Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

August 30, 2007

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

Filed under: Accountability, Higher Education — texased @ 6:36 pm

Very interesting article. I know a while back everyone (myself included) was aghast at Spelling’s proposed accountability version of “No Child Left Behind” for higher education. I don’t agree with the punishments mandated by the testing the law requires, but I think it’s a good idea to have the data available. Apparently, most colleges don’t think it’s a good idea even to have the data available.

Apparently Pell grants didn’t turn out they way colleges would have preferred:

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

the Democratic Congress was considering ways to help expand access to higher education, and colleges advocated an approach by which they would receive aid as institutions, which would then allow them to offer tuition breaks to poorer students. But instead, Congress created federal grants that would be given directly to college students, to use at the school of their choice. (The program, conceived by Democratic Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, now bears his name.) Many in higher education circles blamed the defeat on a lack of lobbying sophistication.

Law schools and med schools publish their licensing exam passing rates but teacher colleges shouldn’t?

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

For decades, education experts have been concerned about declining teacher quality in K–12 schools, and in the late 1990s the Clinton administration tried to address the problem by improving colleges’ notoriously lackluster teacher-training programs. The Education Department put together a proposal requiring states to report the percentage of teacher-training-program graduates from each school who pass the state licensure exam, and to report which of their education schools, many of which are affiliated with major universities, were underperforming. Schools that consistently failed to produce graduates capable of passing the exams would lose their eligibility to receive federal aid for teacher training.

For many colleges, teacher-training programs, which can count on a steady stream of applicants and have relatively low administrative costs, represent a crucial revenue source—and the higher ed lobby went into overdrive to protect it. “They didn’t want publicly accessible info for the performance of their graduates,” says Sara Mead, who worked on implementation at the Education Department. “They didn’t want to be held accountable. They would come up with all sorts of technical objections, but that was the real issue.”

And then there is the whole student loan lenders relationship thing:

Inside the Higher Education Lobby

Last February, legislators from both parties proposed the Student Aid Reward Act (STAR), which sought to encourage schools to choose direct lending over private lending, by allowing them to keep three-quarters of the savings that direct loans generate—to be spent on additional Pell Grants for their students—with the remaining one-quarter going to deficit reduction. Schools that continued to participate in the lender-based program would face no penalty. In other words, schools would receive free federal money for Pell Grants, or would get increased leverage in negotiating with private lenders for a better deal.

One might expect, then, that the proposal would have received the enthusiastic support of the higher education lobby. But none of the Big Six associations (see “The Higher Ed Lobby: A Glossary”), and very few of the smaller lobbies, came out for STAR, much less put their political muscle behind passing it. “The silence was deafening,” says Michael Dannenberg, an education expert at the New America Foundation. Without higher ed pushing back against the deep-pocketed lenders’ opposition to STAR, it went nowhere.

What explains the lobby’s reticence? NAICU’s Flanagan says her organization opposed STAR because it would have meant that some students ended up receiving more aid than others. But that stance makes little sense, since no student would have ended up with less aid because of STAR.

As someone who is starting to look at colleges for my son and expecting to pay the full price of tuition, I would appreciate a little more information than what you find at most admissions’ sites.

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1 Comment »

  1. RE: “As someone who is starting to look at colleges for my son and expecting to pay the full price of tuition, I would appreciate a little more information than what you find at most admissions’ sites.”

    That same sentiment has been expressed loud and clear in focus groups with prospective students and their parents, on Capitol Hill, and in the Education Department. To help higher education consumers get the information they need to make the best college selection, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities has spent the past year developing U-CAN (the University and College Accountability Network).

    When the free online resource goes live on Sept. 16, 2007, consumers will have access to quantitative and qualitative information on price, tuition trends, financial aid packages, loan debt, admissions and enrollment, student diversity, and more for hundreds of private colleges and universities. The institutional profiles provided on U-CAN (www.ucan-network.org) will report this information in a consumer-friendly, uniformed format.

    Each profile will also include more than two dozen targeted hyperlinks to information found on the institution’s web site, including study abroad opportunities, internships programs, campus extracurricular activities, academics, and more. U-CAN will not rank institutions or include reputational surveys. The web site’s content and format are driven by the comments of focus group paticipants. Schools that have signed up include Ivy League universities, liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, and undergraduate schools of technology and engineering, among others.

    Through U-CAN, and similar initiatives currently being developed by other associations, higher education is working to enhance its transparency and accountability to the marketplace.

    Comment by Tony Pals, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities — August 31, 2007 @ 7:14 am

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