Higher Ed Reform as a Confidence Game

On the editorial page of the May 15 edition the Toledo Blade, the editor criticizes the plans to reform higher education in Ohio, asserting in the headline: “This Is No Reform: Gov. John Kasich Is Only Making a Less Valuable Degree Accessible. What Kind Of Bargain Is That?”

Here are the opening paragraphs that establish the context:

“Governor John Kasich has a big education reform bill before the legislature—House Bill 474—that is said to have a good chance of passage.

“Beware big complicated pieces of legislation based on big sweeping ideas.

“The intent is usually good, but riders, second thoughts, and addendum sneak in that can do a lot of harm because they have not been fully vetted—not thought through.

“One such add­on in this bill is a provision to allow community colleges to grant four­year degrees, which the governor says will help greatly with ‘access’ and ‘affordability.’ That sounds compassionate and democratic and frugal—and it is all wrong.

“A kid who can cut it at Bowling Green State University needs to be given a chance to go to Bowling Green, not told: You are poor, just get a bachelor’s degree at Owens Community College.

“That’s not access, it’s condescension.”

The editor then delineates the very different missions of universities and community colleges and the consequent differences in the credentials and the professional focuses of the faculty at the institutions.

This discussion leads to a point that is seldom made: namely, the selectivity of most universities in admissions and the standards reflected in completion rates make universities more “elitist” than most community colleges and, furthermore, that elitism becomes one of the primary measures of the economic value of a degree:

“A university education that is not selective and not based on merit and excellence . . . is not a university education at all and not worth very much.

“Economic worth is the ultimate test here. Almost all ideas and concepts are best tested in a marketplace.”

The editorial concludes:

“The governor’s argument is that he is helping people who do not have very much money by making college affordable. Actually he is only making a less valuable degree accessible. What kind of bargain is that? That’s not democratizing; it’s telling people to settle for  less.

“Real reform would be making that educational experience available to those who can cut it at affordable prices.

“The governor’s reform does nothing about controlling tuition hikes or regulating usurious student loans

“Telling students to just settle, for something that is not truly university education, because that is what they can afford is not reform, but determinism.”

 

The complete editorial is available at: http://www.toledoblade.com/Editorials/2016/05/15/This-is-no-reform.html.

 

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