Phi Beta Cons

We Have Flawed Higher Ed Data — Reason for Worry?

Ben Miller, a senior analyst at the New America Foundation, writes about The College Graduation Rate Flaw That No One’s Talking About. The flaw is that it is hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons of graduation or “attainment” rates across institutions. This is exactly the sort of problem that central planning types fret about. Without good data, how can they run things the best way? Instead of worrying about imperfect higher education data, I suggest that we just stop collecting it.

Terribly heretical idea, what! But people also thought it heretical when Hong Kong’s financial secretary, the estimable Sir John Cowperthwaite, not just suggested stopping the collection of economic data, but actually did so. His reason was that statistics were invariably used by meddlesome politicians to interfere with the economy, so it would be better not to have any for them to use. Exactly the same applies to higher ed data. They encourage politicians and policy wonks to devise ways of “improving” outcomes, such as rewarding schools with “good” graduation rates and punishing those with “bad” rates. Instead of deepening the government’s already extensive and harmful interference with higher education, we should go back toward laissez-faire. If students were spending their own money on education, they would care about their own stats and the rest of us could think about other things.

For readers who are not familiar with Sir John Cowperthwaite, I recommend this tribute to him by Cato Institute’s Marian Tupy.

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

Most Popular

PC Culture

‘White Women’ Becomes a Disparaging Term

Using “white men” as a putdown is no longer extreme enough for the Left. Now it is moving on to doing the same for “white women.” How rapidly this transpired. It was less than two years ago that the approximately 98.7 percent of white women working in media who were openly rooting for Hillary Clinton ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Beatification of Beto

The media’s treatment of Texas Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke wasn’t the most egregiously unfair coverage of the past year -- that would be the treatment of Brett Kavanaugh -- but it ranks among 2018’s most annoying. The endless glowing profiles of O’Rourke in every publication from Vanity Fair to ... Read More

The Odds Are Slim to Nunes

When the history of the 2018 midterms is written, there will be a chapter on missed opportunities for Democrats. Some may wonder if they should have spent so much money supporting Beto O’Rourke in Texas, or whether Heidi Heitkamp was doomed from the start in North Dakota. One painful question for progressives ... Read More