Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Sobering Look at the Present and Future States of American Colleges with the Leader of Purdue University

Mitch Daniels, after a successful career in politics, is the leader of Purdue University and an outspoken critic of the status quo.

His views are very much on point and relevant to our system of higher education in America today ---and tomorrow as well.

How to Save American Colleges is subtitled 'The Purdue president on freezing tuition, how to reduce student debt, and busting the accreditation cartel' is worthwhile reading in its entirety:

"It doesn’t much matter where you go to college.

What matters is “how you go,” says Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana. He then lays out the results of the Gallup-Purdue Index, a national survey of 30,000 college graduates that was first released last year. The survey attempts to quantify not only what graduates earn but also how well they are navigating adult life.

A mere 39% of college graduates report feeling engaged with their work, and in that group as many hail from top-100 schools as don’t. The three most important contributions that college makes to a sense of workplace thriving after graduation: Having one professor who made you excited about learning, feeling as though teachers cared about you, and working with a mentor. Graduates who checked those boxes were more than twice as likely to sense they are flourishing at work.

But only 14% of those surveyed said they had hit that trifecta in college. Other positive factors from undergraduate experience: working on a long-term project, having an internship and participating in extracurricular activities. Where graduates went to college barely registered as a predictor of job satisfaction. . . . after Mr. Daniels arrived at Purdue -- His first order of business: freeze tuition.

“I had a sense, first of all, it seemed like the right thing to do. Not to skip over that. But secondly that we probably could do it without great difficulty,” he says. For decades college tuition has outpaced inflation, forcing students to increase their borrowing, but next year’s Purdue seniors will have never seen a tuition increase. . . .

Not many colleges have followed . . .

The jig is about up. “I don’t know what the rate of the shake out will be, but you can already see the front edges,” Mr. Daniels says, referring to colleges that have begun shutting down. “A year or two ago, it was schools you hadn’t even heard of. This year it was Sweet Briar,” he says, of the 114-year-old Virginia women’s college that announced last month it is closing because of “insurmountable financial challenges.”

Mr. Daniels notes: “The top 10 endowments have something like a third of all the money, and the top 40 have two thirds or close to it. If you’re outside that group, and you’re charging these tuitions, I hope you’ve got a Plan B.”

Mr. Daniels lists what he has discovered are the top concerns of Purdue students—the cost of tuition, the price of room and board and textbooks—and seems to be working his way down that list, including nitty-gritty projects like reducing the cost of the meal plan by 5%. The college has deputized 18 loan counselors to warn students about borrowing too much; in the past two years, total debt has dropped $40 million. . . .

Mr. Daniels has also set out to measure what Purdue students are learning. More than 35% of college students at a range of four-year institutions showed no growth between freshman year and commencement in areas like critical thinking and writing, according to research by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa in their 2011 book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” a work Mr. Daniels keeps on his bookshelf. Similar findings emerged from a 2005 Education Department report that found more than half of four-year college graduates could not compare viewpoints in newspaper editorials.

“I do think there’s a duty to try to validate a product charging this much money. People are saying: Show us there’s growth during those four years,” he says. “Particularly if you’re associated with a university you think is doing a fine job, I see this as an opportunity more than a defense mechanism.” The Purdue faculty, however, seems less enthusiastic about the opportunity—and though Mr. Daniels doesn’t say so, some teachers seem to be slow rolling his efforts by claiming they need more time to develop what they deem an academically valid standard.

Mr. Daniels also has some advice for Congress as the Higher Education Act of 1965 comes up for reauthorization. “Clearly an opportunity in deregulation,” he says. The act’s provision for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a form that students use to figure out federal aid eligibility, has 108 questions, many of them useless.

Another problem: The aid-application system requires the disclosure of parental savings in addition to their current income, meaning it punishes parents who planned ahead. A potential new wrinkle in government hostility to saving for tuition came in January, when President Obama floated the idea of taxing so-called 529 accounts used by middle-class savers putting away money for their children’s education. A week later the administration backtracked amid irate public reaction. . . .

As a college administrator, Mr. Daniels has also taken notice of the bureaucratic accreditation process that is a prerequisite for receiving federal funds. Six regional groups blessed by the Education Department, as well as a coterie of program-specific organizations, sign off on an institution’s programs. The ostensible goal when Congress coupled federal funding with accreditation in the 1952 G.I. Bill was to protect students from colleges hawking worthless degrees.

That hasn’t happened. Instead, universities devote considerable resources to a useless process. Almost no institution misses the mark, and since accreditation is done geographically, an upper-tier school like Purdue is accredited by the same agency that has given accreditation to Indiana University East, where the six-year graduation rate is about 18%.

Purdue pays $150,000 annually in direct accreditation fees, working with any combination of 17 agencies—but that doesn’t include time. Stanford University Provost John Etchemendy said in a 2011 letter that the school spent $849,000 in one year of a multiyear accreditation. “One suspects you have some basic inertia and some folks would rather spend their time being busy with this than doing something more productive,” Mr. Daniels says with a faint smile. “I refer of course to the people on other campuses.”

‘All this time and money and in the end some really lousy schools get accredited, so I’m not sure what the student—the consumer—learns.' . . .

Mr. Daniels has made a habit of searching out what “ought to be looked at” in his two years running Purdue, getting his school in shape for when the higher-education bubble implodes. It’s all part of trying to provide the accountability that students and parents are starting to demand. “Higher education has to get past the ‘take our word for it’ era,” he says. “Increasingly, people aren’t.”"

Summing Up

Mitch Daniels is an outstanding public servant.

He speaks the truth and acts accordingly.

Not very many of our so-called leaders are willing to risk doing those two things.

They're too busy running to stay in office.

And we're worse off as a result.

When the rulers, aka We the People, don't take charge, far too many of the purported 'servants' take advantage of the 'rulers.'

In turn, that weakens us, both as individuals and as a society.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

No comments:

Post a Comment