Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's Time to Hold Colleges Accountable

The Occupy Wall Streeters are certainly justified in railing against their student loans. College recruitment efforts manipulate students into thinking for the enormous time and money, they'll learn a lot and be professionally employable. The truth is far different.

Perhaps most insulting, the powerful higher education lobby has pressured the government to make student loans the ONLY loan that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Indeed it is time to rage against the higher education machine.

My latest Washington Post Big Idea column argues that we must shine a light on what colleges actually do: that is, to prominently post a Report Card with such items as:
  • What percent of freshmen graduate in four years, broken down by high school record?
  • What percent of graduates are, within six months of graduation, professionally employed, broken down by major and high school record?
  • How much do students grow in critical thinking from freshman to senior year, disaggregated by high school record?
Not only would that inform consumers, it would likely finally pressure colleges into spending less on ego-driven new buildings, fat administrations, and silly-research-focused professors and more on transformational undergraduate instructors, mentoring, and a career center that actually is helpful. It might even push colleges to replace lackluster lectures with courses taught on video by a dream team of the world's most transformational instructors.


Online Training Courses said...

Borrowers who default on student loans, delay full participation in the community, and struggle to make ends meet. Those who do not repay student loans are subject to additional fees and unfavorable credit reports.

K-Man said...

Frankly, it has long baffled me that financial aid is absolutely independent of the relative need for the major taken.

When I was in engineering school decades ago before dropping out after my financial aid fell through (working-class parents "made too much", which was news to them), the statements that the media and industry often parroted back then about "huge shortages of engineers in the US" came to mind.

If shortages really existed in a field, shouldn't the aid system have been geared toward keeping those taking related majors in school? Instead, I got the same consideration, such as it was, as a philosophy or art history or forestry or women's studies major. Indeed, it seemed easier for some of them to borrow than it was for me.

It seems ridiculous that those in majors that simply will not lead to employment in the field in the real world can still borrow massive amounts of money as student loans to get the essentially useless degree. These people then complain about the burden of being six figures in debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy as they work their dead-end minimum-wage service jobs—jobs that their degree was in no way necessary to get.

If you want a mostly useless degree in a liberal arts field, the system should not allow you to borrow money to get it. Pay for it outright or take a more useful major. This concept should be part and parcel of any reforms.

Of course, Marty, your report card proposal (if done properly) would point out these differences among majors in stark contrast—for those who are willing to pay attention.

Frustrated Fed said...

Marty, I agree with your Washington Post blog. However, are you surprised at the number of negative comments at the end of the article? Some people are even nitpicking about your grammar! I was surprised by the negative reaction.

Marty Nemko said...

Higher Education is one of America's sacred cows. We don't like to think it is unworthy of that status and worse, that it needs government oversight. I believe that's a/the core course of the negativity.

It is very easy to be popular: just praise conventional wisdom. But that vitiates one's ability to call for improvements.

ST said...

The comments on the article are now closed, but it's interesting that the one commenter goes on and on about sentence structure, plurals, etc., yet made no contribution to the gist of the article and the main points made. It just goes to show one example of the academic minutiae that you argue about in your other posts, someone is nit picking grammar, but can't think of the big picture (or won't).

Doris Finnius said...

Colleges and universities need to held accountable. Many college graduates don't know how to: read, write, and answer basic math problems. That's because k-12 does a poor job of preparing students for the workforce and for higher education. Parents are also to blame. Students need to get relevant experience through jobs, apprenticeships, and internships. They should also attend career fairs and go to Career Services to get a glimpse of the real world. Companies want to hire employees that are proficient with Microsoft Office, Adobe products, and basic programming (HTML, Java, and PHP).


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