Higher Education Week in Review: Dec. 15-21

December 22, 2014

By Michael DeBow at Forbes Online

On Friday the U.S. Department of Educationreleased some new info on the college ranking system it is developing.  Both Inside Higher Education and theChronicle were underwhelmed by the news: “Ratings Plan Arrives, Details Scant” and “Obama’s College-Ratings Plan Arrives, but Most Specifics Stay Behind.”

Meanwhile the whole idea of government ranking colleges is getting push-back from Congressional Republicans as well as elements of the higher education establishment.

For more reactions via the Chronicle, click here andhere.

On the shortcomings of our current system for student financial aid:  Earlier this month the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education released an audit of the efforts made by the Department “to prevent borrowers from defaulting on their student loans.”    Suffice to say that the auditors expressed some real reservations, including the finding that “The Department does not have a comprehensive plan or strategy to prevent student loan defaults and thus cannot ensure that efforts by various offices involved in default prevention activities are coordinated and consistent.”  For a brief description of the report see the Independent Institute’s blog, here.

BTW: student loans are now the largest asset on the Federal Government’s balance sheet according to this analyst.

On the many pitfalls of forgiving federal student loans:  Tom Lindsay reports on the political forces pushing us in this direction.

On the long-term effects of borrowing for college:  Two researchers at the Darden School of the University of Virginia report fascinating results in “Comfortably Numb: The Impact of Excessive Student Loan Debt on Price Sensitivity for Major Purchases.”   (full text is downloadable after (free) registration).

There’s yet another meditation on the long-term impact of Griggs v. Duke Power in the most recentAmerican Spectator.

How free is speech for American college students?  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education put out the 2015 edition of its “Spotlight on Speech Codes.”

For college faculty?  A very troubling story is unfolding at Marquette.

Long-time UVA faculty member James Caesarworries about “The Flight from Reason on Campus.”

“The Campus as California” Victor Davis Hanson paints a sad picture.

Phi Beta Kappa hopes its new “Arts and Sciences are Key” toolkit will help its members “make the case” for liberal education.

Law school enrollments fell (again) this past fall, according to theAmerican Bar Association.      The N.Y. Times Dealbook notes that the number of first-year law students entering this fall was at a level “not seen since 1973, when there were 53 fewer law schools in the United States.”

The recent decision to end the football program at the University of Alabama at Birminghamreceived at least two thumbs up this week, from my CCAP colleagues Rich Vedder and Joe Hartge in Inside Higher Education, and from Joe Nocera in the N.Y. Times. The merits of the decision aside, there have been so many objections to the process followed by the UAB administration that this episode should be studied carefully by other college presidents who might be considering a change in their athletic programs — to learn of pitfalls to avoid.

Finally, from the Better-Late-Than-Never-Department:  A former college president thinks the future for many colleges will depend on attracting retirees as students.

Week in Review will take next week off, and return on January 5.  Happy holidays to all!