home  |  book  |  blogs  |   RSS  |  contact  |

I Gotta Right to My Illusions Changing The Supreme Court: The Real Problem

print view

Big Ed Fights Back Against For-Profit Colleges

by Christopher Chantrill
October 02, 2005 at 2:35 pm

|

IT’S back-to-school time so it must be time to view with alarm the shocking state of our nation’s colleges.

Last week in The Weekly Standard, retired conservative foundation director James Piereson took a look at the threat to the nation posed by “The Left University.”

In “Ivory Cower” at OpinionJournal.com Victor David Hanson rehearsed a few recent university administrative scandals for The Wall Street Journal’s conservative edit-page folks.

And not to be outdone by the edit page, the Journal’s liberal news side carried an article by John Hechinger on September 30, 2005 about a fight between upstart for-profit colleges and the traditional non-profit universities. The for-profit sector that used to concentrate on “auto repair and massage therapy” is now is expanding into “business and other courses of study” traditionally the preserve of the non-profit and state universities.

How are the old-line universities competing? By improving their course offerings? Oh no. They are playing hardball with their new competitors and refusing to grant students credit for studies at the for-profit schools.

Two can play at that game. The for-profits are retaliating by backing a bill in Congress to force the old-line schools to justify their actions when they reject academic credits from the upstart schools. But “traditional schools say it would be too expensive to evaluate each transcript from a for-profit school to see if it passes muster.” The bill means that for-profit schools “are buying legislation for their otherwise suspect goods.” Those are the words of Barmak Nassiran from the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

There are no damaged goods on offer at the old-line schools; they have a system of accreditation. If you earn a degree at an accredited university then your degree and course work will be honored by other accredited universities. The system evaluates “colleges on measures like the degrees held by faculty, professor-to-student ratios, and the number of books in school libraries,” i.e., factor inputs. So when for-profit Florida Metropolitan University applied for accreditation from a regional non-profit accreditation association, it got back a letter citing their input deficiencies: too many part-time faculty, not enough credentials, and insufficient “size and staffing” of the library.

Unable to compete on the credentials front the for-profits have started their own “so-called national accrediting bodies.” They “focus more on schools’ job placement records than on academic credentials.”

The accreditation system of the non-profit universities would be great if all those factor inputs were deployed for the benefit of students. But that is not the case, as James Piereson reminds us. Right from the very start of the research university project in the nineteenth century, the university has always “placed the faculty rather than students... at the center of the enterprise.” The factor inputs are not there for students. They are intended for the use of faculty.

Every report from the academy confirms this. According to Harvard graduate Ross Douthat’s “The Truth about Harvard” in The Atlantic of March 2005, it’s hard to get into Harvard. But once the student gets in the door he realizes “No, this is easy.” Since the students don’t matter, Harvard gives them the B plusses they need to get into graduate school and gets back to research.

In engineering, the course work is not easy, and students suffer. At TechcentralStation Douglas Kern soon changed his major when he found the courses for Chemical Engineering too challenging. Perhaps his difficulties had something to do with the teaching methods in math class. Each day the instructor, a twenty-something teaching assistant, worked through the previous day’s problem set without explanation, announced the pages in the textbook for the next problem set, worked a sample problem, gave the day’s problem assignment, and then dismissed the class. Twenty-five minutes, start to finish.

The traditional universities are right to declare war on the upstart for-profits. A profit-driven business model for higher education could end up wrecking the cozy producer cartel they have operated for over a century. The modest bill before Congress that makes the universities play ball over the transfer of credits is just a skirmish that could develop into a national battle over education.

And like any war, we cannot know where it would end.

In the United States we have no clue, not the slightest notion of what the education system would look like if the rent-seekers were relieved of their rents and the producer cartels of professors, teachers, administrators, and maintenance staff were reduced to powerless talking shops. Education in the United States has been cartelized, centralized, and politicized since the days of the Whig Party and Horace Mann in the 1840s. Market-driven education? It’s unthinkable.

But if you believe in freedom, why not fight for freedom of education?

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

print view

To comment on this article at American Thinker click here.

To email the author, click here.

 

 TAGS


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

Data Sources  •   •  Contact