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Posted at 2:21 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Fixing higher ed: A poll

By Daniel de Vise

In the next issue of The Washington Post Magazine, I posit eight suggestions to "fix" higher education.

After you've read the article, I'd like to know what you think of the fixes. Which are most urgent? Rank them, and explain your choices in a comment.

By Daniel de Vise  | February 18, 2011; 2:21 PM ET
Tags:  Fixing higher education, Washington Post fix higher education, Washington Post fixing higher education, how to fix higher education  
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A MAJOR omission: Use of the extant technology of EFFECTIVE instruction, e.g., Programmed System of Instruction, regular inclusion of exercises/problems/writing in which students apply/use course content and get quick feedback.

And, to grow the technology of effective, efficient instruction, a consortium of universities and colleges with support from a U.S. educational research institute at a $ level commensurate with the need (enormous) for educational research with scientific rigor comparable to to that at NIH, and with a meaningful dissemination and utilization component to foster the adoption and effective use of "evidence-based" methods of instruction and learning.

Publish operationalized proficiency goals (minimum, excellent, outstanding) for each course. Learners should be able to pursue proficiency as they wish, e,g,, independent study, with help of tutors, or in the usual way through a course, but offer the course in parts as well as in whole for students to choose as they wish/need. Charge for the proficiency examination. Change for parts of as well as an entire course.

Posted by: jimb | February 18, 2011 6:21 PM | Report abuse

The last thing we should end is scholarships for merit achievement. This is sometimes the ONLY avenue for funding that middle class kids can get, particularly white kids, and white males.

I think ALL public money that assists college students should be tied to achievement, and not maintaining a 2.0 but a 3.0 or higher.

In addition, we should crack down on who is getting in-state tuition, and mostly audit the illegal aliens that are abusing our colleges and scholarship monies.

All foreign student should have VISAS and should be paying out of state tuition, as well as not being allowed to register for classes until a date has been set for American kids to register.

If we can do this, then I'll discuss other ways to improve higher education, including getting rid of teacher unions so that high school kids graduate knowing at least core levels of knowledge.

Posted by: politicalregister | February 19, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

All false choices. Stupid ideas, the lot of them. Tie federal to completion, guess what will happen to completion?
Right through the roof, though it will also mean a diminishing of higher ed standards.

Who thought these up? Some congressional moron?

Posted by: 44fx2901 | February 20, 2011 6:53 AM | Report abuse

Man this is a bogus pile of idiotic choices.

Posted by: Nymous | February 20, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

College should be an event in our lives. It should entail study, fun, and an understanding of learning that continues through life. Certain standards however are necessary for the discipline we must experience. Two or three hours study for an hour in class is not too much. But to require reading half a novel in a night will only encourage short cuts and undercut learning. At Penn years ago I experienced the beauty of language in a Latin course and the wonders of history in a course on City Planning. I loved those courses and they provided a foundation for future learning. As a student I always wondered about students rating their teachers. What a stupid thing. Of course the teacher with no homework and high grades rated well. I took a "gut" course in genetics and got an "A" but know nothing about genetics. Helped my grade point average but a waste. That popular professor always had full classes. Football at Penn is remembered by the great parties and fantastic songs. What college can beat the Penn favorite, "drink a highball at nightfall and be good fellows while you may." I learned how to get along and manage affairs at my fraternity. We ran a kitchen and large boarding house. It was hands on and a great experience. The greatest thing about a good university must be the offering oc the courses that make you think and that kindle the fire for life long learning.

Posted by: sbrick | February 20, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I disagree that we should stop re-teaching high school at a community college. The reason is that community colleges should give students another opportunity to re-learn some of the things they did not learn in high school, either because they were not attentive or because they attended bad schools and had bad teachers. I know several students who did poorly in high school because they attended bad high schools, but when they started attending a community college they became honor students. Those students indicated to me that they were inspired by their junior college instructors, and because they were able to receive extra tutoring in areas they missed out or found difficult in high school.

Posted by: fridaolay | February 20, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Earth to PoliticalRegister: why do you think private colleges cost so much? My former university raised tuition 42% over two years and the entire amount was directed at No-need merit scholarships for rich kids. Raising tuition for all made my poorer and middle class kids and their parents have to pay much more--and borrow much more. Second tier schools feel they have to 'buy' students. Ivies and first tier schools offer no non-need based aid. We used to say that a school's quality is in inverse proportion to the amount of no-need merit aid it offers.

International students can't attend US colleges unless their parents guarantee 100% of the full cost of attendance--tuition, fees, book, room and board. They are actually the most 'full pay' of all and are subsidizing the give aways to your 'while male' US citizen students.

Posted by: commonsense101 | February 20, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

All 8 choices are bad.

Posted by: Jihm | February 20, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

All of these ideas are completely idiotic. The test Nazis want to get their paws on higher education. Not a chance! They all ready completely screwed up K-12. I would stuff said tests in a very tight place for the test givers. For the three-year B.S. majors, that just shows the bankruptcy of the curriculum. If you can learn everything in three years, then your major is weak stuff indeed. As someone who majored in STEM, the whole notion of not enough homework and three years degrees is completely foreign. I think the knuckle dragging reporter who wrote the article needs to stick to covering car accidents and pewee baseball tournaments, because clearly he doesn't know JACK about education. Just another air breather sucking precious oxygen from those of us who actually use our minds.

Posted by: kschur1 | February 22, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

commonsense101 - that's the second time you've posted the comment about how your former college raised tuition by 42% over two years and every penny went to no-need scholarships - not a penny to faculty raises, new physical facilities, perks for the administration, new technology, nothing. I'll ask you again to name the college, because I simply don't believe that can be true.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | February 22, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I can't work with these choices. PLEASE talk to some professors and students and come back with better choices. Most of these come from the education reform industry that often ignores innovation on the ground and doesn't really get it that the best college work gets done by students and teachers who are self-directed and love what they are doing. BTW, I am a non-STEM professor who has "homework" weekly in all of my classes.

Posted by: cstem1 | February 22, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of these suggestions are good ones. But first you have to decide what it is that you want out of higher education. It will be hard to agree on a course of action unless you agree on what colleges should be doing.

I don't pretend to know what colleges should be doing for everyone who goes there. But I think moving more toward a regular market in higher education would answer that question, as students vote with their dollars. To that end, I would advocate moving toward charging full cost to students. Only then will you figure out who values higher education the most. Only then will you create colleges that do what the people attending them want the colleges to do.

Clearly, we can't get to what I am proposing overnight. The recent scandals at some for-profit colleges concerning federal student loans may have left a bad taste in people's mouths about a real market for higher education, but there isn't any good substitute if what you want is to increase the welfare of society and, at the same time, efficiently allocate resources to education.

You might think that putting all the freshman seats at Harvard up for bid would mean that only rich white people would get to attend Harvard, and for a time you might be right. But you (or all of us acting through the government) certainly could give grants of however much you liked to whomever you liked to let them compete for a seat there.

If colleges stopped allocating their scarce resource (seats in the classroom) by criteria like SAT scores, or diversity, or athletic ability, and so on, and instead did it by price, I think that, within a generation, you would not have a need for articles on how to improve higher education.

Posted by: dennisefarley | February 25, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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