Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

How The Great Society Made a Mess of Higher Education

Spencer Kashmanian

"LBJ's federal interventions created a system in which students are the greatest losers."

Non-Trump University

Chance Layton

NAS President Peter Wood writes about the "bait-and-switch" of American higher education.

More of That Silly "We've Gotta Put More People Through College" Research

George Leef

Leef and Jenna Robinson take a critical look at the SHEEO study and find that its conclusions do not logically follow from its premises.

Too Many College Students? Yes, Unfortunately

Peter Wood

Peter Wood debates Macalester College president Brian Rosenberg on whether the U.S. should pursue the goal of further increases in college enrollments.

What's Up with California Higher Ed?

Ashley Thorne

Three organizations have just published reports with concerns about the state of higher education in California and recommendations for how to fix it.

Give It the Old College Try

Richard Vedder

Richard Vedder criticizes low interest student loans, which he says will not be of much benefit to students and will serve to entice people to go to college unnecessarily.

Obama's Higher-Ed Agenda: A Series by Peter Wood

Ashley Thorne

A roundup of the articles in Peter Wood's series "Obama's Higher-Education Agenda"

Remediating America: On the Consultations of FSG

Peter Wood

Peter Wood observes that the call for extraordinary efforts to improve community college degree-completion rates might benefit consultants more than students.

Lumina: U.S. Needs More College Grads

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs contrasts the Lumina Foundation's call for 23 million more college-educated workers to Peter Wood's arguments that more higher education does not directly correlate with a nation's economic health. 

College for All: Obama's Higher Ed Agenda, Part 3 of 8

Peter Wood

Does higher education provide the only path to financial security, global comptetitiveness, personal fulfillment, and active citizenship?

Rick Santorum Is Right

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s controversial remarks about higher education.

Supersizing: Obama's Higher Education Agenda, Part 1 of 8

Peter Wood

In the first of an eight-part series, Peter Wood examines the president’s longstanding goal of making America the nation with the highest percentage of college graduates.

Obama's Higher-Ed Agenda

Peter Wood

Peter Wood surveys the Obama administration’s eight-part higher-education agenda.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson on American Higher Ed

George Leef

Former Cal State Fresno history professor Victor Davis Hanson writes here about the sad history of American higher ed over the last 50 years. He refers to "the Fannie and Freddie university" meaning that higher ed has been politicized, subsidized and over-expanded due to government intervention.

Murray: Three Reasons Colleges Are Oversubscribed

Brendan Nagle

A report from a National Capitol Association of Scholars meeting.

NYT Writer Observes That College Costs a Lot, But Students Learn Little

George Leef

While higher ed expenses and concomitant student debt loads have risen greatly, many students put in little effort to get B or better averages. 

Twenty-Six Year Olds in Diapers?

George Leef

David Bass of the John Locke Foundation argues that the mania for putting as many people as possible in college has given us 26 year-olds in diapers (figuratively speaking). 

"Higher Education Bubble" AQ Issue in Print

Peter Wood

The fall 2011 issue of Academic Questions asks, "Is there a bubble in higher education?"

Coming Student Loan Crisis: Crony Capitalism + Egalitarian Liberalism

Jonathan Bean

Take the notion that every child deserves to attend college (egalitarian liberalism) and add crony capitalism (banks with the power to squeeze you despite bankruptcy (i.e., kind of like the IRS!). The result is the warning of several commentators recently of a coming student loan crisis. 

Subway Ride

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on colleges’ hard sell to underprepared students.

Doug French on the Higher Education Bubble

George Leef

Doug French, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute argues that much of the apparent increase in the “need” for people with college degrees was due to the growth of employment in government since 1990 and growth in the finance industry, fueled to a large extent by federal interventions to keep interest rates artificially low. French also disputes the notion, recently pushed by David Leonhardt of the New York Times, that college is a good investment even if you wind up washing dishes because you’ll enjoy an earnings boost.

Another Liberal Dissents from the Idea that We Need More "Educational Attainment"

George Leef

New York University economics professor Edward N. Wolff is another liberal who doesn’t agree that the nation will benefit, either in rising productivity or greater equality (and inequality bothers him a lot) by pushing more students into college in hopes of increasing our level of “educational attainment.” 

Many Americans are Undereducated, But College Credentials Won't Fix That

George Leef

In last week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I analyze the recent paper published by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, "The Undereducated American." It is an attempt to regain momentum for the More People Must Go To College crusade, but it fails to do that. There are more problems in the paper than I had space to address, but I'll tack on one more here. The country doesn't "produce" college graduates any more than it produces accountants or oboe players. Individual decisions are determinative here. So why is it that, despite entreaties from leaders from Obama on down, copious subsidies, and repeated admonitions to students that college will give them a big earnings premium, the college enrollment stats have been flat for some 15 years? I think it's because lots of marginal students doubt that they will benefit from college. Maybe they've heard from friends or family members that many graduates wind up with low-level jobs anyway. Even if they believe that college might eventually help them earn more than average as a cashier or dishwasher, it's not worth the time and expense.

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel for Students

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the new book In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by "Professor X." He's an adjunct who teaches English at two lower-tier schools and the book is highly revealing. Many of his students are barely literate and can't write coherently, but there they are in English 101, having gotten through the remedial filters. They have little interest in learning and are in college just for the credential. If we try to expand higher education the way President Obama and many in the higher education establishment want, the increase in student numbers will come almost entirely from students like these -- and even weaker ones. The author sees the parallel to the housing bubble. We already have lots of "students" who are very dubious candidates for mortgages; next we'll have to go to the college equivalent of "liar loans." College education still has a mystique for many people. Supposedly it does much to impart needed knowledge and skills. It's said to be our "best investment." Read this book and you'll find out it ain't necessarily so.

Debate: Will a Push to Increase College Enrollment Lead to Lower Standards?

Ashley Thorne and Peter Wood debated Education Sector's Kevin Carey on Minnesota Public Radio's online forum Insight Now.

Deflating the Higher Ed Bubble -- A Scenario

George Leef

In this Minding the Campus essay, my Pope Center colleague Jane Shaw ruminates on a scenario in which the higher ed bubble substantially deflates.

Oh, But There IS a Debate Over That!

George Leef

Inside Higher Ed ran a story  on an AEI conference where the subject was the “completion agenda.” That is, do we really need to get lots more young people into and through college as Obama says we should? After the presentation of a paper by Arthur Hauptman that was skeptical, Lumina Foundation’s Dewayne Matthews commented that “there’s no real debate here that more people need college degrees.” Sorry, but there IS a great debate over that.

Peter Wood Appears on Inside Academia TV

This week Peter was a guest in a video interview with Inside Academia in which he spoke about the convergence of campus politicization and the push to put more students through college.

Is College the Only Pathway to Prosperity?

Ashley Thorne

A new report advocates embracing career training as a viable alternative to college. The AAUP, on the other hand, asserts that college is the best option we can give the next generation.

To Make Students "College Ready," High Schools Weaken Curriculum

Ashley Thorne

NAS board member and Endowed Chair in Teacher Quality at the University of Arkansas Sandra Stotsky has a new blog post, Education's Long Forgotten Vision, that chronicles the lowering of academic standards in high school, and in a domino effect, in college. 

Higher Education: Public Good or Public Bad?

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw considers the question whether higher education is a “public good.” In economics parlance, public goods are goods that the free market either would not produce at all or would at best under-produce. Are colleges and universities like that? 

Another Dissent from the "Higher Education for Everyone!" Line

George Leef

By and large, until say, 1945, the expansion [of education] was fairly harmless. Unfortunately, however, there came to be established the misconception that being in school was the only appropriate was of being educated. Now, the majority are being cruelly miseducated and hoaxed; they will not get jobs relevant to what they have been put through.

Surfeits of Certitude

Peter Wood

Should we approach higher education with more skepticism?

Student Riots in Britain

Peter Wood

Peter Wood reviews the student protests over tuition hikes in Britain and the emergence of a 15-year-old as the YouTube star of the protest movement.

Forecast: Iridescent Drops of Nothingness

Peter Wood

Peter Wood predicts that online education, either rigorous or at “the level of a video game,” will become a standard feature of American college instruction.

Higher Education's Obesity Problem: Administrative Bloat

George Leef

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the recent study released by the Goldwater Institute on administrative bloat in higher education. Almost everyone laments the increasing cost of going to college, but they usually ask next, "How can we help students afford it" when the question should be, "Are resources being spent wisely?" Is the profusion of new administrators (generally paid quite nicely to boot) doing much to better educate students? Or is it more the case that they're hired because non-profit institutions must spend all the revenue that comes in and the decision-makers are inclined to spend it in ways that makes life better for them? The Goldwater study introduces a "public choice" element into the analysis of higher education and that's welcome.

Obama Smites the Rock

Ashley Thorne

In a speech at the University of Texas this week, President Obama reminded the audience of his lofty - and contradictory - goals for higher education.

Map: Proportion of American Adults with College Degrees

Ashley Thorne

Achieving President Obama's goal of becoming the world's most-educated nation will require approximately doubling the size of higher education. Is that a good thing?

Dangers of Credentialing the College Degree: A Real-Life Example

Jason Fertig

An email exchange between a student and a professor illustrates the popular idea that students are entitled to get a passing grade - even if they don't earn one.

Is U.S. Edu-Rhetoric a Pipe Dream? A Teacher Wants to Know

Ashley Thorne

Teachers should be evaluated based on student performance - but on several conditions, says op-ed.

Best-Educated vs. Most-Educated

Ashley Thorne

Clarifying President Obama's 2020 higher ed goal - sending more students to college won’t make the United States the best-educated nation.

College Boom...No Comment

NAS

From 1973 to 2007, the percentage of students who enroll in college jumped 20%.

Expanding Enrollments, Declining Standards: American Higher Ed Prepares to Take the Plunge

Peter Wood

Do we really want to do to higher education what we have to K-12 education? We might achieve the hollow boast of the most college-credentialed citizenry in the world who also happen to be among the worst-educated.

Reply to Dave Taylor Re: March Forth

Peter Wood

A response to a comment on the NAS article "March Forth."

To Infinity and Beyond! Kevin Carey's Race to Over-the-Top

Ashley Thorne

Kevin Carey offers some overreaching reform ideas that line up with President Obama's goal to make the United States the most higher-educated nation in the world by 2020.

Articles of Interest This Week

Ashley Thorne

A roundup of must-reads in higher education news.

The State of the University

Ashley Thorne

What President Obama's State of the Union address means for the future of higher education.

Dalrymple on Requiring University for Nurses

Ken Daniszewski

Theodore Dalrymple comments in the Telegraph on a government requirement that new nurses in the UK will have to hold a degree-level qualification beginning in 2013. Dalrymple sees no intrinsic reason why nursing can't be taught at university. But he questions whether our whole ideal of university training hasn't become culturally distorted. Here's a quote:

Unfortunately, power and status – unlike wealth and knowledge – are zero-sum games. The importance of power and status to the leaders of nursing became clear to me when I read the coursework a state enrolled nurse had to do for conversion to state registered nurse (in the days when these two levels of nursing still existed). The coursework had almost nothing in it of a technical nature: it was all a subdivision of what might be called resentment studies. Foucault was more of an influence than Florence Nightingale.

BTW, according to Amazon, Dalrymple's new book is supposed to be out any day. But you can read an extract from the book here.

Do Too Many Students Go To College?

George Leef

The Chronicle Review recently ran a lively discussion on that question, featuring nine people with widely divergent views. In today's Pope Center piece, I comment on it and offer my own answers to some of the questions posed.

Should Everyone Go?

Ashley Thorne

President Obama's goal - that by 2020 America would have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world - will require a huge expansion of higher education. But is that wise?

Do We Need to Put More People Through College?

George Leef

Last Thursday, NRO published an article that took me aback, "Send More Students to College" by Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute. I have been arguing for years that we have oversold higher education and was surprised to see the title. Had I overlooked something important demonstrating that, to the contrary, we haven't done enough to promote it? Without having read it, I posted a brief skeptical rejoinder and after having read it, this lengthier counterattack. If you don't want to take the time for the posts, here's my key argument, as I wrote at the John Locke Foundation's blog: The central difficulty in the Winters article (and many others like it) is the assumption that because, on average, college educated people earn more than those who don't have degrees, college is responsible for adding the "human capital" that makes them more productive. Although it's true that on average the college educated earn more, that is in large measure due to the fact that over the last few decades, opportunities for people who ended formal education with high school to get into entry-level jobs that lead to high-paying positions have been steadily decreasing. That's because of credentialitis: employers screen out the presumably less reliable and trainable people who don't have degrees. Some young Americans go through college, learning a great deal, and augmenting their knowledge and skills considerably, but we also know that many others just loaf through college, taking easy courses that require little intellectual exertion and graduate with very weak skills in reading, writing, and math. If they get jobs that pay above average, is it due to the "human capital" they gained in college, which is awfully hard to discern, or is it due to the fact that they have benefited from the way employers use credentials as a raw screening mechanism? I think my argument better accounts for the facts.

Academics are Influential

Jay Bergman

Those of us who have criticized the worst excrescences of political correctness in academia, such as the cult of cosmetic diversity that is oblivious to the benefits of intellectual diversity, have sometimes consoled ourselves by the thought that academia is just a self-contained entity, removed from the rest of American society by the sheer inanity of the ideas it generates.  Once students have graduated, we have reassured ourselves, they will rejoin the mainstream and rid themselves of all the nonsense their professors have drilled into them.  Those who believe this underestimate how easily academics can influence public policy even if only a small percentage of their students bring to the larger society the mostly left-wing ideology these students have absorbed.  To my profound regret one such student has now ascended to the presidency.  Barack Obama, in the domestic and foreign policies he has enunciated, has shown himself to have internalized, first in college and then in law school, many of the most pernicious postulates of “multiculturalism,” which for many of its advocates is little more than ideological justification for trashing America – which is forever tainted by the original sins of slavery and racism - while either rationalizing or ignoring the far more egregious transgressions of America’s enemies.  Indeed, President Obama is our first multicultural president – with the adjective preceding the noun referring to what he thinks rather than his race, which should be irrelevant to any consideration of his policies.  After receiving degrees from Columbia and Harvard, two citadels of multicultural education, our current president went on to even more radical post-graduate training from a “faculty” consisting of Mssrs. Wright, Ayers, Khalidi and Flueger.  The result is an ethical universe in the White House in which Rush Limbaugh evokes more indignation and hostility than the genocidal anti-semitic mullahs in Iran.  My point is not to bash President Obama.  Rather it is that we in academia who share the operative principles of the National Association of Scholars should not stop fighting for these principles because of a psychologically comforting, but empirically groundless belief that academics who mindlessly mouth the platitudes of multiculturalism really have no influence outside the academy and for that reason can be dismissed as harmless cranks.  Alas, they are much worse, and more dangerous, than that!

Vapor Trail: The UN's Plan for Higher Education

Peter Wood

The United Nations asks presidents of all colleges and universities in the world to sign its "Academic Impact" initiative.

Is America Losing Its Innovative Edge?

Peter Wood

Is American innovation declining because we fail to send enough kids to college? A new report casts doubt on higher education's expansionist rationale.

The Battle of Bunker Hill, Round II: Why Doubling the Size of American Higher Education is a Bad Idea

Peter Wood

There is a move afoot to use economic bailout money to enroll ill-prepared students in numbers that would overwhelm our system. It rightly deserves the criticism we give it.

Cold Brine: The College Board Loses Its Senses

Peter Wood

The College Board recently unveiled a new goal for America - that by the year 2025, 55% of Americans should have a college degree. But is that achievement the right solution to save America's place in international competition?