Monday, June 08, 2009

5 Ways To Fix Colleges

So glad to see the Times staying on this topic.

"AMERICAN education was once the best in the world. But today, our private and public universities are losing their competitive edge to foreign institutions, they are losing the advertising wars to for-profit colleges and they are losing control over their own admissions because of an ill-conceived ranking system. With the recession causing big state budget cuts, the situation in higher education has turned critical. Here are a few radical ideas to improve matters."

Compared to the previous Op-Ed on the topic they ran, "End The University as We Know It," this one is a lot more practical and down to earth, but less provocative and memorable.

Opening the books on accreditation is a great suggestion. An extra year of compulsory schooling is interesting, but maybe too one-size-fits-all. I'm not sure that I agree that college should pay for huge mass-marketing campaigns though.
The two pieces taken together encompass a dichotomy in the way we tend to think about the purpose of higher education. One side is economic development and extending opportunity to the disadvantage. The other side is the advancement of knowledge, the liberal arts, and innovation.


Author, No Sucker Left Behind said...

I'm surprised the Times published this piece, because it really feels off-base. But I guess they have to publish anything this gentleman wants to write, given who he is.

He says that a lack of skill is the reason for the low college graduation rates. I would argue that the lack of affordability is a much bigger culprit. It's tough for students to study when they also have to work a full-time job to pay their bills.

He also fails to acknowledge all of the weaknesses of higher education. The large classes, the reliance on part-time instructors who focus mostly on research, the lack of practical curricula.

We need full-time instructors, a lack of tenure so that we can fire the bad ones, small classes, and a focus (at least partially) on skills that students will actually be able to use in jobs. It's not an either-or proposition; let's teach both broad liberal arts AND practical skills.

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