There is much to be thankful for and our system of colleges and universities is one of them. The human and capital infrastructure is amazing. Particularly notable is our research universities and graduate programs — the likes of MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley and many others. But all is not well for it’s the undergraduate programs that educate the masses. And it’s hard to make the case that our undergraduate programs are best in class.
The deficiencies are substantial and generally fall under two main categories: quality and price. The lack of quality at many of our colleges is shocking. Annually, the system produces graduates unprepared for life’s challenges and opportunities. It’s not a universal problem (there are superb schools and programs), but it’s pervasive. In many cases, the curricula are obsolete and teaching methods are frozen in time and ineffective, seemingly immune to evolution based on knowledge and capabilities. Meanwhile, over 42% of grades given are As. At least we feel good about ourselves.
Price is the other major problem. Student-loan debt is roughly $1.2 trillion, and default rates are high. The cost of a college education has been rising far faster than family incomes for a very long time. The system says it’s giving students and families what they want. In reality, the system is giving itself what it wants. There is little regard for students’ finances and long-term interests. Promissory notes are pushed under their noses by administrators all too willing to put their and their institutions’ “needs” above those of their students. Shameful practices, yet there is little shame.
So how did we get into this mess? Who is responsible? More importantly, who can help get us out?
Today, I focus on just one of the culprits: the federal government. Continue reading