A story on Inside Higher Ed today discusses the work the National Association of State
Universities and Land Grant Colleges has been doing on a system to measure
and publicize how well schools educate their undergraduates.
I’m skeptical that an accountability system that really allows students,
parents, and other interested parties to separate the wheat from the large
volume of chaff will emerge from any organization inside the higher-
education community, but this is an important objective. With the very high
costs of college, it’s crucial that students and parents be able to identify
institutions that actually add educational value, rather than merely certify
the passage of courses. For starters, it would be good to know if a school
enhances a student’s literacy. We know from last year’s National Assessment
of Adult Literacy that many college students graduate with pathetic literacy
skills (I wrote about that here) and many kids who coast through college
taking easy, stress-free courses will wind up in easy, low-pay jobs.
We have a vast higher-ed establishment that depends on people not making
informed decisions about the relationship between costs and benefits in
college. The door stands wide open for someone to step forward with a
reliable measuring rod for institutional effectiveness.