Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Higher Education's Marketing Army Launches Counterattack

I knew it couldn't be long before the higher education marketing army started to counterattack the media's recent, powerful excoriations of colleges for the horrendously low value they provide.

Higher education's first major salvo is a study reported in the New York Times, authored by Anthony Carnevale (pictured right,) one of higher education's long-standing insiders and apologists. He argues, deceptively, for higher education's value while skirting inconvenient truths about the hundreds of thousands of weak students admitted to so-called four-year colleges.

As I've reported previously (probably ad nauseam at this point--here's a link to an NPR interview and article,) most such students don't graduate even if they're given eight years. And because of the elitist, real-world-irrelevant arcana so heavily taught in higher education, even many students who graduate grow nearly not at all in reading, writing, critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, etc., nor become employed in a job they wouldn't be qualified for without college. And of course, there's the opportunity costs: what the students could have been doing if they hadn't been spending the enormous sums of money, time, and assaults to their self-esteem in college, for example, in an apprenticeship program or learning entrepreneurship at the elbow of a successful and ethical entrepreneur.

As I've also written previously, the federal government should mandate that all colleges prominently post an externally audited report card on themselves disclosing key information that prospective students can use to decide whether a college, indeed any college, is--given their high school record--the wisest post-high-school choice. And of course, colleges' being forced to report their shockingly bad product would pressure them to improve and perhaps become the national treasure that the higher education marketing machine has led us to believe it is.


ST said...

There are valid arguments on both sides, but I found this interesting that the Academically Adrift authors also didn't use full disclosure in their study of the Collegiate Learning Assessment differences:


55% showed "significant" (at the 5% confidence level) improvement, yet that doesn't tell us (or in what percentages) that the rest didn't improve slightly, stay the same or decline. The scored data was not revealed, and that 55% could have changed higher or lower based on the confidence level (say 1% or 10%, standard statistical levels).

Andrew B said...

It would be fair if colleges and universities spoke to thousands of bitter and disillusioned recent graduates - unemployed and underemployed. It would be fair if colleges had to prove their wonderful RIO and - so to speak - P/E ratio of their product - higher education - with hard numbers. If we entitled to nutrition information stickers on in grocery stores, why not have for way more expensive items.


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