Obama plan won’t control college costs

President Obama’s plan to control college costs is heading in the wrong direction, writes Sara Goldrick-Rab on the Education Optimists. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has taken the lead on the planning, which means “yet another quasi-market solution that fails to grapple with the real problems.”

The current financial system hinges on the actions of students, prioritizing their consumer choice in the hopes that those choices will be well made.  It assumes that any problems with schools will be resolved by students turning away from them.  But this assumption is deeply flawed, not only because students do not (and cannot, and will not) make informed choices, but also because a segment of selective schools (and states) have manipulated aid policy for so long that the incentives are now distorted and they can do whatever they wish. And what they want is to maximize their own interests, which are rarely aligned with those of their students. So the problem, in other words, is really the behavior of schools and states.  Yes, students and families are an issue too, but their lack of information is just a fraction of the overall college cost problem.

Creating a ratings system for colleges and universities won’t help, Goldrick-Rab writes. college costsStudent choice is limited by “finances, family and geography.” If a local community college is “bad,” most students have no choice but to attend anyhow. If it closes, they may be forced to try a high-price for-profit institution.

A college ratings system is a waste of money, she writes. The Scorecard and Navigator sites “aren’t used or demonstrably effective,” and this will be no better. (Both Scorecard and Navigator were shut down when federal government furloughed “nonessential” staff. You’d think they could run automatically.)

Tying Title IV financial aid to institutional performance makes sense, writes Goldrick-Rab. Instead of turning to Duncan, Obama should rely on “experts who’ve crafted nuanced accountability systems with anti-creaming provisions.”

We can’t afford to make every institution Title IV eligible, she argues. Private colleges should have to re-compete for eligibility:

(a) the selective, elite private non-profits whose admissions criteria mean they do not serve any kind of public good while they establish “standards” for college quality that are conflated with great expense, and

(b) the for-profit institutions that set their tuition according the availability of federal aid.

President Obama should put public funds into public institutions of higher education, Goldrick-Rab argues. Funding them well will decrease students’ time to degree and raise the quality of instruction.

Next, create accountability metrics intended to lower costs and open access at the private non-profits (else cut them out of Title IV), and to lower costs and increase completion rates at the for-profits (again, or else they’re out).

The community colleges will “do their jobs better by having a decent amount of money to spend,” Goldrick-Rab concludes.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON October 7, 2013

Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Post a Comment

Malcolm Kirkpatrick

Professor Goldrick-Rab puts just enough factual material into her argument to make it superficially plausible. Her conclusion, that the Obama-Duncan policy will not control costs, is almost certainly correct. Her proposed alternative. “… put public funds into public institutions of higher education …” relies on unlikely and unstated assumptions about the motives of public-sector employees and the incentive structure that her policy alternative would create.

“Funding them (public-sector institutions) well will decrease students’ time to degree and raise the quality of instruction.”

Why is this “likely”? Tax-subsidized “public” schools already dominate the K-PhD education industry.

“President Obama’s plan to control costs …”
“To” is a statement of intention. Every education policy of the Obama administration (e.g., opposition to DC, Louisiana vouchers, “stimulus” funds to strapped school districts) indicates devotion to public-sector unions.

“Next, create accountability metrics intended to lower costs and open access at the private non-profits (else cut them out of Title IV), and to lower costs and increase completion rates at the for-profits (again, or else they’re out).”

Again, with “to”. The policy depends on wishful thinking which makes as much sense as “invent a prayer-powered flying carpet” as a solution to real-world traffic problems. The most effective accountability mechanism that humans have yet devised is a policy that gives to unhappy customers the power to take their business elsewhere. Internal accountability mechanisms will fail, as insiders have a stronger incentive to twist and stretch yardsticks than outsiders have to keep yardsticks straight. State-operated industries start life far along the road to regulatory capture.

“The community colleges will “do their jobs better by having a decent amount of money to spend,” Goldrick-Rab concludes.”

What counts as “decent”? College professors make $80,000-$100,000 per year for a 32-week year of six-hour weeks (do the math. That’s around $400-$500/hr). There is no amount of money so great that these parasites cannot waste it.

Her bio, from the UW-M website:…
Goldrick-Rab:
Title ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
Division SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
Department EDUCATIONAL POLICY STUDIES

… says it all. She’s a cheerleader for her team.

The US K-PhD education has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/ASCME cartel, as source of padded construction, consulting, and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. The clearest indication of this is the measurement of education in units of time. “A year of Algebra I” or “three credit-hours of Twentieth Century US Diplomatic History” makes as mush sense as “a pound of friendship” or “a square meter of curiosity”.

Credit by exam would bust this racket.

Your email is never published nor shared.

Required
Required