June 30, 2006
The United States may have 8 of the top 10 colleges in the world, but as a commission set up by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings showed, thousands of students attend warehouse-like universities where they are not challenged.
The commission laid out several foundations for reform:
- Prepare students for the global economy. In 1970, the USA produced half the world's science and engineering doctorates. Unless changes are made, by 2010 that will fall to 15 percent.
- Improve data to help students assess colleges. Data on cafeterias and intramural sports is easier to find than answers to more important questions, such as whether some lower-cost state universities are as good as higher-priced private institutions.
- Prove students are learning. Most universities spurn the idea of measuring student learning with national tests despite employers saying that many students graduate with substandard skills.
- Improve affordability. College costs and enrollment increases will continue to outstrip state and federal higher education spending, leaving college out of reach for many smart enough, but without the means.
If the United States wants to remain as the world leader in higher education, educators would be wise to thicken their skins and assess the commission's findings, says Spellings. Even a country that's home to most of the world's best universities can improve
Source: Editorial, "Getting Schooled," USA Today, June 30, 2006
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