Perhaps the single thing that the Center of College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) does each year that garners the most public attention is prepare for Forbes its rankings of U.S. colleges and universities. It is a formidable task, th
is year involving 19 persons. We pride ourselves that are rankings are based primarily on outcomes/satisfaction based criteria, not input/reputation criteria used by some other ranking services. A majority of the weight in the rankings derives from measures of student satisfaction (such as student evaluations of courses and professors done through RateMyProfessor.com) or post-graduate success (as measured by such things as being listed in Who’s Who in America or making an extensive list of corporate, political and nonprofit sector leaders). We also are very conscious of costs, and piling up a huge debt load while going to school has a distinctly negative impact in our rankings. Our full methodology is available elsewhere on this web site.
While much attention goes to seeing who the very top schools are (this year the top five are Princeton, Williams College, Stanford, Chicago and Yale), schools ranking in the top 100 (of 650 ranked) are all very good schools, not only being in the 15 percent of those ranked by us, but almost certainly in the top 10 percent of all institutions. The top 100 list is dominated by private schools –88 of 100. Of the 12 public institutions, three are national military academies –West Point is a top 10 school and has been for years with us. In the top 25, only West Point is a public institution. A large majority (63 percent) of the top 100 schools are liberal arts colleges or institutions not conferring doctorate degrees, despite a modestly controversial (within CCAP) methodological change this year that tilted things a bit more favorably towards larger institutions. I still believe that, as a generalization, for many students the best undergraduate experience in America is found in a small, liberal arts environment.
Excellence in higher education is not evenly disbursed across the vast landscape of America. There are concentrations of superior performance and areas where literally a person is hundreds of miles from the nearest school of distinction (much of the area comprising the western prairie and Rocky Mountain states fits that description). 45 of the 100 top schools are in just four states –Massachusetts (with 13), New York (12), California (11) and Pennsylvania (9).
Let us compare three areas with similar populations. Let us look at the six New England States (Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) plus New York and Pennsylvania, which have a population of 46.7 million, with the five East North Central States (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin) with it near identical population (46.5 million) and with the five Gulf Coast states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) with its considerably larger population of 57.1 million. These three regions have over 150 million persons, almost half the U.S. population.
The states in the Northeast have 43 schools in the top 100, while those in the more populous Gulf States have merely three (Rice, the University of Florida, and Southwestern in Texas) The Midwestern states mentioned have 11 schools (led by Chicago, Notre Dame, and Northwestern), closer to an average figure, and a bit above the average for the 42 states outside. Similarly, California with a population of over 37 million is slightly underrepresented relative to the national average, but comfortably overrepresented for the states other than the eight northeastern states with high concentrations of excellence. Note that two of the top 10 schools (Stanford and Pomona) are in the Golden State. Arguably the greatest concentration of undergraduate excellence in America is in Claremont California, where four schools are in the top 55 on our lists.
Another point: the best school for students is determined by a whole variety of personal considerations, including academic abilities, geographical preferences, family finances, academic interests, maybe even the availability of recreational facilities or proximity to a girl or boy friend. The rankings are one tool to be used in college selection. One issue important to nearly everyone is finances, and we encourage you to look at the “best buy” listings that we compiled, available on the Forbes web site, that relates quality to costs –sort of a “bang for the buck” measure. On this list, public institutions are far more prevalent than on the rankings list, but there are some very high ranking private schools, such as College of the Ozarks, Berea College, and Cooper Union.
These rankings are compiled by amassing and utilizing literally tens of thousands of pieces of information –data. A small amount of human error is almost inevitable, despite double and triple checking of everything. One thing we cannot check is inaccurate data given to us, especially by the U.S. Department of Education and its IPEDS data base. Unfortunately, that has happened this year with respect to Haverford College, a very fine school in Pennsylvania (full disclosure: I seriously considered going there). The IPEDS data base incorrectly gave the Haverford graduation rate, and the impact of that error was material. However, we have a policy that after the rankings are published, we will not change them for one year, simply because if we tried to correct for every small error we would have a confusing and constantly changing ranking, destroying their credibility. The error in this case was not the fault of CCAP, and we are expressing our regret to Haverford and publicly stating that they are, indeed, a very, very good school (even the ranking listed calculated using faulty graduation rate data puts it in the top dozen liberal arts colleges in America). We believe the published rankings convey the essential truth that Haverford is one of America’s top liberal arts colleges, even though it understates that truth a bit.
Colleges denigrate rankings –except when they do well, when they publicize them vigorously. Us rankers could be put out of business or marginalized if the colleges would do what they are loathed to do –give good, precise, consumer information on life on their campuses. The U.S. government could help things along by publishing, by college, the earnings of alumni, data that they uniquely have in IRS databases. But the public be damned, by both the colleges and governments, so we are trying to do our bit to fill the knowledge gap. Enjoy the rankings –we enjoyed preparing them.
Final word: this was an enormous team effort. Especially critical were two persons, Jonathan Robe and Christopher Matgouranis, a very fine law school student who took time off to help us. Among the others, the first among equals are Daniel Garrett, a technical whiz, and our chief Whiz Kid (student helper), Christopher Denhart. Everyone did a fine job.
A special faculty committee at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has called for an independent commission to review academic-misconduct at the school on the part of the athletics program, the buy generic cialis online
/2223477/unc-chapel-hill-faculty-calls.html”>News & Observer of the Raleigh-Durham, NC area reports. The recommendation comes after a university investigation revealed that 54 courses in the African and Afro-American Studies department had little or no instruction involved in which most of the enrolled students were athletes. The blame for these “no show” classes has fallen primarily on two individuals, Julius Nyang’oro, former chairman of the department who was forced into retirement in the Fall of 2011 and Deborah Crowder who was department manager and retired in 2009. The classes in question were mostly independent study classes offered during summer sessions during which students appear to have done little or no work in exchange for credit towards graduation.
The committee decries what they refer to as a “campus with two cultures” – academic and athletic. For example, according to the News & Observer, the academic support program for athletes is supposed to be run by the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC, but the athletic department provides the funding. The report issued by the special committee attests to a situation where the university does not do enough to ensure athletes get the education they need out of the system. Instead, the athletic department has too much control over the athletes to the detriment of their studies. The committee sees troubling trends in which athletes are steered towards courses that have little bearing on the student’s declared major but are intended to ensure their continued eligibility to compete at sports.
These finding lend credence to a fact that all professors, instructors and teaching assistants are aware of: that athletes are a special breed of student. They are permitted to miss more class than an average student without penalty. It is certainly true that in order to excel at sports, athletes require large amounts of time dedicated to practice and physical fitness, but a balance must be struck between academics and athletics. It would be naïve to think that this problem is limited to Chapel Hill. Even if studies have not been done, it is clear on any campus where athletics plays an important role that athletes receive “special” treatment that allows them to travel and to compete. For a large majority of athletes, however, these allowances do not actually benefit them in the long run. These students miss class and learning opportunities and in doing so, are cheated out of the education they are supposed to be receiving. I do not advocate on any level the removal of athletics from a college campus. Sport has a very important part in the lives of many students, but a balance must be struck with academic pursuits.
Richard Vedder has an op-ed in the Kearney (Nebraska) Hub on college costs and the role of
administrative spending as a cost driver, particularly in the State of Nebraska:
The share of college spending on administration has been growing for decades. Jay Greene, Brian Kisida and Jonathan Mills, in their recent report, “Administrative Bloat at American Universities,” noted that from 1993 to 2007, administrative staff, after adjusting for enrollment growth, grew by 39 percent, compared to only 18 percent for faculty.
Similarly, over that period inflation-adjusted per-student spending on administration rose by 61 percent while such spending on instruction rose by only 39 percent.
It is little wonder that Benjamin Ginsberg observed in his book, “The Fall of the Faculty,” that “as colleges and universities had more to spend they chose not to spend it on expanding their instructional resources … (but) chose, instead, to enhance their administrative and staff resources.”
Research we did for the Platte Institute indicates the problem of administrative bloat is particularly acute at the University of Nebraska, where there are 12.98 administrative and professional staff for every 100 students. That rate is about 24 percent greater than the national average.
You can read the whole piece here.
* * *
Times Higher Education in the UK ran their story on the recent kerfuffle at the University of Virginia over the firing and subsequent reinstatement of the University’s President. The story extensively quotes Richard Vedder:
“To me, this is a beautiful example of the ambiguity over governance,” says Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, an independent, not-for-profit research centre in Washington DC. “Who runs universities? Who are the bosses?”
This issue is exercising the US academy not only because of the University of Virginia controversy. There have been disputes in Texas, Iowa, Oregon, Louisiana, North Carolina and elsewhere as governing boards have clashed with both university leaders and academics.
The entire story is available here.
* * *
In the aftermath of the NCAA’s announcement of penalties assessed on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, CBS Sports reported on CCAP Facult Fellow Dave Ridpath’s initial reaction to the penalties:
As far as the penalties—I am not a fan of the process or how the NCAA did, but simply put: Penn State deserves everything they get and it is far from over. I cannot fault the penalties and I know the collateral damage is immense and innocents will suffer. But we all played a part in this culture being omnipotent and everyone must suffer a bit. If I were Emmert I would not have done it this way but I might have done an investigation to see if NCAA rules were violated etc. like Baylor.
Still it is hard to argue with the end result as PSU needs to be knocked down a few notches. We heard the crap of victory with honor for so long now knowing this nothing is too harsh. While I wish it were done another way or just left to the courts, Department of Education and lawsuits, it is hard to argue with the result.
Penn State football will never be the same and it shouldn’t be. I just hope others listen too.
The rest is here.
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Richard Vedder appeared on Chicago Public Media, WBEZ 91.5, to discuss with Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro the value of a liberal arts college degree. You can listen to the full segment here.
Tom Van Riper reported on a rather interesting higher ed story in the latest edition of Forbes. The story focuses on Bernie Mullin, who runs the Aspire Group. As Van Riper reports:
Mullin has found a handy niche helping 20 unive
rsities repopulate stadiums and arenas for baseball, football, basketball, and softball, among others. Taking 10% of ticket sales, plus costs (more for small-conference schools) or a management fee tied to increased box office, Aspire should gross $500,000 or so on more than $5 million in revenue this year.
What actually struck me about this story was that Mullin’s business extends even to the perennial sports powerhouses (he’s done ticket price consulting work for even Ohio State, for example). In fact, the Forbes story opens with Mullin’s relationship with Arizona State University, who required his professional assistance to make up for the nearly 40% decline in ticket sales for the ASU athletic department from 2007-08 to 2010-11. Other competitors of Mullin’s group have landed deals to sell tickets for Penn State, Duke and Tennessee. The reason for this new business for ticket sellers and consultants is, as ASU associate athletic director, Steve Hank, said, “A lot of these places have seats available at kickoff… That used to be unheard of.” Indeed, FBS football schools in total actually saw a minor decline in attendance from 2010 to 2011 (surely partly a result of the sluggish economy). If the big guys are hurting a bit and have to put in extra effort to sell their tickets, I wonder what that really means for the little guys.
However, as Van Riper is careful to note, this does not mean that “[c]ollege sports attendance is hardly in crisis.” Given the massive amounts of cash top schools spend for athletic success (according to USA Today, “Division I public schools spent nearly $6.7 billion on athletics in 2011″), it would make sense that the schools would be particularly keen on maximizing their revenues from these enterprises. Nevertheless, it still strikes me as at least a tad excessive that college and universities would take these extra steps to pad ventures which have, in many regards, only an indirect relationship to their academic missions.
This morning NCAA President Mark Emmert handed down massive penalties against Penn State in the wake of
the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The punishment includes a $60 million fine against the university, loss of a substantial number of scholarships, post-season ineligibility for four years, a five year probation period and the vacating of all wins from the 1998 – 2011 seasons. While much has been made about their avoidance of the “death penalty” or suspension of the entire football program from competing for one or more seasons, the sentence given Penn State is certainly large, and I, for one, praise the NCAA for the punishment handed down. It was not too harsh, but it also was well thought out and fit the crime. It also punished those who were most culpable at the University of allowing Sandusky to commit his horrible crimes as a way of protecting their hallowed football program.
Perhaps the most startling of the sanctions is the nullification of 112 wins over the last decade of Penn State football. This, along with the removal of the statue outside of Beaver Stadium in State College, demonstrates the tatters in which the reputation of late, legendary football coach Joe Paterno now lies. Once the winningest coach in FBS (Division I) college football history with 409, the NCAA’s action drops Paterno’s total to 298, or fifth all-time, according to ESPN. Analysts often scoff at the idea of vacating wins, since the game cannot be replayed, but in this case it really means something. Records in sports are revered and taking someone’s record away is a big deal. The NCAA is sending a very clear message here: Penn State, you had your priorities WAY out of line. It would have been better for them to have gone winless all those years than to be complicit in the atrocities that were being perpetrated on their campus.
Also particularly significant is the $60 million fine, which is roughly equivalent to the income brought in by the Penn State football program in one year. The money is going to go into a fund for “external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university,” as Emmert put it in his announcement of the sanctions. In doing this, Penn State is required to attempt to make some sort of amends for their negligence as an institution in policing its employees. By putting such a significant amount of money towards combating sexual abuse, hopefully Penn State will be able to help prevent future tragedies and assist victims in coming to terms with their experience and to move on with their lives.
The penalties that look to the future of the Penn State football program: the post-season ban, the loss of scholarships and the probation, will hopefully help the University move on from this tragedy and to re-examine its mission and hope it goes about that mission. Penn State has already made some moves in that direction with a hiring of a new football coach and a new president, as well as the removal of the Joe Paterno statue on Sunday morning. While there are certainly those who feel like the school has escaped fair punishment, the actions set down by the NCAA today mark the opportunity for Penn State to re-evaluate its priorities and to move forward. There are many alumni, faculty, and even sportspeople at Penn State who are completely innocent of any complicity in the Jerry Sandusky case. What must happen in the case of Penn State is a complete break from the culture of the past, where football reigned supreme and all other considerations, including the health and safety of young people, took a backseat. With a change of personnel, a four-year post-season ban (i.e., a “stop-and-think” period) and probation, Penn State has been given the opportunity to rebuild its program and its image in a more appropriate way. Let the NCAA sanctions be a reminder to us all that football is just a sport. Major universities across the country must evaluate their priorities and remember that their athletics programs are meant to be part of the college experience, not its entirety.
Can some good come out of the Penn State tragedy? Former FBI director Louis Freeh has authored a remarkable, lengthy and brutally frank report
a> that finds fault with lots of people at Penn State. But a group that has heretofore received only modest criticism gets a lot from Freeh—the Board of Trustees. And, reading news reports of the findings, it appears Freeh’s view of the role of boards is very similar to mine, and highly consistent with an idea I have been promoting with increasing frequency for several years. Freeh said “the Board allowed itself to be marginalized by not demanding thorough and forthright reports on the affairs of the University.” Freeh’s indictment of the Penn State board would apply, I submit, to probably a majority of the governing boards of American universities. While boards can become too activist and disruptive (some would say this is the case at the University of Virginia, but I am not so certain), the far larger problem is that boards are co-opted by the administration which supposedly is subservient to them. The boards accept the information that the president provides as the sum total (or a very, very large proportion of the total) of what they should know about university affairs. University presidents typically try to maximize revenues and minimize bad publicity. The two are actually highly interrelated. Hence, if something embarrassing happens on campus, the trustees are typically notified only if they likely would find out anyway, or if the legal ramifications of failure to notify are so huge that there is no real alternative. Thus scandals sometimes erupt, despite efforts at containment, and the trustees are caught off guard. I remember, a few years ago, receiving a phone call from the chair of my university’s board of trustees, a longtime personal friend. The football coach had been arrested for drunk driving, always embarrassing, but doubly so since the coach was featured on posters deploring the dangers of excessive drinking, and the football team had had several members arrested for drinking-related offenses. The board chair had not been informed and was called by a reporter to comment. He was, correctly, furious that he had not been forewarned by the university. I told my friend, approximately, “I got news for you—you don’t hear about half the things you should know about.” What is true at Ohio University is true all over. Louis Freeh thought the Penn State trustees needed to be told when the early reports of Jerry Sandusky’s actions were received by Penn State. Yes. But I think procedures need to be put in place which would make it very, very difficult to conceal information from the governing board. Whether the governing board will act on the information is another matter, but they can’t act if they don’t know. Specifically, I think every public university, and probably most private ones, should have an employee whose “boss” is not the university administration but the chair of the board of trustees, and whose function it is to independently inform the board of anything that could potentially harm the university. That person should have the equivalent of subpoena power—the right to virtually any file or information source on campus. That person should have some, if not all, the functions of an inspector general in a federal government agency, and his/her reports should circulate regularly to the entire governing board. My guess is that had that happened at Penn State, the board would have known about Jerry Sandusky’s behavior earlier. There would have been a quicker resolution of the problem. And, most importantly, a few young people might not have had their lives badly scarred, not to mention saving Penn State some scars itself. This post originally appeared on the “Innovations” blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education on July 16, 2012.
a> that finds fault with lots of people at Penn State. But a group that has heretofore received only modest criticism gets a lot from Freeh—the Board of Trustees. And, reading news reports of the findings, it appears Freeh’s view of the role of boards is very similar to mine, and highly consistent with an idea I have been promoting with increasing frequency for several years.
Freeh said “the Board allowed itself to be marginalized by not demanding thorough and forthright reports on the affairs of the University.” Freeh’s indictment of the Penn State board would apply, I submit, to probably a majority of the governing boards of American universities. While boards can become too activist and disruptive (some would say this is the case at the University of Virginia, but I am not so certain), the far larger problem is that boards are co-opted by the administration which supposedly is subservient to them. The boards accept the information that the president provides as the sum total (or a very, very large proportion of the total) of what they should know about university affairs.
University presidents typically try to maximize revenues and minimize bad publicity. The two are actually highly interrelated. Hence, if something embarrassing happens on campus, the trustees are typically notified only if they likely would find out anyway, or if the legal ramifications of failure to notify are so huge that there is no real alternative. Thus scandals sometimes erupt, despite efforts at containment, and the trustees are caught off guard.
I remember, a few years ago, receiving a phone call from the chair of my university’s board of trustees, a longtime personal friend. The football coach had been arrested for drunk driving, always embarrassing, but doubly so since the coach was featured on posters deploring the dangers of excessive drinking, and the football team had had several members arrested for drinking-related offenses. The board chair had not been informed and was called by a reporter to comment. He was, correctly, furious that he had not been forewarned by the university. I told my friend, approximately, “I got news for you—you don’t hear about half the things you should know about.” What is true at Ohio University is true all over.
Louis Freeh thought the Penn State trustees needed to be told when the early reports of Jerry Sandusky’s actions were received by Penn State. Yes. But I think procedures need to be put in place which would make it very, very difficult to conceal information from the governing board. Whether the governing board will act on the information is another matter, but they can’t act if they don’t know.
Specifically, I think every public university, and probably most private ones, should have an employee whose “boss” is not the university administration but the chair of the board of trustees, and whose function it is to independently inform the board of anything that could potentially harm the university. That person should have the equivalent of subpoena power—the right to virtually any file or information source on campus. That person should have some, if not all, the functions of an inspector general in a federal government agency, and his/her reports should circulate regularly to the entire governing board.
My guess is that had that happened at Penn State, the board would have known about Jerry Sandusky’s behavior earlier. There would have been a quicker resolution of the problem. And, most importantly, a few young people might not have had their lives badly scarred, not to mention saving Penn State some scars itself.
This post originally appeared on the “Innovations” blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education on July 16, 2012.
The price system works marvelously to allocate resources in our society, but in higher education, prices often do not reflect the true value society places on resource usage, as they are often distorted by a variety of policies. The price of
elite colleges, for example, is actually well below what demand-and-supply conditions would warrant, while the price of college in general has been distorted upward by extravagant federal student financial-assistance programs (although some would argue with that contention).
But labor markets are largely free of these distortions, and very recent evidence from them on the whole supports the hypothesis that the huge gains from obtaining a bachelor’s degree may be diminishing for a simple reason: Supply has been rising faster than demand for college graduates.
The large differential between the earnings of high-school and college graduates is often cited as proof that college has a high payoff. Elsewhere I have argued that this is not an entirely useful comparison, since the behavioral traits of high-school graduates are markedly different than those who complete college. Moreover, those differentials have actually narrowed some in recent years. Compare 2008 and 2010, looking at the average earnings of those working full-time, year-round. For males with a high-school education, earnings rose 1.87 percent, while for those with bachelor’s degrees, they fell 4.17 percent (for those with master’s degrees, earnings were essentially unchanged). Those with a less than 9th-grade education fared better in terms of earnings change than those with degrees, whether associate, bachelor’s, or master’s. In inflation-adjusted terms, the earnings of those with bachelor’s degrees on average fell well over five percent (and over $3,500 in absolute dollars) at a time when college costs were rising at least as much.
The results hold if one uses median instead of mean income, or looks at all workers, not just full-time year-round ones (although the earning differences are less stark). The data are more mixed regarding female workers. Longer term, though, from 1991 to 2010, earnings for all female workers rose more on average than for just those with bachelor’s degrees.
As more and more college graduates take jobs as janitors, bartenders, truck drivers, etc., I suspect we will see the earnings differentials narrow more, at the same time that college costs continue to rise at rates greater than inflation. However, people respond to market conditions. If the gains from a college degree fall relative to its costs, people will start seeking substitutes, be it in the form of cheaper degrees or in the form of non-degree credentialing.
Caveats are in order. We are looking merely at a two-year period, a period of economic under-performance as a nation. The data are based on a good sample (the Current Population Survey), but one subject to some sampling error. The numbers for females do not show the same deterioration in relative advantage for college graduates. Later this summer, the 2011 data should be released, giving us a little longer time horizon to see if a new trend is really developing.
Partly by design, colleges develop cultures that are relatively isolated from the real world. Highly subsidized, the university community is loath to change, contemptuous of the discipline of markets (a point explicitly made by some faculty critics in the brouhaha at the University of Virginia over the status of President Theresa Sullivan). College professors hold views on a wide variety of issues fairly widely at variance with those of the American population, for example. Concern about labor-market outcomes of students is decried by some as “mindless vocationalism” or “corporatist thinking.”
This sort of political myopia may have serious adverse consequences on the academy in the long run. You cannot thumb your noses at economic realities or popular opinion forever without have people ask “Why are we subsiding this activity?” If the 2011 data continue the trends with respect to earnings of the previous couple of years, I suspect more and more Americans will simply say “no” to higher education. What happens at some schools if, say, the Class of 2017 simply does not show up in expected numbers for school a year from now?
This post originally appeared on the “Innovations” blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education on July 11, 2012.
By: Andrew Smyser
On June 19, the Institute for a Competitive Workforce (ICW), a branch of the United States Chamber of Commerce, released a report entitled “A State-by-State Report Card
on Public Postsecondary Education.
on Public Postsecondary Education.” This report grades the four-year and two-year public institutions in all fifty states and focuses on their bachelors and associates degree programs. In the report, the ICW demonstrate that even though 70 percent of American high school students pursue some sort of higher education, fewer than 50 percent of that total actually graduate. They argue that the American public post-secondary education system is inefficient and needs to change. As states cut funding in the current economic climate, public postsecondary schools need to make changes in their use of the limited funds and become innovative in their methods of meeting growing demands for well-educated members of the American workforce by shifting their academic thinking. No longer should top consideration be given to inputs such as SAT scores, admissions and money spent on facilities. Rather, focus should be on outputs: degrees conferred and the quality of those degrees, how well the graduates are prepared for life beyond college.
The study grades six categories of state performance and policy:
- Student Access & Success: retention and graduation rates, access for low-income students.
- Efficiency & Cost Effectiveness: how much it costs the state to produce degrees.
- Meeting Labor Market Demand: how graduates do financially in relation to less-educated individuals.
- Transparency & Accountability: how states measure learning and availability to the public.
- Policy Environment: state policies that encourage and facilitate degree completion.
- Innovation: state policies that encourage innovation in college education, how education reaches students that may be underrepresented.
In each of the first four fields, two grades were given: one for four-year colleges and one for two-year institutions. Innovation is divided into two subfields, both of which received a grade: openness to innovation and online learning. Taking the grades given by the ICW and converting them into a standard GPA 4-point scale, the state-by-state averages are illustrated in the table below. The national average for public postsecondary education comes to a GPA of 1.74, or a C-.
|New Jersey||2.09||Iowa||1.82||South Carolina||1.55||Nevada||1.00|
|New York||2.00||North Carolina||1.73||Massachusetts||1.55|
Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As might be expected, some states scored well in certain areas while doing poorly in others. For example, South Dakota, which placed relatively high on the overall list, was in the lower third of the country on four-year college grades, while being in the top four in both the two-year grades and policy-related categories. Virginia, on the other hand, did poorly in the policy categories, average in the two-year ones and very well in the four-years. Florida and Indiana were among the most consistently good scorers doing in the top fourth of all three broad categories. Alaska, New Mexico and Nevada were among the lower quarter in the broad categories.
The ICW offers several broad stroke recommendations about how to improve the schools performance though it emphasizes the risk that “one-size-fits-all reform will impede creative solutions to postsecondary institutions’ problems—and even make them worse.” Despite this risk, it has three pieces of broad advice: (1) find solutions that work with a state’s individual priorities, (2) embrace transparency, and (3) focus on performance and outputs. While this call certainly leaves the exact implementation and policies up to the states, it clearly calls for a change and an updating of education policy across the country.
Improved transparency is one way in which postsecondary schools could vastly improve the quality of their product. Requiring institutions to be accountable to the public, would force those colleges to make the necessary changes to better serve their clients (particularly their students). Transparency would encourage innovation in education as a selling point for the college. It would also give the schools incentives to improve graduation rates and the quality of the degrees conferred. The price of these degrees in the current system would be prohibitive for many schools to make the necessary changes to survive, so they would be forced to innovate and to become creative and more efficient in the allocation of their limited resources.
This study should be a wake-up call for state school systems across the country as well as to American policy makers. The United States’ public postsecondary education system is not doing its job when it comes to preparing the next generation for life in the 21st century. This study’s emphasis on meeting the demand of the job market illustrates the pervasiveness of this problem. The problems in the education system are being felt in the American economic market as well which seriously hampers the United States’ ability to compete on a global market.
Andrew Smyser has an M.A. from the University of Missouri, Columbia and a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a Research Consultant for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.
This post originally appeared in CCAP’s “Higher Education and the Economy” blogspace for Forbes.com.
College governing boards are becoming pretty uppity, actually thinking they have a real, not ceremonial role to play in governing universities. Next thing you know, Britain’s constitutional monarch, Queen Elizabeth will decide to suspend Par
liament and fire the Prime Minister. To be sure, there are limits to the attempts by boards to assert leadership—the University of Virginia board capitulated to the university community by returning power to them that the board rightfully possess by Virginia law.
Nonetheless, boards have become more aggressive in using their most important power—easing out or firing the university president. Illinois has done it not once but twice in the last few years, sending both Joe White and Michael Hogan packing. From the East (Penn State) to the South (Louisiana State) to the West (Oregon), presidents have been ousted. At other schools (e.g. University of Texas), strains between the university administration and the governing board have been very visible and have led to all sorts of campus conflict.
To be sure, these are challenging times. Public concerns about rising college costs have passed the threshold needed to become a major national issue. Big-time intercollegiate athletic corruption reeks and is beginning to stink up the enter higher-education enterprise, as folks in State College will tell you. Public universities are undergoing an involuntary and painful privatization, and the gap between them and the well-endowed private schools is growing rapidly. The job market for graduates has been bad for years, leading to more people questioning the need for a college degree. In short, the life of a university president is not easy these days.
There has long been a disconnect between what the academy itself thinks its mission and priorities should be and what the general public thinks. Boards, very often, have mindsets closer to that of the general public than that of the university community. Occasionally, that leads to clashes, although the university community is usually pretty good at co-opting and neutralizing trustees, making them comparatively docile. They do this by withholding vital information of an embarrassing nature, minimizing the actual number of board meetings, trying to co-opt who is selected for boards, etc.
In my judgment, boards on average do too little, not too much, although there are activist boards that do more harm than good. All schools, including so-called private ones (excepting for profit colleges), depend a lot on government largess. These institutions need to be accountable to someone other than themselves. As it is, colleges have made radical changes in how they operate, with little board involvement or even formal approval. Over the last half century, teaching loads have sharply fallen—did trustees approve this by vote? In most cases, no. Administrative staffs have become bloated, creating what Benjamin Ginsberg calls the “administrative university.” Did trustees sanction this? Sometimes technically they did by their budget votes, but in most cases I doubt they knew that they were voting to weaken the purely academic part of the enterprise.
In a growing number of cases, there is criticism of the boards by loyal alumni. Dartmouth College’s fights over seats on its governing board, and the brouhaha at the College of William & Mary over the Wren cross are good examples.
I am impressed with some alums at Colgate, who want a Better Colgate, and are angling for alumni election of a good hunk of the governing board. Their concerns arise from the fact that Colgate is slipping by many measures—from 2008 to 2011, the school dropped four spots in the U.S. News & World Report ranking and seven in that done by Forbes (full disclosure: I direct the compilation of the Forbes rankings). The Better Colgate folks are extremely frustrated at the near complete secrecy surrounding board actions, the lack of public attendance at meetings, the hiding of board committee reports, etc.
Question: Why are institutions benefiting from federal and/or state funds, or that benefit from tax-exempt status for university gifts, not required to operate out in the open? Why are not board minutes, committee reports, etc., routinely available to the public? I am rooting for the Better Colgate folks who, against heavy odds, are close to getting one of their renegade members on the Colgate board. Transparency should be required of anyone using, directly or indirectly, federal or state government funds.
This post originally appeared on the “Innovations” blog of The Chronicle of Higher Education on July 5, 2012.
A recent Wall Street Journal article raised questions about the value of an undergraduate business major to potential future employers.
The article argued that while some companies continue to hire primarily business majors, increasingly more of them look to expand their recruiting classes by drawing from humanities majors, such as history and English. Students with concentrations outside of business disciplines attract such employers because their coursework has taught them to think critically, be flexible, and confront problem-solving creatively. Business schools at universities such as Santa Clara University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University have taken note of this trend and in response are now integrating more liberal arts classes into their curricula. The philosophical drive for doing so seems to be that a renewed emphasis on humanities courses would foster increased critical thinking in their students and make their graduates more appealing to future employers. Both the studies and the responses to it share recognition of the value of a liberal arts education.
While the WSJ article reaffirms the value of the humanities to an audience which might tend to be skeptical of it, a report from NPR highlights the tensions that increased economic pressure has brought to bear on traditional liberal arts institutions. A May 2012 report examines the financial and philosophical difficulties that a poor economy presents to small, elite, and expensive liberal arts colleges whose missions are facing scrutiny from skittish parents who are nervous about committing so many resources to an education for their child that may not have tangible monetary benefits immediately upon graduation. Liberal arts schools, which traditionally boast small class sizes and low student-to-faculty ratios, struggle to balance the cost of such a structure with the reality that, particularly in times of economic uncertainty, many students and parents worry about the practicality of choosing a course of study that does not readily lend itself to a lucrative career path. As administrators attempt to soothe fears about the value of the education they offer, many have chosen to repackage their model and focus on the job-applicable skills that their students learn while attending a liberal arts institution. Wellesley College Provost Andy Shennan asserts that college administrators “have to continue to make the case [that a liberal arts education is relevant] as persuasively as [they] can.”
Both articles speak to the same sets of worries. On the one hand, colleges and universities have to be aware that many students choose to attend an institution based on the likelihood of future job prospects. At the same time, however, the liberal arts tradition of higher education continues to reveal its inherent value. And while liberal arts schools work to remain relevant in a difficult hiring environment, more business schools seek to tap into the wisdom of the humanities in order to prevent their graduates from casting themselves into too narrow a mold.
The lesson is clear: the study of the humanities still holds value, even if the economic model of traditional liberal arts schools has come under fire. It is equally clear, however, that in a climate where all schools are facing pressure to show their economic worth, administration, students, and even faculty, must diversify. Many curricula require business and engineering students to take one or two humanities classes, but do they explain the value of such a requirement? Too often, students from outside of the humanities disciplines choose not to take their coursework in these requirements seriously, as they believe that a detailed study of the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire or an in-depth analysis of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights will not apply to their future career, the “real” reason they are in college. But the value of history and literature to a non-humanities student goes far beyond acquiring knowledge about a specific topic. Instead, the humanities teach students to think abstractly. It cultivates reasoning, incites curiosity, and demands intellectual rigor. Students of the liberal arts learn how to decipher patterns and use these comparisons to construct clear, well-reasoned arguments. Every discipline needs sharp, articulate thinkers, and the humanities provide a venue for students to hone these skills.
This value should not lure liberal arts students into a false sense of security, however. Competitive markets require adaptable applicants, and so students of the humanities must learn to demonstrate that their skills cover a broad spectrum. Here, too, diversity is key. An English major who has taken public speaking courses and actively hones her presentation skills appears to be much more of an asset than an inarticulate applicant of any major. Classics students improve their command of English grammar by their study of Greek and Latin; supplementing this skill with editing experience in journalism makes them stronger applicants for a job that requires strong writing skills. To market these courses of study as excellent job preparation does not “cheapen” them or reduce their intrinsic value. Rather, it reaffirms yet again that the humanities are adaptable and as relevant now as ever.
Katie Smyser is a PhD student at the University at Buffalo. She is a Research Consultant for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.