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The Complexity of Accountability

By Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed

BALTIMORE -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s call on Monday for a greater focus on student outcomes at colleges was an effort to pivot away from discussions that he said are focused too narrowly on the burden of student loan debt -- discussions administration officials feel are crowding out the debate over structural flaws in America’s higher education system.

The refocusing of attention on accountability, though, again exposed contentious political fault lines that tend to emerge when the federal government tries to use its hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of leverage to reward and punish colleges and states, as Duncan proposed. (A written transcript of his speech is available here.)

Some of those politics have complicated previous efforts that the Obama administration touted as important accountability measures.

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