Posted by | May 17, 2011 14:14 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

One of the topics that preoccupies me are the changes underfoot in higher education.  Of course, this is because I have to deal with the issue on a daily basis (fortunately it rarely gets as bad as the student in the below video).

Obviously others are thinking about it as well.

Over four years, we followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse four-year colleges and universities. We found that large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.

And the authors of the piece (Richard Arum and Josipa Roska) propose solutions:

Distributing resources and rewards based on student learning instead of student satisfaction would help stop this race to the bottom.

Others involved in education can help, too. College trustees, instead of worrying primarily about institutional rankings and fiscal concerns, could hold administrators accountable for assessing and improving learning. Alumni as well as parents and students on college tours could ignore institutional facades and focus on educational substance. And the Department of Education could make available nationally representative longitudinal data on undergraduate learning outcomes for research purposes, as it has been doing for decades for primary and secondary education.

These are well intended, but with the exception of gathering data on learning outcomes and disseminating it, they range from the impractical (trustees worry about learning instead of rankings) to the naive (parents should focus on substance and resources should be based on things that are hard to measure).  What is going on in higher education is impossible to separate from what is going on in secondary education (students are less prepared for college) and in the job market (almost all reasonably paying jobs require a college degree).  Colleges thus have increasing numbers of students desperate for good grades, expect to receive them, but are often not deserving of them.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.