National Universities Where the Most Students Live on Campus

1. Harvard University
2. Princeton University
3. California Institute of
4. Columbia University
5. Stanford University
6. Massachusetts Institute of
7. St. Mary’s University of
8. Yale University
9. Dartmouth College
10. Vanderbilt University

Source: US News and World Report



How much are college students learning?, Ben Wildavsky, CNN, April 18
Oh, No, Not Another College Tour!, Marek Fuchs, WSJ, April 17
The Many Ways in Which The New Book About the Duke Lacrosse Case is Wrong, Stuart Taylor Jr., New Republic, April 15
No Silver Bullet, Hunter R. Boylan, Inside Higher Ed, March 18
Duke Lax Redux, Jonathan Last, April 17
How Much Regulation Is Just Right?, David R. Anderson, Inside Higher Ed, April 17



Texas Leads the Way on Higher-Ed Accountability
Thumbnail image for Texas capitol.jpg

By Thomas K. Lindsay

For years, Washington has failed to make universities accountable to the students and taxpayers funding them. This failure was epitomized by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, which forbade the Department of Education from creating a "student unit record system, an education bar code system, or any other system that tracks individual students over time." The bill, argued the New America Foundation's Kevin Carey, sought to "prevent public officials from asking honest questions about what, exactly, taxpayers are getting in exchange for their support." Though both Republicans and Democrats have recently called for accountability measures on the federal side, it's unclear that they'll make progress anytime soon.

Where Washington has failed, however, Texas already has succeeded. When it comes to Texas public higher education, knowing the truth could make you free--debt-free, that is, or, if not entirely free of debt, perhaps less burdened with it than the average college graduate today. 

Continue reading...


April 18, 2014

The Times and Sexual Assault at Florida State

The other day, the New York Times published a lengthy investigative piece on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Much of the article, written by Walt Bogdanich, has little to do with higher education, per se--the Tallahassee Police Department comes across very poorly. Winston come across even worse, since the Times reveals that he was involved in an incident with a second woman. The incident is described in extremely vague terms, but does not appear to have been an alleged sexual assault; that said, it's hard to believe that Winston could have won the Heisman Trophy if this article had appeared last November instead of this week.

The Times' treatment of Florida State, however, is more problematic. The Times doesn't challenge the local prosecutor's conclusion that there wasn't probable cause to bring charges against Winston--meaning that any fair disciplinary tribunal at FSU could not have found him guilty, even under the preponderance-of-evidence standard. Yet the paper seems eager to raise questions about the university's response, perhaps to fit the article's frame, prepped by myriad pieces from Richard Perez-Pena: that "the case has unfolded as colleges and universities across the country are facing rising criticism over how they deal with sexual assault, as well as questions about whether athletes sometimes receive preferential treatment."

The Times' lengthy article cites two additional cases other than Winston's. The first was mentioned only in passing, but appeared to reveal that the university treated sexual assault allegations seriously: "A Times review of sexual assault complaints handled by the campus police last year found that in one case, officers asked for the Potbelly's [a local bar] video when they were trying to identify a suspected assailant who had been seen at the bar." The article does not discuss anything more about the case.

The second involved a complaint from a mother of a student, who claimed that her daughter had been sexually assaulted at a fraternity. The mother said that "the university should take a harder stand on the men who are identified as having committed rapes." But the next line in the article reveals that "according to the campus police, the student had said she did not want officers to investigate the case." Even in these due process-unfriendly times on college campuses, universities can't punish students without even the semblance of an investigation.

The Times also published a chart showing that Florida State reported, on average, fewer sexual assaults than institutions of comparable size. But the university had a plausible response, noting that "83 percent of FSU's students live off-campus, where incidents are handled by the Tallahassee Police Department and are not required to be reported as part of the university's annual campus crime statistics." It's not clear why the Times didn't include this information; its chart includes bar graphs for around 30 schools, but identifies only two of them.

What about the Winston case? At best, here the Times paints an ambivalent picture regarding FSU. It describes the incident with the second woman, and includes the following passage: "A month before the rape accusation became public, the university's victim advocate learned that a second woman had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Mr. Winston, according to the prosecutor's office. The woman did not call it rape -- she did not say 'no' . . .  The victim advocate was concerned enough about the episode to have alerted Mr. Winston's first accuser."

This isn't the action of a university administration giving preferential treatment to a student accused of sexual assault; if anything, it's the reverse, but what would be expected from an administrator ideologically sympathetic to a claim that rape allegations are always true. More broadly, the incident raises a question (basically unexplored by the Times): if universities are compelled to investigate, why aren't they given the tools for the job, such as subpoena power? In this instance, the Times seems to chastise FSU for not conducting a more thorough inquiry that the student herself did not want.

The Times also criticizes FSU for acting "in apparent violation of federal law" by not "promptly investigat[ing] . . . the rape accusation." A bit later in the article, Bogdanich observes, "If cases are reported, the university is obligated to investigate, regardless of what the police do." How universities are supposed to conduct parallel investigations (reaffirmed by OCR in the SUNY settlement) to police of criminal events--and the substantial drawbacks this mandate creates--is not something that the Times cares to explore. That's a story that wouldn't fit into the preferred frame.

April 17, 2014

The Real Common Core Story

I couldn't miss the eye-catching headline on Diane Ravitch's influential blog: "Schneider Schools Sol Stern on the Common Core." Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana teacher, is one of Ravitch's loyal allies in the education-reform wars. Ravitch thinks she's a great investigator and often cites her work. Actually, what Schneider excels at is promulgating conspiracy theories and using guilt-by-association to discredit those with whom she disagrees--such as supporters of the Common Core State Standards, whom she accuses of being duped and bribed by a corporate, anti-public school conspiracy led by Bill Gates, with an assist from President Barack Obama.

Schneider's 4,000-word denunciation of one of my recent articles here defending the Common Core characteristically didn't engage with my arguments, but it did provide a list of my nefarious "connections" and "involvements" with conservative organizations. With trumpets blaring, Schneider announced that the Manhattan Institute, where I am a senior fellow, has "a board of trustees noticeably heavy on hedge fund managers" and that "it should come as no surprise that MI promotes 'economic choice'; 'market-oriented policies,' and 'free market ideas.'" (Schneider doesn't seem to have noticed that most supporters of free markets in education actually oppose the Common Core.) She also levies the bizarre allegation that "MI is a cousin to the [conservative] American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)." In another feat of investigative journalism, Schneider offers an inside scoop about me and my wife: "Stern is not a teacher, nor has he ever been a teacher. But he is married to a Manhattan, NY, high school teacher. Not sure if she is under the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS)." And I'm not sure what that even means.

Another of my defects, according to Schneider, is that I have written favorably about E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge curriculum. She doesn't explain what's wrong with the Hirsch curriculum but instead alleges that Core Knowledge "was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's Amplify in 2013." If that were true, it would be considered a hanging offense in Schneider and Ravitch's leftist circles, because Amplify is a "for-profit" company and Rupert Murdoch is, you know, Rupert Murdoch. But the Murdoch allegation is false. Schneider probably borrowed it from Ravitch, who published it on her blog last year before retracting the claim when confronted with the truth--that the Core Knowledge curriculum was licensed to Amplify for the sole purpose of distributing it to schools around the country (a good thing for American children.)

Normally, it wouldn't occur to me to respond to Schneider's fact-deprived attack--except that it appeared on Ravitch's blog, which reaches tens of thousands of readers on some days. Ravitch is also the leader of a new left-wing education movement that has effectively exploited parental and teacher discontent with the Common Core Standards. It says something significant about the cause Ravitch now champions that she approves of Schneider's methods and uses them herself in criticizing my politically incorrect views on education reform.

Like Schneider, Ravitch believes that readers need to know the highlights of my life story and my affiliations in order to evaluate properly my position on the Common Core. She begins by noting that we first met when we were fellows at the Manhattan Institute, which is true. She then goes on to assert as an uncontested fact that after serving as "an editor at the leftwing Ramparts" in the 1960s, I "had a political-ideological conversion experience" and "became a zealous conservative." My transition from leftist radicalism toward a rather moderate conservatism took place gradually over many years and involved several important issues, including the defense of Israel, education, racial politics, and the failures of the welfare state. Tagging me as a "zealous" conservative is a calculated move on Ravitch's part. I am no more zealous about conservative ideas than Ravitch was when she served in the administration of the first President Bush. Like her, I support gay rights, abortion rights and other liberal positions. Indeed, if I really were a zealous conservative, I probably wouldn't support the Common Core.

Continue reading "The Real Common Core Story" »

Enforcing Conformity on Campus

"As Erin Ching, a student at 60-grand-a-year Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, put it in her college newspaper the other day: 'What really bothered me is the whole idea that at a liberal arts college we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion.' Yeah, who needs that? There speaks the voice of a generation: celebrate diversity by enforcing conformity...Young Erin Ching at Swarthmore College has grasped the essential idea: it is not merely that, as the Big Climate enforcers say, 'the science is settled', but so is everything else, from abortion to gay marriage. So what's to talk about? Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but 'safe spaces' where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, 'gender fluidity' and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas."

--Mark Steyn in The Observer

April 14, 2014

How to Save the Liberal Arts

Minding the Campus's recent symposium on the liberal arts' troubles was enlightening and timely. Many of the contributors offered stirring defenses of a classical, liberal arts education that emphasized the indispensability of the humanities to pursuing a rich and vibrant intellectual life.

I'd like to add several points to the discussion.

Symposium contributors properly shared a deep worry about the decline of the liberal arts in American higher education. As Cardinal John Henry Newman so eloquently put it, a liberal education "aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration[.]" A populace that is not liberally educated is a populace unfit for the demands of citizenship and serious engagement with the world at large.

Surely, a liberal education is about more than career preparation, and the notion that higher education is merely vocational training must be fiercely resisted. But in a world in which workers will hold an average of 11 different jobs in the course of their working lives, and in which employers themselves value a broad-based education over narrow vocational training, a liberal education is also about equipping students for productive lives in the workplace.

Finally, it is vital to remember that college and university trustees, as well as intelligent donors, can push back against curricular degeneration. By staying informed about curricular requirements, demanding presidential and faculty action, and asking for specific curricular changes, boards can exercise their fiduciary responsibility to preserve a strong liberal arts curriculum. The Beazley Foundation of Virginia has proven incredibly successful in incentivizing schools to restore their core curricula and supporting them financially in their efforts. Several schools have strengthened their core requirements after Beazley imposed a moratorium on its higher-ed grant-making pending colleges' development of a true core. ACTA works with college and university trustees, as well as intelligent donors, because they can be the Archimedean points by which we shift a whole university.

Though the status quo can often prove discouraging, it isn't time to throw in the towel. As T.S. Eliot wrote, there are times when "Virtues are forced upon us by our impudent crimes." It is still possible to restore the central place of the liberal arts in higher education, if we will only fight hard enough.

Oberlin Pulls the Trigger Warnings

In an unexpected burst of common sense, Oberlin College has tabled its new policy on "trigger warnings," the alerts that were scheduled to be given to sensitive students about upcoming class material that might traumatize them. The warnings directly concerned sex, violence and racism, but were called for across the board "to anything that might cause trauma," the Oberlin policy said. "Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression. Realize that all forms of violence are traumatic, and that your students have lives before and outside your classroom, experiences you may not expect or understand."

Given this broad mandate, it was not clear how professors could teach at all without delivering a blizzard of warnings to ease student discomfort. And like many college policies these days, it's not entirely clear whether the text was inadvertently close to satire or just satire itself.

The Messy Case Against the Heisman Winner

This past weekend, the Florida State football team held its spring football game. Most of the media attention focused on quarterback Jameis Winston, who had also spent much of his spring playing for the FSU baseball team.

Winston, of course, is by this point also well-known for events off the football field or the baseball diamond. In the midst of what became a national championship season, local media broke the news that the previous year, when he was a redshirt freshman, a woman had accused Winston of sexual assault. The alleged event occurred off campus, in a building not owned by Florida State. The Tallahassee Police Department conducted what could charitably be described as a less-than-enthusiastic investigation, and the case went cold.

Amidst the sudden media attention, the case was turned over to investigators from the local prosecutor's office; State's Attorney Willie Meggs announced that he did not believe that he could obtain a conviction of Winston. More important, he concluded that there was no probable cause to believe a crime occurred.

The linkage between the criminal standard of probable cause and the civil standard of preponderance-of-evidence (the requirement of the "Dear Colleague" letter) isn't exact. But it's hard to argue that someone whose conduct doesn't rise to the level of probable cause could be found guilty under a preponderance-of-evidence threshold. So there would seem to be little reason to believe that through any sort of fair proceeding at FSU, Winston could have been found guilty.

Yet according to recent news reports, the ever-aggressive Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an inquiry into Florida State. In at least one respect, this move is absurd: trained law enforcement officers, who conducted a competent if belated investigation, concluded that Winston's conduct did not rise to the level in which a university tribunal could possibly have convicted him.

There are, however, two ways in which the Winston case could be troubling. First, the somewhat desultory investigation seemingly carried out by the Tallahassee Police could be used (at least by defenders of the academic status quo) to undermine calls for sexual assault cases to be investigated by competent law enforcement officers--for rape to be treated as a crime--rather than untrained or poorly trained college officials, or by college investigators subjected to ideological pressure from the "rape culture" bureaucracy.

Second, at least based on available press reports (Deadspin has been the most comprehensive), the Winston affair seems to be an exception to the general rule on campus sexual assault matters. In general--as we've seen at Yale, or Vassar, or St. Joe's, or Occidental--the ideological climate on campus strongly tilts in favor of excessively aggressive prosecution of sexual assault claims, with minimal or token respect for due process for the accused student. It's possible, though, to imagine scenarios that go in the other direction--a claim against the son of a major donor, perhaps; or one directed against a star athlete at a school where athletics are very important.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the accuser's attorney has claimed that Florida State held a disciplinary hearing in the case without informing the accuser, a clear violation of the school's procedures. (An FSU spokesperson denied the assertion.) Meanwhile, Deadspin has a source claiming that Winston "basically took the fifth" in a disciplinary hearing, thereby (it appears) failing to put up any defense--yet wasn't punished by Florida State. Just as oddly, two of his (less talented) teammates did receive some sort of punishment from Florida State.

It's possible that FSU's handling of the Winston allegations did not conform to the university's guidelines. It's also possible that the reporting--driven by sources, it seems, at least somewhat hostile to Winston--has been incomplete. Either way, it's hard to argue that the Winston case bears much resemblance to how the typical university handles the typical sexual assault claim.

April 11, 2014

Let's Demand More From Students

It's an old canard that Asian students outperform Americans on international tests of math, science, and reading skills because their schools emphasize rote memorization. In contrast, American schools are said to foster creative thinking, which supposedly leads to better problem-solving skills.

However, new research upends this narrative. The New York Times reports that while American students score above the average of those in the developed world on exams assessing problem-solving skills, they trail countries like China, South Korea, and Japan. "Critics of the rankings on international tests have tended to characterize the high performance of Asian countries in particular as demonstrating the rote learning of facts and formulas[,]" the Times writes, "But the problem-solving results showed that students in the highest-performing nations were also able to think flexibly."

This news comes in light of another Times article highlighting the continued relevance of the SAT to many employers. Despite criticism of the test from the left and right, it seems that "elite employers like McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and Goldman Sachs" still want to know job applicants' SAT scores.

What does all this add up to?

At the very least, it indicates that those who oppose higher standards of academic excellence and standardized testing in the name of fostering critical thinking and problem solving ought to temper their crusade. Bringing more standardization to higher education by adopting stronger core curricula doesn't make our students less creative and adaptive--it makes them better problem solvers.

Standardized entrance exams like the SAT and ACT, moreover, don't turn students into test-taking robots, but unlike the grotesquely inflated transcripts from high schools and colleges, they provide a reliable metric of academic strength and weakness. And--remarkably--they do have predictive value that some very successful and effective industries value. It is no surprise that the Council for Aid to Education's new CLA+ exam had such a warm reception from business and media. The nation is hungry for valid and reliable ways to measure such core collegiate skills as formal writing, analytical reasoning, and critical thinking. 

The choice between teaching hard skills and fostering problem solving is a false one. So let's fight to keep standards high, use clear metrics, and raise a generation of young people whose skills are rivaled by none.



Minding the Campus is a website
of the Manhattan Institute

     · John Leo, Editor
     · Judah Bellin, Associate Editor


Texas Leads the Way on Higher-Ed Accountability
Thomas K. Lindsay

More Decline in the U. of Chicago Core
Adam Kissel

Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students?
Richard Vedder

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?: Part 2

The Liberal Arts Are in Trouble--Should We Celebrate?

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