Thursday, January 10, 2013

Higher Tuition (and Debt) but a Bad Investment?

Interesting article in The Economist from early December:
In 1962 one cent of every dollar spent in America went on higher education; today this figure has tripled. Yet despite spending a greater proportion of its GDP on universities than any other country, America has only the 15th-largest proportion of young people with a university education. Wherever the money is coming from, and however it is being spent, the root of the crisis in higher education (and the evidence that investment in universities may amount to a bubble) comes down to the fact that additional value has not been created to match this extra spending. Indeed, evidence from declines in the quality of students and graduates suggests that a degree may now mean less than it once did.

For example, a federal survey showed that the literacy of college-educated citizens declined between 1992 and 2003. Only a quarter were deemed proficient, defined as “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”. Almost a third of students these days do not take any courses that involve more than 40 pages of reading over an entire term. Moreover, students are spending measurably less time studying and more on recreation. “Workload management”, however, is studied with enthusiasm—students share online tips about “blow off” classes (those which can be avoided with no damage to grades) and which teachers are the easiest-going.

Yet neither the lack of investment in teaching nor the deficit of attention appears to have had a negative impact on grades. A remarkable 43% of all grades at four-year universities are As, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960. Grade point averages rose from about 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006.
And this little gem is hard to believe:
the chances of an American student completing a four-year degree within six years stand at only around 57%

No comments: