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Anxieties about Higher Education

Reading Links

I. Why does the cost of college keep going up?

“Do As I Say, Not As I Do,”
by Jane S. Shaw

This story suggests that administrators are taking the “easy way” out, which is to

spend more money to keep everyone happy.

“Richard Vedder: The Real Reason College Costs So Much,” 
by Allysia Finley


Iconoclastic economist Richard Vedder, in an interview with the Wall Street

Journal, argues that federal student financial aid is enabling colleges to raise


“Financial Aid Helps Colleges More Than Students,”
by Jeffrey Dorfman


Like Richard Vedder, Jeffrey Dorfman argues that the increase in student loans

has been beneficial to colleges because it increases demand and pushes up


“The Revenue to Cost Spiral in Higher Education,
by Robert E. Martin

This report (longer than the above articles) by an economist familiar with higher

education emphasizes the fact that most colleges and universities are non-profit.

Without a profit motive, administrators spend all their revenues and save little for

the future.

“Dreams Stall as CUNY, New York City’s Engine of Mobility, Sputters,”
by David 
W. Chen.

This New York Times article argues that the decline in state support for higher

education is causing increases in tuition.

II. Has there been a decline in the quality of higher education?

“Grades Just Keep on Inflating; Why Does it Matter?” 
by George Leef.


Statistics confirm that today’s “A” was the previous generation’s “B.”

“The Decline of the English Department,”
by Jay Schalin.

This analysis of English departments (a research report) shows that they have

lost their traditional focus and, as a result, lost students.

“Academically Adrift,”
a video featuring Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

Arum and Roksa surveyed senior students and evaluated what they had learned since they were freshmen. The results were disappointing. The video shows that students study less, and learn less, than students in the past.


“Evidence of Things Unnoticed,”

by Peter A. Wood

This 32-page paper is an interpretation of a massive (383-page) report on Bowdoin College in Maine. The National Association of Scholars spent two years studying Bowdoin, a modern college that reflects many of the academic trends of the past forty or forty-five years--trends that give one pause. Examining materials ranging from the school's curriculum to the president's speeches, the researchers came up with an in-depth picture of what is being taught at an elite college today. 

III. How free should free speech be?

“Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time,”
by Greg Lukianoff

The president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the leading

organization protecting constitutional rights of free speech on public university

campuses, describes the restrictions that are still widespread even though they

have been judged illegal by many courts.

“The 'Silencing' On Politically Correct College Campuses Is Much Ado About Nothing,”
by John Tamny

John Tamny, a Forbes editor, says that the concern about political correctness is

old hat; students have always been obstreperous and unruly.