10 Highest-Priced Public Colleges for Out-of-State Students
1. University of Michigan—Ann
2. University of Virginia
3. University of California—
4. College of William and Marry
5. University of California—Santa
6. University of California—Santa
7. University of California—
8. University of Vermont
9. University of California—Los
10. Virginia Military Institute
US News and World Report
The Opposition to BDS, Jonathan Marks, Commentary, December 10
Higher Ed Is Part of the Problem, Ronald Brownstein, National Journal, December 10
Prove Yourself, Young Programmer, Via Meadia, December 10
Tenured radicals cannot be trusted with our academic freedom, William Jacobson, Legal Insurrection, December 10
The Real College Barrier for the Working Poor , Sara Goldrick-Rab, Inside Higher Ed, December 10
Questions on Performance Funding, David Tandberg and Nicholas Hillman, Inside Higher Ed, December 10
MORE COMMENTARIES >>>
A Wolf at the Door of Academe
By Peter Wood
The wolf at the door of American higher education is online
instruction. Traditional residential
colleges hear it snuffling at the threshold.
They know they are vulnerable. They cannot compete on price. Online is intrinsically cheaper. They compete awkwardly on utility. Online instruction is a more efficient way to
convey knowledge and skills in a lot of fields.
Pushing back against the wolf is, of course, not the only option. There are plenty of lycanophiles who would
like to see wolves roam freely in the groves of academe. Creative destruction is their abiding vision,
and they see our older forms of colleges and universities as a herd of
superannuated antelopes in need of a good culling.
And then there are those, like Harvard Business School professor Clayton
Christensen, who have vigorously argued that colleges should make friends
with and domesticate the wolf. They
argue the future of higher education lies in making online learning an integral
part of the traditional college curriculum.
The wolf will happily take its place on the hearth and play tenderly
with the children. Christensen's
argument gains force from the many colleges and universities that have already
created their own online programs or accepted online courses elsewhere for
December 8, 2013
Last week, James Taranto penned
an extraordinary exposé of the continuing war on due process in college sexual
assault tribunals. ("This is the kind of
story I became a journalist to write," he tweeted.)
Taranto told the story of Joshua Strange, an Auburn student expelled for sexual
assault, based on thin, arguably non-existent, evidence, and after a process
that resembled a kangaroo court.
While the broad narrative of events at Auburn was depressingly familiar,
the case had a few distinctive features. First, the accuser in the Auburn case
filed a police report--meaning that a criminal investigation into her claims
occurred, which turns out to be important when analyzing the significance of
the case. Second, in an unprecedented development in recent college sexual
assault cases, the local prosecutor attended the college hearing--as the
accuser's legal representative. Third, OCR's "Dear Colleague" letter had a
direct impact on events--Strange was informed that in response to the OCR
mandate, Auburn lowered its evidentiary threshold so that accused students
could be deemed rapists on a "preponderance of evidence" (50.01%) basis.
Finally, and perhaps most important, Taranto was, to my knowledge, the
first journalist to obtain a full recording of a college sexual assault
proceeding. (Imagine the appropriate outrage if court hearings for criminal or
civil offenses were routinely closed to the public.) The results suggested that
Auburn had no business investigating any sexual assault claim. Taranto
correctly noted that the case demonstrated yet again the dangers of university
tribunals purporting to decide criminal issues: "Ordinary
civil and criminal courts are immensely more competent to adjudicate
allegations of sexual harassment and violent crime, in open proceedings subject
to appellate review, without trampling the rights of the accused."
The proceedings featured a weak presiding officer (an Auburn librarian whose academic website gives
no evidence of his having legal training) who seemed uncertain of the
rules, and consistently deferred to two Auburn administrators who were
ideologically predisposed to believe that sexual assault accusers always tell
the truth. The process presumed guilt--not only could Strange not cross-examine
his accuser, but these two adult students were separated by a curtain during
the proceedings. What possible rationale could exist for sheltering the accuser
behind a shroud? The tactic makes sense only if the university believed, from
the start, that the accuser was telling the truth, and therefore could be harmed
by simply being in the same room as a perpetrator.
It turns out that the university had scant reason for such a belief. As
Taranto reports, upon hearing the evidence, the grand jury found no probable
cause. But examining the same information, albeit skewed through the
guilt-presuming procedure the university employed, the Auburn tribunal
concluded that Strange had committed sexual assault. He was expelled from
school and has been barred from the campus for life.
It's a scandal whenever a university--a public university, no less--fails
to provide reasonable due process when a student is faced with expulsion,
especially since the expulsion will brand him a rapist for the rest of his
life, affecting future educational and job prospects. But the greater scandal
in the Auburn case is that the system worked as intended, from the standpoint
of both the university and the OCR.
An Auburn spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the
Strange case, though the two administrators who testified
in the Strange case remain in their positions, from which they presumably can
provide testimony against future Auburn students. The spokesperson did inform Taranto that
"we feel confident that each and every student who
participates in the process is afforded notice and opportunity to be heard on
all matters pertaining to the specific case under review." A public university
in the state branding a rapist a student for whom a grand jury couldn't even
find probable cause represents the process working?
The Strange case also illustrates how the OCR wants sexual assault
tribunals to function. In line with OCR's strong suggestion, Auburn prevents
accused students from cross-examining their accuser, even in a case like this
one where, it appears, the accuser was the only witness. In line with OCR's
mandate, Auburn brands students rapists on the basis of a
Perhaps most troubling, the Strange case shows the type of procedure
that OCR envisions in the relatively rare instances when an accuser simultaneously
files complaints with the police and with the university. As
the OCR made clear in its settlement with SUNY, universities cannot accept
the conclusion of trained law enforcement that there's no probable cause (as
occurred at Auburn) or that the accuser has lied (as in the Caleb Warner case).
Instead, the university must (as it did in the Strange case) conduct a parallel
investigation. And so we get the absurd outcome of a university concluding that
a student is a rapist based on "expert" testimony that an accuser crying is
evidence that a rape occurred, even as a grand jury reached the opposite
I'd like to think that an exposé like Taranto's will stimulate more
media coverage of the OCR's efforts to diminish due process on campus. In an
ideal world, legislators would respond to the Auburn case by finally exercising
some oversight of OCR. Will any do so?
in the Harvard Crimson last week reported on a meeting at the university that
produced an exchange that should surprise nobody. Professor Harvey Mansfield
rose in the midst of a session with faculty and administrators to pose a
"A little bird has told me that
the most frequently given grade at Harvard College right now is an A-. If
this is true, or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this
faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards."
Dean Michael Smith answered with the
fact that the median grade is A-, but the most commonly-awarded grade is a straight
What does it mean when in a system
with a five-part scale, with pluses and minuses added in, the most popular
measure is the very top? It means that the scale is poorly calibrated and
unreliable. The solution, of course, is to revise it downward so that the
median score falls more closely to the center. IQ tests do the same all
the time (to account for the Flynn Effect of rising scores), and the SAT has
been re-normed in the other direction, too, when scores fell (mostly) in the
The A, B, C, D, F system also has to
be changed--but that isn't going to happen. it can't, the pressures of
grade inflation are too strong. Think of what happens if a professor, on
his or her own, alters the yardstick. Students howl and lower course
evaluations, department chairs get complaints, parents call the dean.
Nobody accepts the principled professor, who ends up suffering the most.
So, the change has to be systemic,
but that means entire colleges, or at least departments, have to set limits on
the number of high grades allowed for each course. Princeton did this a
few years ago, as the Crimson article mentions. It told professors to
restrict A grades to 35 percent of the students in undergrad courses. I'm
not sure how the Princeton policy has worked out, but one can immediately spot
its weakness. One-third A grades leaves two-thirds for B+ grades, which
might still get you to A- as the median. If outsiders complain about the
minor impact fo the 35-percent rule, Princeton can always reply, "Well,
these are Princeton students, you know."
I have another suggestion.
Let's add another grade to the transcript besides the individual grade.
For each course listed, show the student's grade and also show the
average grade in the course. it would give employers looking over a
student's record a better picture of ability. A B+ in a course with an
average grade of B looks a lot better than an A- in a course with an average
grade of A.
The averages might also put pressure
on professors to exert a little more discrimination in their assessment.
If they give all A's to students, ambitious enrollees might themselves
complain and pressure administrators to demand grade deflation, the opposite of
what we've seen in the last four decades. Indeed, reform here may have to
come from the students themselves, the ones who have to bear the impact of the
policy. As the recipients, they have the most to gain or lose from the
system, which gives them the moral standing the demand change.
December 6, 2013
Cross posted from E21.
As student loan debt has almost tripled since 2004, start-up
companies such as Upstart and Pave offer a solution. These firms allow
those with excess money to invest in people and their careers. Graduate
students from competitive universities are especially attractive targets for
investors. As their business models continue to develop, they could help
alleviate problems in the broader student loan market.
such as Upstart and Pave offer a promising new concept that has already begun
successful operation without using taxpayer money. Upstart raised an initial
round of funding of $1.75 million from such prominent backers as Google
Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Kleiner Perkins. This stands in sharp
contrast to the government's $169 billion a year programs of Pell Grants,
student loans, and tax credits.
student debt exceeds $1 trillion and 40 million graduates are saddled with an
average of $25,000. For those who fail to graduate, the burden is even heavier.
Nine percent of graduates default within two years, and overall delinquency is
15 percent. The need for steady income to repay this debt forces young people
to find employment as soon as possible instead of looking for career paths that
are right for them.
Upstart and Pave, investors are repaid through percentages of borrowers'
monthly salaries for a period of up to ten years. To determine individual
rates, the companies use algorithms that calculate likely future earnings based
on university, major, grades, and professional experience. This rate usually
lies between 4 percent and 7 percent of income and enables investors to make
informed decisions while weighing risk and return.
Continue reading "Investing in Human Capital--Literally" »
December 5, 2013
The disappointing early performance of MOOCs has tempered
predictions of academia's wholesale collapse. So where will these behemoths find
their place in the landscape of higher-ed? Well-financed by investors, relatively
popular among administrators, and attractive to millions of course registrants,
MOOCs are not likely to face extinction. Their future probably lies somewhere
between adapting to a niche clientele and rebounding to capture part of the
original demographic they targeted at their genesis two years ago. We can
imagine three possible outcomes:
- MOOCs will become advanced technical schools and
outsourced employee training. That's the conclusion
of Walter Russell Mead, and it's the direction Sebastian Thrun is
taking Udacity, after reckoning that MOOCs had "failed" as rivals to brick
and mortar BA programs. The new MOOC-ish master's degree program at Georgia
Tech is an example: AT&T is a major funder of the Georgia Tech initiative,
planning to send its employees through the program and to hire additional
high-performing program graduates. Forbes reports
that a growing number of businesses are authorizing MOOC versions of their
training courses. Others are launching MOOCs to educate their constituents. Maybe
MOOCs don't inspire rapt fascination with Tennyson the way a wizened literature
prof might, but they don't have to. Who said job training was interesting
- MOOCs will become a means of popularizing
intellectual culture for a middle-class audience. As University of Michigan
professor Jonathan Freedman writes in "MOOCs:
Usefully Middlebrow," we already had Reader's Digest versions of books,
game shows quizzing our history knowledge, and book clubs for the well-read but
untrained literature enthusiasts. Now we have MOOCs. They disseminate content
in respectable, if watered-down, versions of their counterpart college courses.
Sure, it's not college, but it's not comic books, either.
- MOOCs will encourage renewed interest in the
humanities, their techie origins notwithstanding. The liberal arts are a lot
harder to teach to big Internet classes, and student interest in taking and
actually finishing these courses is pretty low ("You can lead a horse to
water..." Edward Luce reminds
us at the Financial Times). But
MOOCs don't need to be a magic bullet. If they can save students some money and
pry at least some of them away from a false financial fascination with science
BAs, they'll be counted a success. MOOCs can become piece of a larger rebellion
against the reign of STEM fields, where job prospects are shrinking.
It's important to remember that MOOCs are mediums, not entities,
and they can be used to convey anything from presidential biographies to
personal finance techniques. Any of these three scenarios, or others, is still
December 4, 2013
The most common mark given at Harvard College these days is
an A, and the median grade is A-.
This information, from Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay
M. Harris, came out in response to a question from Professor Harvey Mansfield
at the monthly meeting yesterday of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Mansfield is locally famous for issuing two sets of marks--one in accord with
the dictates of modern grade inflation, the other the uninflated mark each
student actually earns.
This new information raises the question of what a Harvard
student would have to do to drop all the way down to the nether reaches of
grading and get a mark of B+.
December 2, 2013
Michelle Obama would like more students to attend
a speech on November 12, which was immediately recognized by the media as a
major shift in policy emphasis, Mrs. Obama told students at a Washington, D.C.
high school that the administration would work hard to increase the number of
low-income students who pursue college degrees.
Mrs. Obama also revived the
President's call to make the United States the nation with the highest
percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020. President Obama made this goal part of his
first major address to Congress back in February 2009.
Meanwhile, it seems that young people are growing more
hesitant about "investing" in a college education. The same day that Michelle was emphasizing to
the students at Bell Multicultural High School that "my story can be your
story," the New York Times ruminated
about a College Board/National Journal
poll that showed that "more than half of 18- to 29-year-olds...said a college
degree was not needed to be successful."
article by "Economic Scene" columnist Eduardo Porter quickly set the record
straight. "Workers with a bachelor's degree still earn almost twice as much as
high school graduates." But claims like this come increasingly with
qualifications. Not so long ago, reporters
blithely cited the "million-dollar" lifetime premium that allegedly came with a
college degree. That meme, which also
started with the College Board, had been debunked over and over by economists,
but has refused to die. The American
Council on Education (ACE) was still circulating a version of it in
fall 2011. But the supposed premium
has been shrinking in other estimates, as in this Kentucky
study that puts it as $600,000. Porter sets it still lower, at $365,000.
Continue reading "Michelle Obama: Get Thee to College" »
December 1, 2013
Most parents, college graduates, or even legislators could be excused
for lacking a detailed sense of the state of affairs on college campuses today,
since higher education policy issues rarely emerge in the mainstream media.
This pattern makes the one-sided coverage in the one newspaper--the New York Times--that regularly covers
higher-ed issues especially objectionable.
lengthy item from POLITICO, a publication that until recently has paid
scant attention to higher-ed questions, has done little to improve the
situation. Here's how POLITICO's Caitlin Emma opens her article: "The Obama administration is more aggressive than predecessors in
handling campus-based sexual violence, but advocates say the Education
Department still isn't going far enough on several basic fronts."
It's quite true that the current OCR has been
"more aggressive than predecessors" in seeking to weaken the due process
protection of students accused of sexual assault. But surely Emma can't
suggest--and without supplying any evidence to substantiate her insinuation--that
diminishing due process protections translates into enhanced aggressiveness in
handling "sexual violence."
Like most reporters who have covered this
general issue, Emma doesn't describe the actual campus procedures about which
the "advocates" have complained. She went out of her way to downplay the OCR's agenda.
She described the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter as merely "stressing that
schools must eliminate sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and address its
effects. They must take immediate action, protect the complainant, provide a
grievance procedure for students and take a number of other actions." No
mention of the lower burden of proof, or the mandate for double jeopardy
through allowing accusers to appeal, or the OCR's discouragement of allowing an
accused student to cross-examine his accuser. These highly controversial
provisions are, instead, itemized as "a number of other actions." And since
most POLITICO readers don't come from the higher-ed world, it's highly unlikely
that they would have recognized Emma's misrepresentation.
As for the second part of Emma's opening, it's quite true that
"advocates" have demanded even more aggressive anti-due process activism from
OCR. In Emma's portrayal, the ideological spectrum on campus matters ranges only
from OCR to these "advocates." Even
Inside Higher Ed's Allie Grasgreen,
who generally serves as little more than a stenographer for the OCR and
anti-due process campus "activists," normally includes a token quote from FIRE
(albeit coupled with negative framing) in her articles.
Yet in 1500 words, Emma couldn't find room to quote one civil
libertarian, or defense attorney, or falsely accused student, or even one
current university general counsel. Instead, POLITICO readers hear from the assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education; an
"advocate" who's filed a Title IX complaint against UConn; the vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law
Center ("we'd still like to see [OCR] go further"); an AUAW lobbyist; a state
Title IX coordinator; senior director of advocacy at the Women's Sports
Foundation; and attorney Brett Sokolow, who has dismissed FIRE's concern with due process and civil liberties with the claim that "all FIRE has done is to demonstrate that it could stand
up for the rights of rapists everywhere."
Balanced reporting, POLITICO-style.