Feds rated colleges in 1911 — and they hated it

President Obama wants to rate colleges’ “value.” Higher ed leaders hate the idea, writes Libby Nelson on Vox.  When the feds tried to rate colleges by quality — in 1911 — college leaders lobbied so vigorously they got the Babcock report quashed.

The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Kendric Babcock, a former college president, rated 600 colleges and universities by how well they prepared students for graduate work. Class 1 graduates would need only a year of graduate school to finish a degree, he estimated. In Class 2 and 3, students would need more time. Class 4 graduates would start out two years behind, he predicted.


The first page of Babcock’s ratings. (Library of Congress; h/t Robert Kelchen)

Babcock’s top-rated private universities continue to be first rate, notes Kieran Healy on Crooked Timber.

However, some of the state flagship universities that made Babcock’s Class I have slipped in prestige. “Madison, Urbana, Washington, Ohio State, Austin, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Kansas, and Iowa are much lower-ranked today,” writes Healy.

A few public universities that were poorly rated in 1911, such as Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M,  are ranked much higher today.

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