The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 18th, 2015
It has always been taken as self-evident
that higher education is good for students and society at large, and
that American colleges and universities are doing an excellent job of
providing it. No more. Commentators, politicians, and parents are
expressing serious doubts, about whether colleges are teaching what they
should be teaching and about whether they are teaching it well. Demands
for accountability are everywhere, spurred in part by the absurdly high
cost of a college education and the trillion dollars in student debt.
What are students getting for all that money? What should they be getting?
Two years ago, the Obama White House launched an admirable initiative
to make college more affordable and accessible. A part of that
initiative was an insistence that colleges be held accountable — that
federal aid be tied to measures of performance. This accounting was to
be done of both graduation rates and the earnings profiles of graduates,
an attempt to measure educational value literally, by asking if the
cost of a college education pays for itself. Recently the Brookings
Institution moved us a further step in that direction when it introduced
a rating system that ranks colleges by the midcareer earnings of their
graduates, student-loan repayment, and the projected earning power of
the occupations that graduates pursue.