Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Reading The Race Card



I read 30 years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education that in 90% of PhD programs in US universities, there were no black candidates. I was reminded of this statistic listening to a report on National Public Radio in mid-July, concerning the decision by Washington & Lee University to remove Confederate battle flags from the school’s chapel.

What caught my attention was the following statement by W&L president Ken Ruscio: “Total American minority population is, on the undergraduate side, about a little over 11 percent. The total American minority on the law side is 16.6 percent. Within that group, African American students are, on the undergraduate side, a little under 3 percent, and at law, about 8 percent.”

After grappling with Ruscio’s syntax, the net-net appears to be that three percent of undergraduates and eight percent of law students are black. Thus, despite the usual minority outreach efforts, the number actually enrolled as undergraduates and law students is quite low compared to the percentage of blacks in Virginia (and nationally).

This sounds odd in the context that affirmative action to alter the public school system to raise black performance  has been in place over 40 years, including  forced busing, less challenging curriculum, counseling and tutoring Yet black percentages in higher education have hardly budged.

There is an apparently unbridgeable gap between black and white learning achievement in early education that carries the argument to a place few want to venture. But at the college and post-graduate level, the statistical reality needs to be confronted.

The problem may not be due to racism or black failure but to the shrill demands of white liberals and black activists: The reality is there just aren’t enough blacks to fill the spaces in higher education they demand. The same is true for society where the paucity of black professionals is blamed on racism by whites.  

Recognition of this reality would relieve tension in race relations and stop the endless cycle of black leaders falsely accusing  white society for  failing to end racism and discrimination -  to them the reason for low performance compared to whites and Asians.

The statistics say otherwise. Actually, praise is due to white society for its historically unprecedented willingness to change society as recompense for past discrimination. Yet, white liberals and black activists have created an industry of laying the problems of black achievement  at the altar of institutional racism. This “white guilt” argument is tiresome and damaging. Wrong-footed efforts to solve a faux problem is creating a permanent mediocrity in higher education and society.

Examples  of the decline of academic standards to pay extortion to minorities for their failure has become systemic in colleges and universities. Recent events at the University of Wisconsin (discussed here) epitomize the irreversible implementation of the  race-based annihilation of academic standards.

But if  you look at the numbers instead of listening to the propaganda, the black community would not be suffering from lowering self-esteem and blameless whites should be released from accusations of racism and the drive to alter standards downward. Both black and white citizens have been hoodwinked by activists who are never satisfied with realistic progress, only theoretical utopian outcomes beyond human accomplishment.

This seemingly never-ending impasse occupies a large amount of civic attention. The Obama administration is dedicated to combating racism, and the mainstream media  report on racism as arguably the most important issue on the domestic political agenda. The truth is that racism is not the underlying problem dividing America. It’s the fanciful goals dreamed up by the white Left that blacks cannot attain in numbers to suit them.

Here’s why. If we round off the total population of the U.S. at 300 million, and accept that ten percent of the total achieve advanced degrees, that adds up to 30 million. The black population of the country is 11.6 percent. Round that figure to 10 percent and you are left with 30 million total blacks. Take 10 percent of that number–as  we did with the total population that received advanced degrees–and you come up with 3 million. It becomes obvious that the problem of too few blacks in the top professions is not caused by racism but by statistical reality.

Taking into account that 1.6 million blacks are enrolled or have achieved advanced degrees, then black success in higher education is worth celebrating. Yet the race war that should not be continues to divide the nation.

Let Student Loans be Discharged in Bankruptcy?


There is a good case to be made for it. Ike Brannon of the George W. Bush Institute (he’s no left-winger) argues in favor in this Weekly Standard article.

But it isn’t just a boo-hoo, let’s help suffering kids piece. Brannon would change the law so that if a student declares bankruptcy to escape from his loans, the school or schools that “educated” him would have to take over the payments. That would radically change the incentives, both of colleges and students. Colleges would have to contemplate the risk of admitting disengaged, ill-prepared students. They’d also have a strong incentive to raise academic standards so that students couldn’t just coast through. Students would have an incentive to show that they are serious about education and would benefit from college.

Any politicians with the guts to propose this?


The Unstoppable Mania


These two propositions seem to be true: There is never enough diversity to suit the diversity advocates and college administrators almost never deny those advocates their wishes. It’s as if colleges were under a spell cast by the diversophiles (to use Peter Wood’s term) — “Diversity is your top priority…. you will never say ‘no.’”

Today’s Pope Center Clarion Call by University of Wisconsin economics professor W. Lee Hansen certainly supports those propositions. He writes about UW’s “Inclusive Excellence” plan, which sailed through the faculty senate without any criticism and commits the university to a host of things that supposedly enhance “equity.” High-demand majors, for example, are expected to work for “representational equity” and professors are to assign grades with that same “equity” in mind.

Will these moves do anything to improve education — that is, to help individual students advance to their fullest? Hansen thinks not. The fixation on groups will do nothing for any student, no matter what group he or she is thought to represent. On the contrary, “inclusive excellence” means diverting attention away from educational excellence.

A Defeat for Fisher


The big news today is that the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District decided against Abigail Fisher in her lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin. A three-judge panel in a split decision said that the University of Texas had met the test of “strict scrutiny” in using race in admissions.

But only two judges made that decision, and Fisher intends to appeal. So do we have a Jarndyce v. Jarndyce (the fictional Charles Dickens case that went on for generations)? Or is affirmative action acceptable again–forever? Phi Beta Cons has some of the best experts on this and I look forward to their analysis.

Campus Rape Hysteria, cont’d


Over on The Corner, Heather Mac Donald discusses the latest critique of how schools handle rape accusations; this example comes from the New York Times’ dissection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ response to claims of sexual assault. It is, she says, another example of  “industrial-strength feminist victimology, denying the possibility of females exercising personal responsibility when it comes to deliberate binge drinking and hooking-up.” I could not agree more.


Specializing in Unemployment


The global economy may be on the way to recovery, but for many graduating students job market woes are still an obstacle. With new data showing the classes of 2009 and 2010 doing worse than the class of 2008, some might wonder if it will ever get better. Students are trying everything to gain an advantage and, for some, that means turning to esoteric and niche fields where they won’t be vying for positions with quite as many peers. But is this a sensible strategy?

Well, they won’t have to look far for such programs. From “Adventure Education” to a dual major in “EcoGastronomy”—yes it’s a program for environmentally-friendly eating—the list of highly-specific university programs has been growing in recent years. And while these disciplines may sound innovative and exciting, the reality checks that ivory tower over-specialization bump into may tell the story better.

For every student who pursues this sort of highly-specialized degree, a dozen more are taking classes from these trendy disciplines, often as part of their “general education” requirements.

One telling example is a freshmen seminar at Appalachian State University called “What if Harry Potter is Real?” Rather than giving incoming students a survey of important world historical events, the class gets caught up in the weeds of post-modern musings and ‘what-ifs.’ By focusing on “issues of race, class, gender, time, place,” the class manages to be attractive to both professors who specialize in historical critique and fun-seeking students without a teaching one bit of actual history.

Students at top universities are in trouble too. MIT students can explore a slice of history in a course on American professional wrestling. More like a sliver. By offering classes centered on fun but not-so-foundational topics, institutions like these encourage their students to ignore the big picture. They create a tendency toward hyper-specialization that sticks with students when they move on. 

Part of the problem is that some of those who achieve super-specialized degrees go on to become the professors who teach these classes. Specialization has picked up considerably as academics strive to differentiate themselves, carving out tiny spaces of expertise in an effort to make themselves irreplaceable. But while all these new offerings sometimes help professors achieve their ends, they’re wreaking havoc on the actual education of students.

All those niche professors are not only encouraging students to follow them down the rabbit hole, they’re now failing to provide the general education that transforms students, regardless of their major, into graduates prepared for an ever-changing job market and civic-minded citizens capable of critical thought and effective communication.

Overly-specific education is also directly detrimental to students’ future job prospects. Today’s economy increasingly favors the intellectually agile, and students without a broad educational background are losing out. A degree in information technology (IT) may have seemed like a job guarantee to the students who flooded that field in the 1990s. Then, the tech bubble burst, the economy shifted, and those who had no other skills found themselves unemployed. Job market shifts have always been a reality, but churn in the labor market has picked up, making the drive towards specialization more dangerous. In fact, students now in school can’t expect to hold the same job throughout their career and are likely to have multiple careers throughout their lives. Without a return to the basics students will graduate into a world that wants them to be everything and find that they can be nothing.

Talk about Violence


So now we have a summit on sexual assault at Dartmouth—one of a series of protests, congressional hearings, “Dear Colleague” letters, and massive regulations designed to help vulnerable women cope with the “toxic” sexual environment on today’s campus. 

Undoubtedly, each year some women are cruelly raped on campus and face a bureaucratic or even hostile response from university officials. But they are few in number. It is widely agreed that most rape is “date” or “acquaintance” rape and usually involves a lot of heavy drinking on the woman’s part as well as the man’s. Yet women as victims have become a cause-célèbre.

Forgive me if I think that this is another sign of “it’s all about us.”

Fifty years ago this summer it wasn’t all about us. Hundreds of college students, most of them from the North, went to Mississippi as part of an effort to force segregationists to allow blacks to vote. The Freedom Summer students came mostly from affluent or middle-class families and were there as “bait.” Civil rights leaders had become frustrated at being unable to stanch the violence against blacks in Mississippi. As Politico writer Josh Zeitz points out, they reasoned that the presence of, and violence against, white middle-class college students would attract the kind of attention that local black residents would not.

Whether one approves of that strategy or not (I did, and I was one of the students), it worked—with results even more vicious than the leaders expected. Some of the students had not even arrived in the state when three young men were murdered (two white men from the North, one black man from Mississippi). The leadership had probably expected beatings, not lynchings.

The young men’s murders did shock the country, brought the FBI into the state, awakened the Democratic Party, and ultimately led the Mississippi summer to become a civil rights milestone.  

Now, that was violence.

What We’re Up Against


The establishment speaketh. The establishment could have written its latest essay in its sleep.

Appearing last week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Hunter R. Rawlings III, former president of the University of Iowa and Cornell, uses the usual buzz words about what reformers want college to be:  …”factory model”  … “professionals as piece workers” … “everything that can be counted is counted, and everything that cannot be counted doesn’t count” … “utilitarianism” …  “does not concern itself with quality”… “the goal is knowledge, not profit…”

Awhile back I criticized the august Dr. Rawlings when, in a speech at Princeton, he attacked state legislatures for being the biggest (not the only, but the biggest) problem in higher education. Why he brought that up at Princeton, I’m not sure.

Now he’s after the university business model, with Exhibit A being the efforts by Governor Rick Perry and his associates to push out William Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin. Exhibit B is the aborted ouster of Virginia Sullivan as president of the University of Virginia.

Rawlings says other all-too-familiar words as well:

Transparency and accountability are laudable goals and sound good as populist slogans, but, to be applied effectively to universities, they need academic substance and depth. We are all concerned about the cost of college. But we cannot separate cost from value. Cheap does not mean good; it just means cheap.

He then goes on to say, “The real question is, What is the value of one’s education?”

But he never answers the question or says how he would go about finding it out.

After all, transparency and accountability are just “populist slogans.”

Digital Reading: A “Threat” to Learning?


In an interesting opinion piece published today on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron argues that rapid transition to e-reading (with Kindle or iPad devices) has “complicated” professors’ attempts to engage students and “threatens” those students’ ability to learn the humanities. Baron says that a close and thoughtful reading of classical literature requires a hard copy: 

Readings in the humanities tend to be lengthy, intellectually weighty, or both. The challenge of digital reading for the humanities is that screens – particularly those on devices with Internet connections – undermine our encounters with meaty texts. These devices weren’t designed for focused concentration, reading slowly, pausing to argue virtually with the author, or rereading. Rather, they are information and communication machines, best used for searching and skimming – not scrutinizing. 

For literature lovers, the attraction to physical books is probably a universal one. The act of holding a book in our hands and immersing ourselves in a text can be a sublime and even cathartic experience. For others, the joy comes from showing off a book collection at a house party. But the technological advances in digital readers make Baron’s argument - that digital reading isn’t designed for “reading slowly” and “pausing to argue virtually with the author” - seem ill-conceived. For example, I read one of the biggest economics treatises ever written, Human Action by Ludwig von Mises, on my Kindle Fire. I’ve read dozens of other dense works of fiction and non-fiction on it, too. I can highlight entire passages, add my own notes, look up esoteric words in a digital dictionary, and Google a citation that piques my interest with the tap of my finger and within a matter of seconds. 

Baron’s main contention is that e-readers are not compatible with “intellectually weighty” or “meaty” texts and that they create too many distractions. But even if we assume that is true, it has nothing to do with the real problem plaguing humanities courses, which Baron mentions early in her piece: students are no longer required to read as much and they get away with consuming short works and abbreviated passages. This problem – the lowering of standards and expectations - has nothing to do with the rise of digital reading.

E-reading, as it has developed in recent years, has made it much easier for a reader to engage with and access literature (’s “one click” purchasing technology and book recommendations are remarkable!). If professors find that some students are seeking shortcuts and not taking course syllabi seriously, that’s an entirely separate dilemma that should not lead to knee-jerk reactions or reflect negatively on the medium through which course material is being (or not being) absorbed. 

Texas: Déjà Vu All Over Again


A guest reflection from Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus and university professor at the George Washington University (his most recent book, Presidencies Derailed [Johns Hopkins University Press], seeks to extract wisdom from the experiences of university presidents whose contracts have ended unhappily):

It has been said that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.  That is surely true at the University of Texas where the chancellor of the university, Francisco Cigarroa, recently attempted to dismiss the president, William Powers. Watching the events transpire, one could not help but recall the 1970 excitement in Austin when Frank Erwin, the then chairman of the board at UT decided after conflicts with the dean of arts and sciences, John Silber, to as he put it “make Silber famous” by dismissing him.

Erwin, a historic ally of Governor John Connally, and Silber a robust Texas liberal crossed swords over the chairman’s desire to divide the college of arts and sciences into two schools, one in the sciences and the other in the social sciences and the humanities. It was generally believed that Erwin’s intention was to reduce Dean Silber’s powers by bifurcating his empire. Silber argued for the intellectual necessity of a united arts and sciences. Ultimately Erwin prevailed.  Silber departed for Massachusetts where he became president of Boston University and politically wiser for his experiences in the West administered with a strong hand. He served for almost four decades in one capacity or another, bringing what had been a mid-level largely commuter institution to the threshold of membership in the American Association of Universities (AAU) arguably one of higher education’s most elite organizations whose membership is limited to 64 research campuses.

From 1970-1977 I worked for John Silber at BU in several capacities, the last being vice president, before departing for Connecticut where I was named president of the University of Hartford.  On my last day at BU, President Silber showed up in my office around 5:00 PM with two glasses, a plastic bucket of ice, and an unopened bottle of very fine scotch.  We sat there together drinking for a couple of hours as he shared with me the wisdom of his career.  The most significant point was that the first thing to do as a president is to figure out who does the hiring and who does the firing.  It is the only way to stay ahead of your critics, he said, and then he recalled his experiences with Erwin.  Silber said, “When Frank Erwin decided to fire me, hundreds of faculty and well over 1000 students petitioned for my retention.  Frank Erwin with only one vote prevailed.  I always took that lesson very much to heart.”

Contemporary events in Austin and not too distant events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where president Theresa Sullivan managed to thwart efforts by a cabal of board members at the University of Virginia to dismiss her makes me wonder if today Silber might have prevailed in his disputation.  The voice of students and faculty and other stakeholders may be more persuasive than it was back in the day.


Ripple Effects


The Koch brothers’ gift of $25 million to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for scholarships has had some ripple effects. As the Huffington Post reports, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the country’s biggest unions, has withdrawn its scholarship funding. The union’s donation had been on the order of $50,000 to $60,000 a year plus contributions by local union affiliates.

It appears that Michael Lomax’s crime (Lomax is president of the UNCF) was not so much accepting the gift but actually speaking before the “summit” that the Koch brothers hold annually to bring sympathetic donors, grant recipients, and grant seekers together. And even worse was the fact that Charles Murray (coauthor of The Bell Curve, but the author of many other books as well) spoke at the meeting, too. The taint was overwhelming. “Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF’s organizational support of the Koch brothers’ ideological program.”

A rather strong inference to draw from a single appearance that was probably designed to raise money from other donors as well.

Begging, Excuse-mongering, and Entitlement: How Students React to Low Grades


University of Maryland math professor Ronald Lipsman has written a revealing essay on the reactions he often receives from students when they get the low grades they have earned. Even in a math course, they’re apt to whine, make excuses, and claim that they deserve a better grade simply because they supposedly tried hard. Lipsman observes that this kind of behavior would have been unthinkable back in the 1960s, but now that the entitlement mentality has spread so widely, it’s common for students to try these gambits when they have done poorly in a course.


Group Learning: Good Pedagogical Method or a Waste of Time?


In today’s Pope Center piece, Professor Bruce Gans argues that when college professors (especially in the humanities) decide to break the class into small groups and have them work on something collaboratively, they’re almost always wasting time. Students usually learn little and the lazier ones take advantage of the more diligent ones. Sadly, even in college it is now widely assumed that group work is wonderful and should be encouraged.

Professor Gans’ piece dovetails with Troy Camplin’s recent one, in which he noted how useless it is for composition students to critique each others’ writing. Profs should teach and grade, not sit around while the blind lead the blind.

NCAA President Faces Tough Questions at Senate Hearing


On Wednesday, a hearing before the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation got a little heated when senators took the time to grill NCAA President Mark Emmert about why his organization has been so slow to address the many issues, from sexual assault to exploitation of athletes, that have plagued college sports.

At one point, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) remarked that if the “real rule makers” of the NCAA were university presidents, he wanted to haul them into the chamber for a hearing.

Of course, as ACTA pointed out during the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the problem with college sports is precisely that presidents have too much power. We say as much in our latest blog post:

The NCAA may theoretically be in the business of regulating college sports, but, in reality, it is controlled by college presidents whose unchecked ambition often leads to poor governance and serious corruption. That is why active and engaged trustees are so important. They must provide a vital check on administrative authority and exercise real oversight.

Read the full piece here.

What Should We Do about Law Schools?


The bloom is way off the law school rose. Interest in obtaining a JD is down as more and more young people learn that the field is awash in would-be attorneys and that the credential costs far too much if you just want something that “opens doors.” The time seems ripe for serious changes in legal education and that is the topic of my Pope Center Clarion Call today.

I spar with one professor who believes that law schools need to change so they can become more “inclusive.” The change that we really need is to liberate legal education from the self-interested clutches of the American Bar Association, which for nearly a century has insisted on a model that raises costs and inhibits the market’s discovery process.

Southern Part of Hell


The once vaunted academic reputation of UNC- Chapel Hill lies in shreds on the field of play. The NCAA is re-opening a probe into shenanigans involving money sport athletes (basketball and football);  a special investigator — with U.S. Justice Department experience – is finishing up a probe instigated by the UNC system’s Board of Governors into phantom classes attended by athletes; and most recently, an academic tutor for scholarship athletes is suing the school for defamation after UNC officials attacked her in public for research she unearthed indicating 60 percent of money ball recruits were reading on an 8th grade level. Now a former star basketball player has agreed with Willingham.

Thinking back, I know when the problems arose regarding athletics wagging the academic tail at UNC. I sat beside Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford during a luncheon at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC in 1990, the day of the announcement Florida State University was joining the conference in 1991. Little did I know I was a witness to history to come when I asked  Swofford  why a conference composed of top-level institutions of higher learning was accepting a former all-female teacher’s college with scant scholastic prestige. The answer? Georgia Tech had informed the conference it was pulling out to join the Southeast Conference unless the ACC landed a Florida TV market school.

Excuse me for being naive, but weren’t we proud of the ACC’s elite status? After all, member schools had denied entry to Joe Namath and Pete Maravich, now considered legends in football and basketball. Both were recruited but denied a scholarship due to the now quaint-sounding restrictions adhered to by all ACC schools until the 1980s and early 1990s:  Athletic scholarships could  be granted only to athletes who made an 800 on the SAT and possessed a 1.6 Projected Grade Point Average based on high school transcripts. This requirement resulted in 50+point losses to Notre Dame and Oklahoma in football, but ACC teams could walk off the gridiron with satisfaction that they played for a school that protected its academic prestige.  Today, Swofford is ACC commissioner and the league a money machine with little regard for academic standards.

UNC, once thought the paragon of ACC athletic purity and prestige, is up to its waist in the sewerage of scandal directly related to the abandonment of recruiting standards for signing  big money athletes in basketball and football. Yet the myth, called the Carolina Way,  continued until just recently – that UNC (and the ACC) was above the tawdry athletic antics of an Auburn, or a Miami. Until 2010, when Chancellor Holden Thorp received a call from the NCAA  informing him the college sports regulatory body had evidence UNC athletes had received improper benefits from “runners” working for sports agents recruiting Tar Heel football players for the NFL and pro leagues abroad.

Thorp was the personification of the Carolina Way, a true-blue Tar Heel who was deluded by the myths  aura of the school’s past. He was bred believing scholastics and honor prevailed in university athletics. Thorp was the Everyman for most Carolina alumni, who saw themselves as above the fray of coarse behavior regarding recruitment and retention of big money jocks. Not so elite as the Ivies perhaps, where academic scholarships are bestowed on athletes, but clean and good compared to the rest.

Since the call, UNC has wallowed in hypocrisy and obtuse public communications. The public relations firm  the school hired has mirrored the incompetency perceived by the public. Although the Board of Trustees, in conjunction with the UNC system Board of Governors, has hired a G-Man, all else has failed to improve the sudden fallen image of the school.

Chancellor Thorp has gone, replaced by Carol Folt,  a female from Dartmouth where girls field hockey and badminton represent the sports tradition. Folt was the choice of the faculty, another example of wardens capitulating to the inmates. (As an aside, Bill Roper, respected dean of School of Medicine at UNC, offered his services to replace Thorp. He was willing to absorb a huge pay cut to save the university. He was rebuffed so a female token could take the helm, whether qualified or not).

No matter, there is no hope UNC will ever recover anyway. Its insides are corroded with destructive radical scholars running the academic side, money-focused cowboys directing the athletic program and third-rate political appointees making administrative decisions on the Board of Trustee level and system-wide Board of Governors.  

The Carolina Way is a sad joke. And the Carolina Blue sky cloudy and overcast.

How One Faculty Union Spends its Dues Money


In the recent Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn (which I wrote about here) the issue was compulsory unionism. Home health care providers, almost always family members, had been declared to be public employees by Governor Blagojevich simply because that allowed the Service Employees International Union to siphon off some of their money. Unionistas raised the usual argument that these people would be “free riders” on the union’s wonderful efforts on their behalf if they were not required to pay. The plaintiffs in Harris did not want to fork over any of their funds and one reason was that the SEIU supports a host of political causes they don’t agree with.

Pertinent to all that is Professor Mitchell Langbert’s recent post about his own faculty union at Brooklyn College. Evidently, it devotes most of its dues money to politics, such as supporting Working Families Party. If he could refuse to pay the dues, would that make him a “free rider” — or is it not the truth that by taking his money by force and using it in ways he disapproves of, the union is legally plundering him?

In arguing against government supported religion, Thomas Jefferson offered the opinion that it is “sinful and tyrannical” to compel someone to pay money in support of ideas he does not believe. That applies with equal force to compulsory union dues.

Student Debt Crisis: Yes or No?


“Student debt crisis” has become one of the most often heard phrases in America, but is there really a crisis? In this Pope Center piece, Jane Shaw examines a recent Brookings study in which the authors conclude that there is no crisis and some of the commentary by those who think (or at least want others to think) that we really do have a crisis.

I do not think we have a student debt crisis. We most assuredly do, however, have a serious resource misallocation problem which evidences itself in the fact that a very larger number of college grads (and dropouts) have borrowed a lot of money to little or no purpose. Just as the “crisis” in home foreclosures several years ago was just the manifestation of policies that had created an unsustainable bubble in housing and thereby misallocating lots of land, labor, and capital, so too with college. To focus on the debt problems that many face is to miss the underlying trouble: college costs too much, educates too little, and many young people enroll just because they want a piece of paper.

Reading the Tea Leaves


For those of us who try to forecast where higher education is going, we can glean a little from the Chronicle of Higher Education. It recently surveyed 350 presidents of four-year colleges and universities, public and private, on their views of innovation. Among the findings:

1) How much change American higher education needs to undergo in the next 10 years

  • Massive disruption: 12 percent
  • A moderate amount of disruption: 55 percent
  • Evolutionary or small changes: 33 percent

2) On the current pace of change in American higher education:

  • Too fast: 10 percent
  • Just about right: 27 percent
  • Too slow: 63 percent

3) Changes that should be given emphasis:

  • Cutting cost: 23 percent
  • Changes to the model of teaching and learning: 46 percent
  • Technology and online tools: 31 percent

4) Changes that are being emphasized:

  • Cutting cost: 38 percent
  • Changes to the model of teaching and learning: 23 percent
  • Technology and online tools: 39 percent

(That is, there is too much emphasis on cost control, not enough on changing the teaching model.)

And how is change going to come about? The presidents say presidents and faculty should lead the change, but that’s not happening. The authors summarize:

As presidents view the matter, politicians are driving change, but should in fact have little say, if any. They also maintain that business people have too much influence. Faculty, on the other hand, are failing to step up to the plate, according to the presidents….

More Law School Downsizing


As we read in this piece, the Thomas Cooley Law School, the country’s largest independent law school, has had to cancel its entire incoming class for this year at one of its five campuses — Ann Arbor.

Law school costs too much, takes too long, and the degree opens few doors. As the article suggests, more downsizing is likely. I suspect that the job prospects for unemployed law professors won’t be very good, especially for those who taught the kind of courses that Professor Charles Rounds called “bad sociology, not law.”


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