If I ran American Higher Education…
…all libraries would allow coffee in spill-proof containers.
…all academic journals would be published on-line and freely available to the public.
…there would be Pell Grants for prisoners and incarcerated students would get quality faculty to teach them.
…there'd be no pro-male affirmative action and GPA would be weighted more heavily than standardized tests in consideration of applications. Women, who have lower standardized testing scores (at least by some metrics and in some testing pools) but higher grades, would be admitted in numbers proportionate to their qualifications, not rejected to keep classes gender balanced. Let the "war against boys" begin!
…there'd be more, smaller schools rather than massive megaversities. Most of the beneficial economies of scale for schools of 50,000 or more are tied to increased endowment and alumni giving. This leads a presitge race that emphasizes research facilities, famous (non-teaching) faculty members, and athletics programs, none of which positively impact the teaching of undergraduates.
…there'd be fewer administrators, and administrators would always answer to faculty, not vice versa. Right now there is little incentive to trim administrative costs, so large schools raise tuition to pay for bloated bureacracies that churn out reports, compose strategic plans, and massage donors for money that will never be spent on the university's core mission of education.
…charitable donations to universities would not be tax-deductible unless used for scholarships, architecture, or books.
…schools would never pay for computer operating systems, nor accept donations of proprietary technology designed to create path dependent consumers. Computers and software have played a major role in hiking tuition and expending endowments in the last two decades. Ubuntu or typewriters are fine.
…there'd be no university athletics, no March Madness or College Bowl season. Collegiate sports are a big and profitable business, but such things are best handled by professionals. If the NFL or the NBA want to vet and train young players, they should do it through a paid minor league system.
…no course could count towards a degree unless taught by a Ph.D. or terminal degree in the instuctor's discipline.
...75% of credit hours would be taught by tenure-line faculty, the remaining 25% could be taught by part-time, adjunct, or visiting faculty. (Currently, 75% of undergraduate credit hours are taught by graduate students or non-tenure "adjunct" faculty.)
…every "full-time" faculty member would be required to teach at least four courses a year, regardless of endowed chairs or administrative tasks.
…full-time researchers would work for private scientific labs or political think tanks. The research university has done tremendous damage to higher ed in this country, as Eisenhower suggested it would: "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded." Researchers could engage in publicly funded 'basic research' at these private labs, and results would be owned by the public, or they could patent and exploit their work without having to give the university a cut. (The lab or think tank might claim one, however.) Faculty would be expected to go on sabbatical if they wanted to go work for one of these labs or think tanks. No double-dipping.
…graduate students would be students, not cheap labor. Grading and research assistance would not be available as a perk for talented researchers, and classes would have to be sized to be gradeable by a single person.
…graduate students in the liberal arts and sciences would be required to teach high school students for a year in their subject area, after receiving a Masters but before going on to finish their Ph.D. This has the perk of creating a pool of better educated and more enthusiastic high school teachers, supplying better prepared incoming freshmen, and making the last two years of high school worthwhile.
…law school would only take two years, not three.
…medical education would proceed from nurse's training or physician's assistant training to medical school, and every MD would have to work as an RN or a PA before moving on. This has the added benefit of helping to quell the nursing shortage.
By blogger "anotherpanacea," a professor of philosophy in the Washington, D.C. area