Monday, July 18, 2011

The College Report Card: An Animated Fairy Tale

I continue to experiment with ways to get my College Report Card idea to go viral. This time, it's an animation.

I'm convinced that, while simple, government requiring all colleges to post an externally audited report card on themselves is, arguably, the most potent yet practical way yet proposed to get colleges to dramatically improve the quality of higher education.

And of course, if all colleges posted a College Report Card, it would help prospective students to more wisely choose a college or graduate or to decide that a non-school option may be wiser.

I created this animation using a website,, that makes it remarkably easy to convert your text into animation. I did it in 20 minutes. I don't find that the animation adds sufficiently to the text but I thought it was worth sharing with you. A transcript of this 3-minute animation appears below.

There once was a young man, and he was admitted to a college. And he liked the college. He sang the song he had so often heard: "American higher education is a national treasure."

But decades passed and the man learned that his college had changed. The buildings were now fancier but instead of college costing what nearly anyone could afford, now everyone except rich people has to take out big loans. Really big loans.

And now, the college admits many weak students along with the good ones so the classes have to be dumbed-down. And so students learn much less. Despite the dumbing-down, most of the college's students, really most, 55%, dropped out. Even many who graduate, deeply in debt, can find only a job they could have done without college. And most dispiriting to the man, most of the students learn little--the tests show that half of them read, wrote, and reasoned no better than when they began college. The man didn't believe it at first but after reading the authoritative nationwide study: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, he had to accept that it was true.

And the man was sad. He thought and he thought. What could make colleges better? Finally, he had an idea: He asked, "If the government requires each tire to have a "report card" molded into it, if government requires all packaged food to have a "report card" on the package, why doesn't government require all colleges to have a report card posted on its website: how much students learn in reading, writing, thinking, broken down by students' high school record? What percent graduate in four years? After deducting cash financial aid, how much four or five years costs? What percentage of graduates have professional jobs within a year of graduation, broken down by major--sociology majors aren't going to be as employable as computer science majors.

Having all colleges post a College Report Card would help students choose a good college. More important, it would embarrass the colleges into improving their poor quality of education: Instead of hiring professors based mainly on how many research dollars they can bring in, they'd hire professors because they were great at educating and inspiring students. Instead of spending on fat administrations and fancy buildings and shrubs, they'd spend on providing mentors and coaches to students.

And so the man went to Congress to try to get a law passed requiring colleges to prominently post a report card on themselves, with companies like Price Waterhouse coming in to audit them to avoid cheating. But that scared the colleges, so their very powerful lobby squashed the man--or at least his idea.

And so now, everyone continues to sing: "American higher education is a national treasure." And everyone is living happily ever after. But not really.


Anonymous said...

Stossel did an entire show on this problem. Nice to know who your allies are in this space Marty!

Marty Nemko said...

Indeed, he interviewed me on 20-20 about the topic when he was on ABC. It was just a year or so ago.

Marty Nemko said...

Here's the video of my appearance on 20-20 questioning the value of college:


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