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  • April RET Reflections

April RET Reflections

  • 04/28/2024
  • 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Zoom

Are Colleges off Course?

Post-pandemic thinking has led to some doubts about the value of a college education and whether colleges have gotten trapped in the past:

Why Americans Have Lost Faith in the Value of College (msn.com)

A quote:

The misalignment between universities and the labor market is compounded by the failure of many schools to teach students to think critically. Many students arrive poorly prepared for college-level work, and the universities themselves are ill-equipped to provide intensive classroom instruction.

Professors compete for tenure on the basis of the quality of their research and publishing track record. Teaching is mostly an afterthought. Professors who earn tenure negotiate lighter teaching loads. To fill the gap, schools hire less expensive adjuncts with little job security. Non-tenure track professors now make up three-quarters of college faculty, up from a quarter in 1975.

These precariously employed adjuncts depend on strong student performance reviews for job security, a system that incentivizes them to make few demands in exchange for high ratings. Students spend about half as much time studying and attending class as their counterparts did in 1961, but they are three times more likely to earn an A—now the most common grade in colleges across the country.

A quarter of college graduates do not have basic skills in numeracy and one in five does not have basic skills in literacy, says Irwin Kirsch, who oversees large-scale assessments for ETS, the company that administers the SAT.

Quality control for college degrees falls to accreditors, but they approve programs at hundreds of schools that fail to produce financial value for graduates, and have kept many schools in business with a single-digit graduation rate. About one in 40 U.S. workers draws a paycheck from a college or university, and in recent decades the powerful higher-education lobby in Washington has quashed dozens of proposals to measure the sector’s successes and failures.

Meanwhile, through a combination of state budget cuts, administrative bloat and runaway spending on campus amenities, the real cost of a four-year college degree climbed 180% between 1980 and 2020. The high cost increased pressure on universities to treat students as consumers purchasing a credential, instead of scholars receiving an education.

What are your experiences with recent college graduates?  Do you think any of this is real or just the usual griping?


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