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View Diary: Abbreviated pundit roundup: College affordability, Syria, and more (74 comments)

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  •  Count wrong beans, get wrong answer (0+ / 0-)

    The current higher ed system encourages colleges to bring in masses of students who are not qualified so as to beef up the colleges enrollment thus getting more money from the students (from cash and loans), the state (e.g., per-capita based funding) and the federal government (grants).  Many of these students eventually flunk out having wasted time, their money and our money on a fruitless effort.

    Eventually someone, in Colorado this was the state, gets upset that all of these student flunking out.  At one university 50% of the entering class fails to come back for a second year.  As they say bad things flow downhill.  The state puts the squeeze on the universities so the PHBs in the college administration scream at the faculty."Retention" then becomes a criteria for faculty evaluation (along with the unfiltered average of student ratings of faculty).  This almost inevitably leads to lowering the quality-bar so that students are retained which eventually turns the college into a diploma mill where students who pay their bills and show up for class (maybe) get a degree.  Under this pressure, especially adjunct and tenure-track faculty are not going to buck the system and even tenured faculty have to have extra-tough hides to avoid becoming rubber stamps.  So now students won't flunk out but will end up with degrees that may or may not indicate any level of competency.

    Four-year schools need to enure only qualified students with realistic expectations (i.e., they should know what they're getting into) are allowed entry.  Students who need help should go into programs where they can be get the needed skills, usually at lower cost.  When only qualified and counseled students are admitted to degree programs then there is a much higher chance that they will eventually complete their degrees.  Then other metrics can be used to assess program quality:

    • Can students get the courses they want and need to complete their degrees?  At some schools students can't take general ed courses until late in their career because the courses are all filled by students with higher priorities (usually seniors have priority over juniors, etc.).
    • Do the various academic degree programs pass external peer-review?  Universities have to pass accreditation reviews every five years, but these look at programs at a very high level.  Some degrees have their own accreditation which requires specific scrutiny of the degree program: perhaps all programs should.
    • Have the students learned the right things?  Some schools use the subject GREs (or some other test), which appear in their official transcript and sometimes require a minimum score for graduation, as a way of assessing how graduation students match up to those at other institutions.  There are dangers to relying too much on  standardized tests, but it is also easy for programs to be isolated (there is not much faculty mobility in higher ed) from their fields as a whole (both in the definitions of the field and also what level of competency should be expected from students).
    • Do graduates find their degrees useful?  This is a harder criteria to assess but could be very useful if a scheme can be devised which is neither pure bean counting or subject to hand-waving.

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.—Carl Schurz
    "Shared sacrifice!" said the spider to the fly.—Me

    by KingBolete on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 09:04:09 AM PDT

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