Education Department releases 'framework' for higher-ed rating system

The Education Department released a “framework” Friday for how it will rate more than 7,000 colleges and universities across the nation.

The institutions were hoping the department would release the actual system President Obama announced last year that hopes to encourage transparency and affordability. However, the wait for the ratings system will continue.

Much of the focus is on access, affordability and outcomes — particularly the number of students completing their degree. Although graduates' salaries would be considered, the administration said the salary-specific data would be focused on seeing if graduates are able to pay for basic needs. It does not say how each of the metrics it's considering would be weighted, although it's possible an institution could receive more than one rating under different categories. Schools would not be ranked.

Obama received much criticism upon the announcement of the system from the higher education community and Republicans. Critics say the system could provide a disincentive for colleges to accept students considered high-risk.

Congress does not need to approve the system, but it needs to pass legislation if it is used to parcel out financial aid.

Ted Mitchell, the department’s under secretary, said Obama is unlikely to ask for that during his remaining years in office.

He said students want "credible, clear, easy to understand information," and the ratings system will help provide that. He said it's still on track to be released before the 2015-2016 school year.

"I think people have been worried primarily because they don't know what it is we actually intend to do," Mitchell said. "I'm hopeful that now that we have a document out we'll be able to have a very constructive, positive conversation about how we do this in the right way."

The Associated Press contributed to this report