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John Kline Bitches About College Ratings System While Offering Nada

Kline in 1965. As protector of the curious young, he can be thankful he's no longer one of them.

Kline in 1965. As protector of the curious young, he can be thankful he's no longer one of them.

Congressman John Kline, hired handmaiden of the for-profit college industry, is stepping up on behalf of his deep-pocketed handlers again. This time he's rising up against the Obama administration's latest attempt to protect students from predatory schools.

Calling it a "fool's errand," the Minnesota Republican took aim last week at the Department of Education's just-released framework for a college ratings system based on access, affordability, and graduation rates.

See also: On Eve of Election, Congressman John Kline Says For-Profit Colleges Need to Be Accountable

As chairman of the mighty House Education and the Workforce Committee, Kline has long been in a position to advocate on behalf of America's students.

Instead, he's been the biggest obstacle to meaningful reform. He's also been the active champion of some of the country's worst-performing institutions, most notably for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix, which has fattened his campaign coffers by almost $1 million in recent years.

Last week was more of the same. Kline was quick to criticize the new attempt of school responsibility through regulation, yet offered up no alternatives that would empower students to make sound choices.

In a statement Friday, Kline, who has been the guest of honor at fundraisers thrown by the for-profit higher ed sector, said, "We should be looking for opportunities to empower students and families with information that allows them to make informed decisions."

He didn't elaborate on what he was doing to make this happen.

According to the rough draft of the administration's ratings system, colleges and universities would be rated as one of three performing categories: high performing, low performing, and those that fall in the middle.

Some of the metrics under consideration for the college ratings include: completion rates, percentage of students receiving federal Pell grants, success at getting jobs, and student loan-default rates.

These indicators happen to be the same ones that alert students to over-priced institutions that over-promise returns on their degrees, often leaving students under-employed and in a quicksand of debt.

In other words, the same for-profit schools that are bankrolling Kline.

The ratings system came about as a response to Congress's repeated success at blocking administration efforts to hold higher ed schools accountable.

The Department of Education has been trying to find a way to reward institutions that improve while penalizing those that repeatedly under-perform. Obama's ratings framework seeks to tie the flow federal of education dollars to performance.

Kline spokesman Troy Young did not respond to interview requests.

Many in the education field were cautiously optimistic about the plan, reiterating the call for accountability and at the same time questioning if it's realistic to implement a system that's both fair to schools and helpful to students.

The American Council on Education (ACE), one of the country's most active groups working on behalf of higher ed, declined specific comment, referring questions to the group's statement on the subject, which read: "The Department of Education has worked hard and engaged in extensive consultation to produce a thoughtful report on the status of its planned ratings system. However, in reality this is a status report on the beginning of a conceptual framework."

Public comment on the ratings system remains open until February 17.

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