Phi Beta Cons

College Accountability

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.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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