. Colleges have not been asked to track or report their retention rates.

College lobbyists are objecting to the proposal, saying that the quality of higher education is the responsibility of institutions, accrediting agencies and state governments, not the federal government.

They also object to the plan's call for an examination of rising college prices with the goal of "achieving cost efficiencies and cost reductions" among postsecondary institutions. The public sector has seen an average increase of 7.7 percent-nearly triple the rate of inflation. The Administration would like to see the national average of increases in college tuition drop to 2.5 percent by 2004.

A final version of the report will be available later this month. The Department says it welcomes input.