Fix higher ed in eight easy steps! (Free nutritious recipes included.)

Nutritious yet slimming!

Really!  And here they are, according to yesterday’s Washington Post:  “1. Measure student learning | 2. End merit aid | 3. Three-year degrees | 4. Core curriculum | 5. More homework | 6. Encourage completion | 7. Cap athletic subsidies | 8. Rethink remediation.”  You can read the article soup-to-nuts as I did by starting here, if you like.  There are some good ideas in there, but all together they’re kind of a nightmare jello mashup of epic proportions.

Here are my responses in brief to all of these suggestions:

  1. Because standardized high-stakes testing has worked so brilliantly at the K-12 level?  Let’s just strangle this one in its crib unless and until we get some evidence that more testing = more education.
  2. Sounds great!  But it’s never going to happen.  Merit aid is the fruit of the perfect marriage of plutocracy and meritocracy that characterizes American higher education, and the kinds of institutions that offer substantial merit aid have plenty of coin to throw around and plenty of other students lining up to pay the (resulting) inflated tuition price.  As it turns out, if you’re the graduate of an elite institution, you can actually eat prestige
  3. I think there’s room for 3-year degrees, but the examples here are just degree speed-up programs that rely on AP credit and summer courses.  These are 4-year degrees earned in 3 years, and that’s something students can do already.  They don’t need some dumb committee and the marketing department to come up with the plan–they can just talk to their advisors.
  4. Why not?  But it’s going to cost money to staff all of those core humanities and science classes, and it will be impossible to put a quality core knowledge program into a 3-year degree program.
  5. Absolutely!  Bring it.  (Mind you, this might interfere mightily with idea #3!  And like #4, it’s going to cost money!
  6. As though colleges and universities don’t encourage completion?  We’re speaking here of good-faith public and private non-profit colleges and universities, of course.  For-profit unis are just instruments for sucking up public dollars and discarding the students they “educate.”  So, yeah:  bring it. 
  7. Hellz to the yes, babies!  Make all sports self-funded club sports.  Let the men’s basketball team sell danishes and coffee outside the Dean’s office on winter mornings just like the German club if they need gas money to get to their next game.
  8. This appears to apply more to community colleges, so I have no basis for an opinion on remediation.  However, I am highly skeptical that students who need remediation will be well served by computer modules instead of contact with live human instructors.  (That’s just my guess!)

I’d like to add a #9 of my own here:  Government reinvestment in higher education.  We used to understand that this was a matter of national security as well as of national pride.  No one has ever pointed convincingly to any disadvantages of having a better-educated citizenry or workforce.  How about let’s make a collective commitment for state and federal education funding at responsible and appropriate levels given the excellent work that universities do and given how much individual states and the federal government lean on these engines of innovation and job creation?

Why wasn’t that idea number f^(king one?  (And where are the nutritious recipes?)  Do any of you have direct experience of knowledge of any attempts at implementing these ideas?  Inquiring minds want to know!

0 thoughts on “Fix higher ed in eight easy steps! (Free nutritious recipes included.)

  1. “Admin Patriarch,” I mean “Dean Dad,” is link baiting. I’ve already informed him of what I think of him in the comments above, and I have no intention of responding or getting into a blogwar. He’s dead to me, and as I suggested above, it’s a little strange that he apparently continues to read my blog and link to me, trying to draw me out.

    This is an open blog–all are free to read and say whatever they want about what they find here. But I’m not inclined to get into it with a person who’s demonstrated such clear bad faith.


  2. Gee, that’s funny–he’s still on Tenured Radical’s “always informed by” list. Guess not everybody feels the same way you do!


  3. Dean Dad is an interesting character. My theory is that his failure to secure a tenured position for himself at a university where he could pursue research to at least some extent has embittered him towards tenure, research universities, and anything else that reminds him of what he is missing out on.


  4. I agree that there are things colleges and universities could be doing better. No person or institution is perfect. But if colleges and unis are doing such a terrible job, why is the US the number one destination for people from every part of the world who want to further their educations? And, in spite of the hard economic times, it seems that the number of foreign students isn’t shrinking anywhere in US higher education.

    Not all of those students–or foreign faculty members, for that matter–are coming from China or India or the Caribbean. Some are even coming from the wealthier and more technologically advanced countries. Why? As a French biologist who trained at Jussieu and the Pasteur Institute told me, there are research and teaching opportunities here that don’t exist even in European countries or Japan.

    Any system that can attract talent in that way has something going for it. And that ability may be a good starting point for any changes that are worth making.


  5. bookbabe: excellent point. U.S. Higher Ed is hardly struggling to fill seats and faculty positions. Just today, I heard that my uni has had 8,000 applicants for first-year slots and that apps are up 16%.

    I guess that’s because all of those students and their families see higher ed as a huge waste of time and money?


  6. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Assessment and Higher Ed « Reassigned Time 2.0

  7. Pingback: Meaningful assessment & avoiding black holes | A Weird Fish

  8. Pingback: Community College Spotlight | Public won’t buy ‘trust us, we’re experts’

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