Fixing Higher Education (6), (7) and (8)

February 24, 2011

Three more contributions have been posted in Daniel deVise’s series on “Fixing Higher Education” on his College Inc. blog.

(6) is a contribution from Burck Smith, the Founder of StraighterLine, “a company that sells online general education for $99 a month.”  To fix higher education, he urges that we should do what the lobbyists for for-profit higher education have been urging the Congress to do.  Pretty predictable, pretty self-serving, but I’ll give him the benefit of any doubt that he really believes these steps will make higher education better.

(7) is a contribution from Trinity Washington University’s Patricia McGuire.  She’s a straight shooter; what she writes here is meaty, thoughtful, and not especially self-serving.  She urges (a) improving accountability for real learning outcomes, (b) controlling price and cost, and (c) restoring higher education’s role/reputation for real innovation.

I especially like what she has to say about the first of these topics.  She sounds (and adds to) notes sounded on this topic by several of the other contributions to this series.  The bravest part is her urging that we make accreditation reports public.  “Most of the data and information that the public should know about institutional quality, challenges, successes and problems are in the accreditation reports. Currently, it’s up to the institution to promulgate a report publicly. Some institutions are shy about this because they want to mute the bad news and only portray themselves in the best light.” I’ve urged this for some years, but the pushback from college and university presidents is pretty severe.

(8) is a guest post from Karen Lawrence at Sarah Lawrence College.  She argues that “student engagement” is the key.  On the one hand I agree that this phrase captures much of what we know really makes a difference in student learning.  But on the other, more focus on what a great place Sarah Lawrence is than on the general question of how to improve higher education.

So far in this series, I’d especially urge readers to pay attention to Sandy Baum and to Patricia McGuire, and I hope you’ll also read my contribution.

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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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