NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Higher Education Beats K-12 Education

December 29, 2014

While American higher education is criticized for being expensive, bureaucratic and ideologically one-sided, it does have certain advantages over K-12 education, contends Jenna Ashley Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

What are those advantages? Robinson explains:

  • College students can learn at their own pace, advancing quickly or moving slowly to best fit those students' needs.
  • Students and/or their parents pay the high cost of college tuition, giving them more of a stake in outcomes. This means that they seek the best-value schools and feel more invested in their success.
  • College professors have degrees in their fields of expertise, rather than in teaching. They are schooled in subject matter, whereas K-12 teachers learn more about teaching techniques.
  • Students can attend the college of their choice, whereas K-12 students in public schools are limited in their choice of school based on their geographic location. Unlike most K-12 schools, colleges must compete for students.
  • College professors are paid based on merit, earning different salaries based on their performance. K-12 teachers are largely paid based on their number of years in education.

Robinson calls K-12 schools "monopolistic," whereas "[m]arkets do operate in higher education."

Source: Jenna Ashley Robinson, "5 things American colleges and universities get right," Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, December 8, 2014.


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