Phi Beta Cons

One Step to Sanity

Victor Brown, a former business executive and college professor, has been using his business and academic experience to craft feasible policies on higher education. He considers higher education a catastrophe (actually, he calls the situation “nuts”) because of ever-higher tuition, the failure of many students to graduate, and the disappointment of employers at the quality of graduates they receive.

One approach is to bring community college and local businesses closer together. Victor writes in a recent SeeThruEdu piece:

We need to be granular, and think locally, county by county. Such a new partnership would take a hard look at the jobs in each specific geographic area — the numbers and types, the degree of training and education necessary, and then combine forces between the lead employers and the local community college to deliver one unified education and training curriculum that focuses on that majority of students who will not be going on for higher degrees.

Funny, but that’s what many people think is happening now at community colleges. But maybe it isn’t.

A few years ago, I talked to a businessman who had been a trustee of a North Carolina community college. He had become frustrated because the college and industry weren’t working together; the college’s equipment and courses and goals were out of date and not suited to the local businesses. Yet the concept of “apprenticeships” by community college students scared business executives because it reminded them of unionization.

Community colleges are government entities and probably not all that efficient. While they have the benefit of decentralized control, they don’t have clear incentives and, in many cases, relatively little monitoring. What they need is entrepreneurs to make sure that what Victor proposes is actually being carried out.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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