College Costs Aren’t the Main Problem

February 25, 2011

That’s the title of a post today by David Leonhardt on the New York Times’s Economix blog.  He’s been blogging on the subject of college costs for the past week, and today he adds his own thoughts.

You should read the piece, but just to whet your appetite, here are the headers:

The ranks of top colleges have been suspiciously stable over time.

No one knows how much students actually learn at different colleges.

The cost of college isn’t nearly as high as is often suggested.

New technologies and new kinds of colleges offer some hope for change.

Over on his blog at the Washington Post, Ezra Klein adds a few thoughts under the heading “Where’s the competition in higher education?” — these comments aimed particularly at the first of Leonhardt’s points.  He also focuses a bit on Leonhardt’s second point, about how we really don’t know much about how much students are learning (and I’ll add, especially at the most prestigious institutions).

He concludes “In general, I think the bigger problem here is the one Leonhardt points out later in his post: We have very little reliable data measuring how good a job colleges are doing educating their students, and so it’s very hard to say what, exactly, we should be worrying about, or trying to fix. Maybe the top 50 universities are doing a great job, and the problem is in the lower tiers, which is where most of the students are, anyway.”

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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