College Quality

Second Annual Academic Bowl Championship Series Rankings

In a few weeks, the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners will face off on college football's biggest stage in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship game. Unfortunately, many of the college seniors playing in this game will not be walking across the graduation stage next May. Instead, their schools will revel in the short-term glory of gridiron success, while the players will have to face the long-term consequences of joining the workforce without a college degree.

Higher Ed Watch's second annual Academic BCS rankings show that Florida and Oklahoma are not the only elite football schools doing a dismal job of graduating their players. Only 55 percent of Division I-A football players leave college in six years with a degree -- and that number drops precipitously at most big-time programs that solely focus on counting Ws and Ls instead of As and Bs. It also doesn't take into account the poor quality of the education many are receiving to begin with. Jock majors don't provide job-ready skills.

Higher Ed Roundup: Week of November 3 - November 7

Financial Crisis Expected to Impact Community Colleges, Survey Finds

Adjunct Faculty Use Can Impact Student Performance

Goal Financial Settles with Cuomo


Shining a Light on the University of Phoenix

"Bring on the data," was the message echoed loudly by representatives of for-profit colleges at a recent event on the sector hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank. That same day, the University of Phoenix, the largest chain of for-profit trade schools in the country, took its own step in that direction by releasing the first of what it promises to be an annual self-assessment of academic outcomes.

At first glance, it appears that the for-profit sector is prepared to usher in a new age of accountability in higher education. But just how ready are these schools to let the sunshine in on their actual performance?

Consider the University of Phoenix's self study of its students' success. While perhaps a laudable step toward transparency, there are serious questions about the methodology the institution used to carry out the assessment. (It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the for-profit sector has preached openness while providing misleading data, about the performance of its students, particularly in the areas of graduation and job placement rates.)

Guest Post: A System of Student Financial Support

By Art Hauptman

Current arrangements for providing financial support to college students and their families in this country are not meeting many of the objectives for which they were intended. The Spellings Commission summed it up well in its final report: "The entire financial aid system - including federal, state, institutional, and private programs - is confusing, complex, inefficient, duplicative, and frequently does not direct aid to students who truly need it." As a result, the Commission and a number of other groups with wide ranging political agendas have recommended that "the entire student financial system be restructured". But what would that entail?

Since first established in the 1960s, the federal student aid programs of grants, loans, and work-study - in concert with state, institutional, and private efforts - have provided access to a postsecondary education for millions of Americans who otherwise might not have had enough funds to attend. More recently, federal tax offsets against current tuition expenses and tax-preferred incentives for college savings serve as an important source of financial relief for hard-pressed taxpayers from a range of incomes who worry that they will be unable to pay the constantly mounting bill for tuition and other expenses.

Adjunct Faculty Use

Colleges' reliance on adjuncts, or low-paid part-time instructors, to carry much of the teaching load at their institutions has long been one of higher education's dirty little secrets. College lobbyists are fighting to keep it that way, as they are opposing efforts by Congress to shine a little light on their adjunct hiring policies.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have approved Higher Education Act reauthorization bills that would require colleges to publicize to prospective students the number of adjuncts they employ. The American Council on Education and other college groups oppose these provisions, complaining that providing specific data on adjuncts would be burdensome for their institutions.

We're sensitive to higher ed concerns regarding reporting burden. But given the choice among doing nothing, government actively regulating the use of adjuncts, or reporting to students and families, we vote for sunshine. In fact, Higher Ed Watch would urge lawmakers to go even further and require colleges to provide greater detail to prospective students about the types of courses that adjuncts teach.

Adjunct Faculty and Student Retention

In Pursuit of a Quality College Education: An Academic All-Star Basketball Team

Last week, Higher Ed Watch published its annual "Academic Sweet Sixteen" bracket, which ranks the teams in the NCAA tournament based on their basketball team graduation rates. While it's important to consider how many players leave school with degrees in their hands, there's a significant flaw in the comparison. We have no way to determine whether players who graduated actually learned anything or obtained the skills necessary to enter the workforce.

As we discussed during the football season, there is no data on college quality for athletes and very little for college students in general. It's widely known that athletes often cluster in "jock majors," which provide them with classes that demand and teach very little. The goal of many big-time basketball teams is simply to keep their players academically eligible, not to give them an education that will be of value in the future.

But because there is no objective way to track the relative worth of athletes' degrees (and remember, this problems extends to all consumers of higher education), we have to rely on anecdotal evidence.

Roundup: Week of January 7 - January 11

New York Unveils Ambitious Plan to Boost Prestige of Public Colleges

New York needs to significantly increase spending on its state college systems and hire thousands of new professors if it hopes to compete with other prestigious public universities, according to a

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

When Redshirting Goes Wrong: Boston College Fans Take Note

The professionalization of college athletics is a thorny issue, one that we addressed in a recent blog post on Boston College's current football team. We pointed out that many of the elite players on BC's football team this year, such as star quarterback Matt Ryan, are no longer really students because they have…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Academic Bowl Championship Series

At the end of every college football season, there's an uproar about the "Bowl Championship Series" (BCS) formula that decides which teams get to play for the National Championship and in various bowl games. This year is no different-sports commentators are in a tizzy about which teams will…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.

Easing Restrictions on Trade Schools is a Mistake

Last month, federal agents raided the campuses of three for-profit colleges around Fort Lauderdale, including one owned by Corinthian Colleges, which is among the largest trade school chains in the country. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, which led the raids with the help of the FBI…

Note: This post pre-dates Higher Ed Watch's shift to a new publishing system. For the complete original post, including any comments, please click here.