A recently-published book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, by New American educational analyst Kevin Carey, has received a lot of media attention. Carey predicts that most colleges as we know them today will likely disappear, and be replaced by online courses that will be widely and freely available to all students. In an op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I explained why Carey’s prediction is not likely to come to fruition, and if it did, why it would be bad for the nation.
The Chronicle of Higher Education website this morning had a feature article titled “The $6 Solution,” which focuses on a college access issue known as “undermatching.” Undermatching is the notion that some high-achieving students, usually those from low-income families, enroll in colleges that are less-selective in admissions and below their potential skill level. The reason undermatching matters, according to those who are researching the phenomenon, is because attending less-selective colleges generally lowers the odds that a low-income student will complete a college degree.
Even before this article in the Chronicle, undermatching had received quite a bit of publicity. A front-page article on the phenomenon in The New York Times last March was followed by a piece in the Sunday Review section of the same paper a couple of weeks later. In January, President Obama held a White House Summit on college access, where undermatching was prominently featured (the photo above is from that summit).
I’ve written in the past about the hysteria surrounding student loans, and the focus in the media about how student loans are the next “bubble.” I recently published an op-ed in the Answer Sheet blog on education of The Washington Post in which I attempted to counter some of the rhetoric with facts about student loans. The piece received a number of comments, most of them critical, so I wrote a response which I expect to be published there sometime later this week.More recently, Yahoo published a story about one family in Massachusetts who had racked up more than half a million dollars in student loan debt, most of it in Parent PLUS loans, to send the first three of their four children to private colleges. I saw the article when a friend of mine posted it on Facebook, and after reading the story I posted a comment that said, “There is so much wrong with this article, I don’t even know where to start.” He followed up, and asked if I would be willing to explain my response in more detail. I did, and that response received many comments as well. So in the interest of sharing my response more broadly, I am including an edited version of my comments here. These comments will make the most sense if you have read the Yahoo article, so I hope you’ll take the opportunity to do that.
The White House yesterday announced a new series of proposals to force colleges and universities to do a better job to prevent sexual assaults on campuses, and to do more to support the victims of assaults when they do occur. The proposals came from a high-level task force the president created in January (it contained three cabinet secretaries) to address an issue that has received intense scrutiny both on college campuses, as well as in the media, in the last year or so.
A key finding of the task force, as reported in The New York Times, is that, “one in five female college students has been assaulted, but that just 12 percent of such attacks are reported.” As a father with one daughter in college, and a second heading there in the future, these numbers are disturbing. It is clear that we in higher education need to heed the call for reform.
This week I had the opportunity to testify at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The hearing was titled “Making College Affordability a Priority: Promising Practices and Strategies.” This committee of the Senate, long chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts until his death a few years ago, has held a number of hearings on the topic of college affordability in recent years in response to concerns raised in the media, by students and parents, and by policymakers at the state and federal level. The committee is now chaired by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, with Mike Enzi of Wyoming the ranking minority member. The hearing came in the middle of a vacation I had planned in New York City, where I was attending a number of Broadway shows. This was certainly a very different type of theater experience.
This was my first time testifying to a Senate Committee; my three previous trips to Capitol Hill as a witness were on the House side of the Capitol. I was joined on the panel by three college presidents: Steven Leath of Iowa State University, Jim Murdaugh of Tallahassee Community College, and Thomas Snyder of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. Also on the panel was Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation.