More Degrees! Less Cost!!

April 11, 2011

Like a Lite Beer commercial: remember them (“more taste! less filling!”)?

This morning’s Inside Higher Education has a nice piece by Garrison Walters, Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, entitled “More Degrees/Dollar — Damn the Quality.”

He leads by quoting Deputy Secretary Tony Miller of the U.S. Department of Education saying “that the 2020 goal [of increasing college attainment rates by 50 percent over the coming decade] can be achieved without increased public funding…”  And then comments on the McKinsey and Co. study (“Winning By Degrees“) that asserts “our research shows that it is feasible by boosting graduation rates and improving cost efficiency, as has been demonstrated by top quartile U.S. institutions that are already 17 to 38 percent more productive than their peer group average.”

Walters in skeptical of the McKinsey study’s findings, for reasons I find persuasive.  Worth reading: both the McKinsey study and the Walters critique — you be the judge.  Walters concludes:

Few people in academe are paying attention, but the “more degrees/dollar and damn the quality” school is fast gaining credence in statehouses across the country. The thinking goes like this: 1) Higher education is getting more expensive; 2) Higher education is more necessary than ever; so 3) we should be able to get our colleges and universities to produce the same product at half the cost.


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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