Monday, April 1, 2013

The College Report Card--picked as one of "100 Great Ideas for Higher Education"

I am honored that the National Association of Scholars chose to include, in its 100 Great Ideas for Higher Education, my proposal that all colleges be required to, on its homepage, post a substantive report card on itself, what I call the College Report Card.

It is far more more helpful than, for example, the College Scorecard President Obama announced in his State of the Union address.

I describe the College Report Card in the  Washington Post, and in The Atlantic, the latter which was republished on Stanford's blog on higher education reform.

Not only would a College Report Card enable prospective students to more wisely and easily select a college, that transparency would exert real pressure on colleges to finally treat students as the treasure they are rather than a mere "cost center."

Today, 'four-year" colleges behave as irresponsibly as the researchers who ran the The Tuskegee Experiments. Every year, colleges recruit hundreds of thousands of weak students without disclosing to them that 3/4 such students don''t graduate even if given 8 years, meanwhile having accrued a fortune in debt, little learning, a non-stop assault to their self-esteem, no more employability than they could have had straight out of high school and, critically, the opportunity cost: They could have likely learned far more and become far more employable had they pursued an apprenticeship, the millitary, working at the elbow of an entrepreneur, or taken a short career-prep program at a community college.

It is time to stop giving higher education a free pass. We require every tire, every packaged food, every drug, to provide substantive consumer information. We should require no less of colleges.


Maria Lopez said...

Given that college graduates have done considerably better than non-graduates in recent years, trying to complete at least two years of college seems rational for many.

Is there any evidence that there is a cohort of average IQ college skippers who do well?

I agree that college isn't for everyone but I'm afraid the alternatives you describe may be imaginary for many. Much entrepreneurship, for instance, seems to involve dubious things as acupuncture for pets.

Also, entrepreneurship involves inherent instability which is inevitably stressful.

Because of this, I've discouraged many people from trying to support themselves through PC repair and discouraged single women from doing concentration intensive things such as web page design while at home with small children.

Though I've read that up to 40% of people have their own businesses in the third world, I'm not sure that's a model we can or should follow. Even in the third world thing vary, for example in Mexico many people support themselves as informal servants of wealthier folks.

Marty Nemko said...

One size does not fit all, Maria. Regarding the cohort you speak of, it is telling that of the 200,000 students per year who graduate from the bottom 40%, 3/4 don't graduate even if given 8 1/2 years.

Of course, such low performers will not do well in entrepreneurship, which requires high intelligence, drive, and often significant money. The focus should be on apprenticeship programs, formal and informal.

Maria Lopez said...

Is apprenticeship really a good answer though? I'm not saying there are good answers. One doesn't want an apprentice who is not capable and I know of one person who began an apprenticeship only to have his mentor move away before he could complete all the requirements to become licensed in his profession, forcing him into self study or formal education (not sure which)

Also there is the problem of credentialing through apprenticeship. This is well known in academia where the interests of graduate advisors and graduate students can be at cross purposes and is also found in martial arts where a belt from one school may mean nothing at another.

Marty Nemko said...

There is no perfect answer for not bright, not very motivated people. One-on-one learning/apprenticeship is generally the best of the options, along with the military. Even community college programs, even the practical ones, are a worse fit for many of the people we're talking about. They learn much better in the real world than in the classroom.