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Thread: College Education

  1. #1
    Senior Member Gerry Clinchy's Avatar
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    Default College Education

    This is from the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative group in PA. Points of interest on the cost of a college education; and what you get for the $ spent.

    Charles Mitchell

    Pennsylvania's public universities have indigestion.

    If you ask them, they'll say they're hurting because budget slashing Gov. Tom Corbett just forced something nasty down their throats namely cuts to the subsidies they receive from Keystone State taxpayers. Their problem, many of them say, is not enough money, and the only answer is raising tuition on students and parents.

    That's hooey. Yes, these institutions are sick, but it's because for years, they have been gorging themselves on the educational equivalent of junk food. The fault is their own, not the governor's and certainly not the taxpayers'.

    Does that sound like a quack's diagnosis? It isn't, and a new study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an independent non-profit in Washington, D.C., shows why.

    This study asks a simple question about college students: What will they learn? Specifically, it looks at the required courses they must pass in order to graduate. These requirements matter because they show what our universities believe is most important so important that if you don't have it, you can't get your diploma and what they are making sure their graduates have to offer employers.

    The answer, when it comes to Pennsylvania's public universities, is deeply disappointing. Of the 21 colleges in the study, two thirds including Penn State receive D's or F's and not a single one gets an A. Only two require a solid course in American history or government. None of them make certain they introduce their students to economics. And 15 don't even require college level math.

    See for yourself at WhatWillTheyLearn.com.

    Make no mistake, though: It's not that these universities simply tell students that good educational "nutrition" doesn't matter and they can "eat" whatever they want. Instead, many of them talk a good game but let students gorge on the college-classroom equivalent of Twinkies.

    For example, at Temple University which hiked tuition by ten percent students can take "Sport & Leisure in American Society" to learn about their country and a course offering "fresh perspectives, questions, and ideas on current issues from Google searches to the randomness of the iPod shuffle" to strengthen their math skills.

    What does this have to do with budget cuts and tuition hikes? A whole lot.

    Just like in the grocery store, eating healthy isn't just better for you than gorging on junk it's cheaper, too. A big survey course on the basics costs less than a whole bunch of smaller classes on niche topics. Pennsylvania's public universities could give taxpayers more bang for their buck by doing more of the former and less of the latter.

    Doing this would even lessen the harm done to students and parents by their recent tuition increases. While most people think college is a four year endeavor, it isn't for most students here in Pennsylvania, more than half of students get their degree in four years at only two of our public universities. And educational experts nationally agree that this is partly due to required courses not being available when students need them. If the requirements made more sense, students could actually learn more in less time and pay less tuition bills.

    The message of last November's election to our current class of politicians was crystal clear: Stop the overspending. Gov. Corbett and other leaders in Harrisburg have begun to do just that.

    It's unfortunate that so many college administrators have indigestion over taxpayers' relief but choice they've made to pig out on educational junk food is no one's fault but their own.

    Now, the prescription for Pennsylvania's public universities is this: less bellyaching, more basics.
    # # #
    Charles F. Mitchell is vice president & COO of the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org), Pennsylvania's free-market think tank that crafts free market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits and counters attacks on liberty.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member YardleyLabs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Clinchy View Post
    This is from the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative group in PA. Points of interest on the cost of a college education; and what you get for the $ spent.
    I would suggest that what it points out is the stupidity of the authors and their own authoritarian perspective on the educational process.

    In their scoring, my own alma mater, Princeton, receives a "C", while my son's school, Brown University, earns an "F" and Harvard earns a "D". Why is this? It's because the authors are assuming that the measure of the validity of the educational program is the courses that all students are required to take. If it's not required, it doesn't count.

    The objective of colleges is to help students direct their own education. General requirements are supplemented by course requirements for the students' individual areas of concentration. Princeton is unusual among the best universities in that it continues to maintain what it calls "distribution" requirements since it believes that no student should be allowed to graduate without a basic academic foundation. However, their definition of that is different from that used by the authors and divide those requirements into areas of study within which students have a broad choice. The authors, by contrast, are seeking an authoritarian definition of course requirements. That is an approach that has been abandoned by almost all of the best universities.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Gerry Clinchy's Avatar
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    I didn't actually go to the source survey to see who scored what ... but I might take issue with some points you make.

    How capable is an 18-yr old, in most cases, of directing their own education, without some broad guidelines to assist them? I view the "required" courses as a way to provide that guideline.

    The college I went to required of freshman a course called "Humanities 101". It was a survey of world religions. I believe that course was truly a good thing, especially for a person like myself who was raised as a Roman Catholic, where exploration & understanding of other religions is quite limited in the curricula. It was an intensive course crammed with tons of information. Most freshmen would gladly have by-passed it.

    Courses in mathematics proficiency and English were also required. Freshman English required a theme each week, and you could get an F if you made more than one spelling or grammar error. It was a discipline that made you use your dictionary! The content of the theme was also evaluated. It was a huge improvement over my high school English demands, where I "coasted".

    Few freshmen would have chosen these courses of their own volition.

    It was a well-respected, small liberal arts college.

    I do believe that if one graduates with a 4-year degree, society and employers should be able to expect a certain minimum standard of performance in foundation skills. Whether you are more correct than I, would depend on one's view of whether these schools today are producing the quality of graduates that reflect the success of their educational process.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member YardleyLabs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Clinchy View Post
    I didn't actually go to the source survey to see who scored what ... but I might take issue with some points you make.

    How capable is an 18-yr old, in most cases, of directing their own education, without some broad guidelines to assist them? I view the "required" courses as a way to provide that guideline.

    The college I went to required of freshman a course called "Humanities 101". It was a survey of world religions. I believe that course was truly a good thing, especially for a person like myself who was raised as a Roman Catholic, where exploration & understanding of other religions is quite limited in the curricula. It was an intensive course crammed with tons of information. Most freshmen would gladly have by-passed it.

    Courses in mathematics proficiency and English were also required. Freshman English required a theme each week, and you could get an F if you made more than one spelling or grammar error. It was a discipline that made you use your dictionary! The content of the theme was also evaluated. It was a huge improvement over my high school English demands, where I "coasted".

    Few freshmen would have chosen these courses of their own volition.

    It was a well-respected, small liberal arts college.

    I do believe that if one graduates with a 4-year degree, society and employers should be able to expect a certain minimum standard of performance in foundation skills. Whether you are more correct than I, would depend on one's view of whether these schools today are producing the quality of graduates that reflect the success of their educational process.
    I understand what you are saying and believe that is the type of discussion that schools should engage in while developing curricula requirements. It is also the kind of issue that parents should be discussing with their children when a college is being considered and chosen. At my college, I was assigned a faculty adviser who had to approve my course selections. In my first two years, that was a general adviser. Once I selected my major, it was an adviser assigned by the department in which I was majoring. Students are not alone in making their decisions. Ultimately, however, young adults do not learn how to make decisions by having someone else tell them what to do. They learn by making their own decisions, discussing and defending those choices, and living with the consequences. It is an individualized decision making process and it is silly to define a measure of quality based on whether or not a school is willing to permit those decisions to make individually. Many better measures of quality exist. The one used in this case is simply silly.

    To add in a few more of their results: Yale - C, Stanford - C, University of Pennsylvania - C, Swarthmore College - D, etc. These are among the best universities in the country by almost any academic measure other than the narrow one of required core courses used in this study (They don't even consider whether or not the courses are any good).

  5. #5
    Senior Member Gerry Clinchy's Avatar
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    Similar to your school, one didn't choose a major until after the first two years.

    My courses, chosen by me, the first two years were directed toward being a chemistry major. Aside from the few required courses, I still could make my own choices. I ended up graduating with a psychology major. Chemistry turned out not to be my "calling" at all. Not having anyone to guide me in those first two years, I had loaded up with math, chemistry, and physics.

    Wish now I had explored the history & govt courses.

    Best choices were "accidental" ... a fine arts course; an accounting course in the economics department; modern American novel; and, then, desperately needing an extra one-semester course ... TYPING!
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    Senior Member Matt McKenzie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YardleyLabs View Post
    I understand what you are saying and believe that is the type of discussion that schools should engage in while developing curricula requirements. It is also the kind of issue that parents should be discussing with their children when a college is being considered and chosen. At my college, I was assigned a faculty adviser who had to approve my course selections. In my first two years, that was a general adviser. Once I selected my major, it was an adviser assigned by the department in which I was majoring. Students are not alone in making their decisions. Ultimately, however, young adults do not learn how to make decisions by having someone else tell them what to do. They learn by making their own decisions, discussing and defending those choices, and living with the consequences. It is an individualized decision making process and it is silly to define a measure of quality based on whether or not a school is willing to permit those decisions to make individually. Many better measures of quality exist. The one used in this case is simply silly.

    To add in a few more of their results: Yale - C, Stanford - C, University of Pennsylvania - C, Swarthmore College - D, etc. These are among the best universities in the country by almost any academic measure other than the narrow one of required core courses used in this study (They don't even consider whether or not the courses are any good).
    Jeff,
    I'm not sure that I feel that some government entity should be involved in directing which courses an institution's students should be required to take, but I do see a very disturbing trend in our country's education system. It seems that most students come out of high school (at least the public high schools in my state) with no practical education on personal finance and no real understanding of how our state or federal governments work. Additionally, I see plenty of college graduates with very little understanding of our economy and our country's financial system. Take a listen to some of those knuckleheads occupying Wall Street as an example. For that matter, listen to some of those folks in the Tea Party demonstrations or even our elected representatives, many of whom were educated in our "best" institutions of higher learning. None of them understand our economy in the most basic way. I don't really have a solution to the problem, but I believe that if I were involved in the process of selecting "core" requirements at a university, things like basic economics, college algebra, American history, world geography and world religions would be some of the absolutes for all students. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but to my way of thinking, a college graduate should have a basic understanding in these areas, regardless of major. I would also focus on personal finance and civics in high school with a real focus on our Constitution. If even half of our population understood what is in the Constitution, we would be so much better off. And finally, I would do away with the foreign language requirement. It seemed like a good idea, but it just isn't working. Most of us had to take a couple of years of a foreign language and I would be shocked if 5% can actually understand the language we "learned". Let's put that time and effort into something useful.
    Sorry for the highjack. Just had to get it out.
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    Senior Member road kill's Avatar
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    Like I posted earlier.

    Like the real estate bubble, the education bubble has popped.



    RK
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    Senior Member limiman12's Avatar
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    Forget what people should be required to learn for a perspective employer...... i want them to have some basic knowledge of things like government, economics, history etc to be a decent member of society. I would argue that some home economics might be a good thing so that everyone does not point to the big bad bank for putting them in a 200k house on my 25k salary with 100k in student debt they incurred while going to a private college to get a low paying job (teacher or social worker). God forbid people learn how to look past sound bites and analyze a situation based on a basic understanding of econ and history.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Gerry Clinchy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by limiman12 View Post
    Forget what people should be required to learn for a perspective employer...... i want them to have some basic knowledge of things like government, economics, history etc to be a decent member of society.

    The needs of society and employers overlap ... first one must know how to read and write; and have basic mathematics. If students are not getting that in their first 12 years, then colleges should, indeed, make sure that they "catch up" in the 2-4 years there.

    In our college, freshmen started the year, before choosing courses, by taking proficiency exams in English, math, and the foreign language of their choice (if applicable). You could "skip" over the 101 courses if your proficiency level merited doing so. The freshmen were a diverse group from a broad spectrum of schools, rural areas, big city schools, and elite prep schools.

    I would argue that some home economics might be a good thing so that everyone does not point to the big bad bank for putting them in a 200k house on my 25k salary with 100k in student debt they incurred while going to a private college to get a low paying job (teacher or social worker). God forbid people learn how to look past sound bites and analyze a situation based on a basic understanding of econ and history.
    Even just good math skills could enlighten them about the mortgage and studen debt scenario!

    I'm thinking history would be very important. History shows that communism was a failure, and socialism is closely related. Was it Churchill who said, "The Americans will always find the right solution ... after they've tried everything else."
    G.Clinchy@gmail.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by limiman12 View Post
    Forget what people should be required to learn for a perspective employer...... i want them to have some basic knowledge of things like government, economics, history etc to be a decent member of society. I would argue that some home economics might be a good thing so that everyone does not point to the big bad bank for putting them in a 200k house on my 25k salary with 100k in student debt they incurred while going to a private college to get a high paying part time job (teacher) & for the results well paying (social worker). God forbid people learn how to look past sound bites and analyze a situation based on a basic understanding of econ and history.
    Fixed it for you! . This has been cussed & discussed on this forum .
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