The Obama administration scrapped a plan to give government ratings to U.S. colleges, bowing to criticism from higher education leaders that the system could be unfair.

Instead, the U.S. Education Department said Thursday it will provide more data to families and researchers, so they can make their own judgments on the relative cost and quality of individual colleges.

In August 2013, President Obama proposed the plan as a way to control college costs as borrowers buckle under more than $1.2 trillion in student loans. He would have tied ratings to costs, debt, graduation rates and earnings after college and later ask Congress to consider them in awarding $150 billion in annual federal aid. Instead, the administration will this summer offer families “easy-to-use tools” for making comparisons.

“Through our research and our conversations with the field, we have found that the needs of students are very diverse and the criteria they use to choose a college vary widely,” Jamienne Studley, the Education Department’s deputy under secretary, said in a blog post.

As the Education Department spent almost two years trying to create a system that would rate more than 5,000 campuses, officials found creating the metrics to be complicated and controversial. Colleges complained they would be penalized for taking on disadvantaged students who are less likely to complete college on time or those who ended up in lower-paying fields such as teaching or chose graduate school.

“It appears the administration is going in the right direction -- away from a simplistic, one-size-fits-all approach that would do more harm than good and toward a consumer-oriented system that recognizes the diversity of American higher education,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the Washington-based American Council on Education, which represents more than 1,600 colleges.