Higher education’s share of the U.S. economy is about $430 billion a year.
When a student can get a B.A. from an accredited college for under $16,000, the following has to be regarded as a rip-off.
Don’t get sucked in.
By Jonathan Zimmerman
January 31, 2012
In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama proposed several measures to lower college tuition. University leaders responded cautiously, warning that cost-cutting reforms might also cut into instructional quality.But here’s the big open secret in American higher education: Most institutions have no meaningful way to measure the quality of their instruction. And the president didn’t ask us to develop one, either.Instead, he suggested that the federal government tie student aid to colleges’ success in reducing tuition and in helping students move forward. In a follow-up speech at the University of Michigan on Friday, he called for a “college score card” that would rank institutions acording to cost, graduation rates and future earnings.
“If you can’t stop tuition from going up, your funding from taxpayers will go down,” Obama warned. “We should push colleges to do better; we should hold them accountable if they don’t.”
Fair enough. But look again at Obama’s criteria for “better”: holding down costs, graduating students and helping them get jobs. There’s no mention of whether the students are actually learning anything.
At most institutions, including my own, we have no idea if they are. Sure, professors assign grades in their courses, and students are asked to evaluate the classes they take and the professors who teach them. But neither measure gives us any real answer to the $200,000 question: What knowledge or skills are students acquiring in exchange for the skyrocketing tuition they pay?
And we now have some alarming national data to suggest the answer: not nearly enough. My New York University colleague Richard Arum and the University of Virginia’s Josipa Roksa recently tracked several thousand. . . .