Fixing Higher Education (3), (4) and (5)

February 21, 2011

Frankly I’m disappointed with installments (3), (4) and (5) of Daniel deVise’s posts about fixing higher education:  not his Washington Post article, which has points I like and points I don’t, but with the third, fourth and fifth submissions from experts he’s posted.

(3) is from Steven Knapp, President of George Washington University.  He addresses “global competitiveness,” “affordability,” and “diversity and inclusiveness.”  These are all lofty goals for any college or university to make it better, but he addresses these topics at a level of generality and blandness so thoroughgoing that it’s a little like reading generic Cliff notes for any college president to speak from.  And he proposes no honest “fixes.”

(4) is from Andrew Gillen and Richard Vetter of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.  They address “incentives, information and innovation” as “keys to transform higher education.” The best of their post comes under information: “In order to increase productivity and lower costs, we need to know more about collegiate outcomes as well as the costs used to acquire them. We cannot evaluate the appropriateness of an educational improvement strategy if we do not measure the outcomes and the costs of inputs.”  But they have nothing to say about how we might know about whether students are learning.  They are certain we could do learning more efficiently (at lower cost) but they offer not a word about what gives them confidence that quality learning can be accomplished at a lower price.

(5) comes from Freeman Hrabowski of the the University of Maryland Baltimore County.  He offers some very good ideas about improving STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning, especially among the minorities.  An important topic, but relatively narrow, and he uses his post mostly to laud what UMBC has accomplished.

I liked best the post (2) from Sandy Baum of the College Board: real substance, real fixes.


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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