Wednesday, May 28, 2014

(De-) Grading College

President Obama has announced a new initiative that will rate colleges. The program which The New York Times calls a "radical new effort," hopes to "hold America’s 7,000 colleges and universities accountable by injecting the executive branch into the business of helping prospective students weigh collegiate pros and cons." The word business seems operative here since the "college process" has become a hugely expensive enterprise and a hugely profitable one for certain companies (think: test prep, tutors, private counselors, college visits and tours, glossy brochures and videos and other arms of the octopus we might call the Educational-Industrial Complex). But should the federal government really be involved in the business of college?



According to the article, the proposed rating system "would compare schools on factors like how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating." Are these really the best ways to measure education? Is the life of the mind reducible to a cost-benefit analysis? 

This rating system seems to have considerable overlap with our recent discussion of social class and social capital. Who benefits from such a system? Who loses? 

Shockingly, a top Obama official said the rating system would be "like rating a blender," a flawed analogy that might not have been created by someone with a humanities background. In the current education climate, however, the humanities degrees may be devalued more than ever before since they don't promise the highest salaries on the "investment" of education. A recent article decrying the drop in Humanities degrees cites these disturbing trends: "In 1991, 165 students graduated from Yale with a B.A. in English literature. By 2012, that number was 62. In 1991, the top two majors at Yale were history and English. In 2013, they were economics and political science. At Pomona this year, they were economics and mathematics." What accounts for this sudden and drastic shift in choice of majors?


Now you may not be as troubled as I am by the current trend away from the humanities and for the "bang-for-your-buck" mentality that is steering students toward lucrative fields such as business and engineering. But, my fear is that such students are being led unwittingly toward the post-college payoff of big salaries without ever considering the larger purposes of education: ethical and humanistic understanding of ourselves and our world. Remember the W.E.B. DuBois quote? "The purpose of education is not to make men carpenters, but to make carpenters men."

13 comments:

Griffin Powell said...

I think measuring the colleges through a mostly monetary lens shouldn't be the focus of how colleges are rated, though I think it's good information to know. With college being so expensive, and the rising students leaving college with debt, I think money has to be a factor of rating colleges. When applying, I think the students should have the right to know which colleges are making kids money after they leave etc. Though the primary focus of higher education should be the learning of llfe skill and expierneces, it is no longer an option to ignore monetary costs for the majority of people.

Shannon said...

When I read this I thought of two things: the first was just how complicated it would be to "rate" colleges, especially when we have hundreds of different kinds of schools filled with different kinds of people. The second was that our government is much different in its involvement in the school system, in the sense that here in the U.S., unlike say, Germany or Sweden, the government does not pay for us to to to college. That alone seems a bit strange when Obama is taking about becoming more "involved".

William E. said...

The federal government seems to want to take part in this because it might show the world just how advanced the US is in terms of education while also providing a financial incentive along the road. I think the federal government can do whatever they please with colleges as long as they are not disrupting or affecting the learning of the students and professors. If the USFG isn't affecting anything, they should be able to do as they please because there are already tons of online sites that rank colleges from the factors listed in the blog. On that note though just like Shannon mentioned above it seems almost impossible to rank schools because there are so many different factors and most of the time, the best overall ranked school isn't the best fit for a perspective student.

Like OC mentioned, humanities degrees are increasingly on the decline since the 90s. I think this can be attributed to the direct desire for kids to want to make money right out of college. Some kids, like Griffin mentioned, tend to go to schools that will make them the most possible money right out of school instead of choosing a school with programs they are interested in, it has become a race to the highest possible salary, rather than a race to do something that interests you.


Alex Wyse said...

I agree with Griffin – I think that kids should have a right to know this information, but the monetary gains should not be the only thing that colleges are rated on. One concern I have with this program is that the Ivies and other elite schools will have an unfair advantage over other institutions. Many very powerful people have ties to these elite institutions, and I fear that these people might use their power to get their school up higher on the list than it should be. Yes, these elite schools might have better cost-benefit statistics than other institutions, but the fact that they are even using this statistic in the first place shows who is controlling this new program of rating colleges. Other schools might have their strengths in other areas that are not addressed in this rating system, and so it seems unfair that they are only being assessed in one area that favors certain institutions.

We said in class that the W.E.B. DuBois quote meant that knowledge is in itself a reward, and I think that we are really getting away from this idea. The fact that the government set up a ratings system like this shows that they value monetary gains over everything else, and I think that the declining number of Humanities degrees shows that the student population is buying into this as well.

Josh Sussman said...

Personally, I find this new initiative to be outrageous. For many of the same reasons that I do not think New Trier should have class rankings (which NT did have in the not too distant past), I think the USFG has no business in ranking universities. First off, I think ranking systems create unnecessary stress and competitiveness for students. Also, as Shannon and Will mentioned, schools are being superficially graded based on only a small number of factors that do not accurately assess the quality of education at universities. To me, this new system is promoting the false idea that the sole purpose of a college education is to make more money in the future.

Madi M said...

I agree with Josh completely and even think that this initiative is a waste of time because it is crazy that Obama's new ranking system is all about the monetary benefits of college, when really money is the reason this initiative is pointless in the first place. There are so many ranking systems that are available and very well liked by many people, including myself, in the college process. For example, I use college prowler and many other websites, as well as the "Fiske Guide to Colleges," and am very satisfied, as are others because they are all very popular. There is no need or demand for more means of finding information and rankings of colleges. I am feeling overwhelmed already with the content available and it includes the rankings focused on monetary rewards as well as other types for different colleges. We are trillions of dollars in debt and we are thinking about using our resources for a useless program.

Lisi Weilandt said...

After reading this post and Shannon's comment specifically, I remember a quote that I have parroted back to my parents after every college counselor meeting, "College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won." I think this phrase is true, but things like college ratings make it difficult for me to believe that my parents really agree with me. These ratings put unnecessary labels on where someone is going to spend 4 years of their life. It is hard to tell where someone is going to get the best experience based on the ACT scores of other people who have gone there and the "rating" of the school compared to other schools in the country. We encourage individuality, but define people by how their school compares to others based on test scores. Something doesn't seem right here...

Jack O said...

OC,this is a very interesting blog. Particularly because we, as an American Studies class, are deeply invested in the college process at the moment. I never thought about how much money the ACT test prep centers make, or signing up for college visits. But, it's an enterprise, and just like any enterprise money is the main goal. I like to call it the College-Industrial Complex. College used to be an affordable luxury, and now it is an un-affordable necessity. What about vocational schooling? What about not even going to college at all? These are all things that people should consider when trying to plan out their life. Would you rather be deep in debt, or have a low paying, low income level job. Then you could maybe progress through the classes, and end with a high paying job. Debt doesn't go away unless you pay it.

Callie Walsh said...

I was beginning to comment on this post... until I realized I was writing a full fledged blog post myself! Check it out if you want, and discover why I think the surge in college tuition costs has caused a"sudden and drastic shift in [students'] choice of majors".

http://likeanamericancw.blogspot.com/2014/06/girls-go-to-college-to-get-more.html

S. Bolos said...

Ah, Excellent Sheep.

Thy Nguyen said...

Chuối tiêu là chuối gì?Chuối là thực phẩm, trái cây nhiều giá trị dinh dưỡng đối với sức khỏe, không chỉ là trái cây ngon mà chuối còn mang lại nhiều tác dụng bổ ích cho cơ thể.
Sử dụng bao cao su gai có sao không?Một trong những cách làm tăng khoái cảm cho bạn nữ là sử dụng bao cao su có gân, gai, bi, râu trong khi quan hệ
Sảy thai tự nhiên nên kiêng gì?Sảy thai tự nhiên có nghĩa là thai bị mất tự nhiên trước khi em bé đạt đến đỉnh điểm của sự phát triển thai (em bé) có thể tồn tại. Điều này thường có nghĩa là bất kỳ mang thai bị mất trước khi 23 tuần
Nguyên nhân sảy thai tự nhiên là gì?Sảy thai có lẻ là vấn đề mà hầu hết các bà mẹ đều lo sợ, đặc biệt với những trường hợp sảy thai tự nhiên. Có lẻ câu hỏi Nguyên nhân sảy thai tự nhiên là gì? sẽ là câu hỏi mà nhiều bà mẹ hoang mang, lo lắng và không biết phải làm như thế nào
Sảy thai sớm là như thế nào?Sảy thai sớm là hiện tượng phổ biến đến nỗi mà nhiều bác sỹ xem đó là điều bình thường trong những tuần đầu mang thai.
Nốt rùi trên cơ thể phụ nữ nói lên điều gì?Mỗi nốt ruồi đều mang lại những ý nghĩa khác nhau, có thể đoán được một phần nào tính cách , vận số của mỗi người.
Chống lão hoá da mặt bằng thiên nhiênCác chất tiết có trong chuối chín làm cho tế bào da ở mặt nở ra, vì vậy, làm mặt nạ bằng chuối chín, rồi sau đó rửa mặt bằng cà chua chín sẽ giúp cho da mặt căng và tươi mát
Chống lão hoá da tuổi 40 bằng cách nàoBước sang tuổi 40 đây là lúc mà làn da của bạn có dấu hiệu lão hóa rõ nhất và dễ nhận thấy bằng mắt thường nhất.
Măng khô nấu với gì ngon?Măng khô là thực phẩm quen thuộc trong các bữa cơm gia đình, nhắc đến măng khô chắc hẳn ai cũng nghĩ ngay tới món Vịt nấu măng phải không nhỉ?
Nên kiêng ăn gì sau phẫu thuật mổ ruột thừaPhẫu thuật cắt bỏ ruột thừa là phương pháp điều trị chính. Nếu ruột thừa chưa bị vỡ thì tiến hành phẫu thuật bằng phương pháp nội soi, còn ruột thừa đã bị vỡ giải phóng ổ viêm ra ổ bụng thì cần tiến hành mổ rạch
Bị bệnh loãng xương nên ăn gì?Loãng xương là căn bệnh khá phổ biến ở nữ giới, nhất là ở lứa tuổi sau 50. Tuổi càng cao thì tỷ lệ mắc bệnh loãng xương càng cao

max den said...

Amazingpost

Wayne Yee said...

If this rating really works so the American Colleges will be in the first line of International ratings through essay service reviews and more and more students would love to join American colleges.