by Awilda Rodriguez, Andrew P. Kelly
American Enterprise Institute
February 10, 2014
Policy Brief
Last fall, President Obama unveiled a new plan to promote college affordability. The proposal calls for a federal college ratings system that appraises colleges on measures of access, affordability, and student success. These ratings would then govern the allocation of federal student aid dollars. The new plan would challenge colleges to perform on all three sides of higher education’s “iron triangle”: access, affordability, and quality. Most college presidents believe that any change in one side of the triangle will inevitably impact the others. This policy brief examines how America’s colleges and universities currently fare. Although access and affordability are negatively correlated with student success, very few institutions are terrible on all three marks. However, very few institutions appear to have broken the iron triangle, and most would need to make significant progress to do so.

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