I appeared today on NPR's The Takeaway with John Hockenberry and Farai Chideya discussing America's most overrated product: higher education. HERE's the clip.
I wish I would have had the opportunity to say more. This is what I would have said:
Colleges really are a most unexamined icon. They should be required to provide a Student's Bill of Rights, a key plank of which would be that every college would be required to post a Report Card reporting key statistics about the college:
- 4- and 5-year graduation rates for A students, B students, and C students. Nationwide, we admit to so-called four-year colleges 200,000 students from the bottom 40% of their high school class, yet 2/3 of them don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years.
- The amount of freshman-to-senior growth in thinking skills, math reasoning, etc. for students with similar high school record.
- The true cost (cash and loan) that that student will likely have incurred over the four (or more years they're in college, based on their family's income and assets. Today, colleges too often use what I call The Drug Dealer Scam, in which they give freshmen a big discount but once they have the student hooked (attending the college,) they jack up the tuition in years two through four and then after year four, take away all institutional aid.
Tire manufacturers are required to mold into each tire's sidewall its tread life, traction, and temperature rating. Yet colleges, in selling what may be the largest purchase of a person's life and one that can greatly affect their life, are allowed to sell their product with no disclosures, only Madison-Avenue-inspired brochures and websites, and highly sales-trained tour guides and admission "counselors." (Their "counselors" rarely counsel any admissible student to go to any other college.) Requiring colleges to prominently post a Report Card on itself with items like those above will both allow the the prospective college student to make a fully informed choice AND put pressure on colleges to improve the quality of what they provide. Now, all colleges' incentives are to provide cheap-quality education so they can divert student funds to the esoteric, rarely useful research that excites academics but few others.
To date, we have been subjecting college students to a Tuskegee Experiment--a highly risky treatment without disclosing the risks, side-effects, and opportunity costs. We need to let the sunshine in.