Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who Should Go to College?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has taken up one of my favorite themes, asking a bunch of "experts" who should go to college. The Chronicle is a fairly conservative publication, but on the other hand its main audience is college educators, so I am not sure how to assess its likely bias on this point. Anyway, they publish a variety of responses. We have a few hard core open door types:
Alison Wolf: Anyone who meets the entry criteria and is willing to pay the fees should be able to go. In one sense, that just passes the buck—politicians then have to decide how much subsidy they are willing to provide. But it shouldn't be up to them to decide how many people go, what they study, and why.
But most seem to agree that many Americans who go to four-year colleges shouldn't. They cite numbers like, only the 10 to 15 percent most academically inclined should go, or only the top 25 percent of high school graduates. Even those who think that everyone should have the option of going to college don't seem to think everyone should go; they just think the way should be open for "non-traditional" students who have the motivation if not the background. On the other hand, the experts also seem to agree that almost everyone should get some kind of post-high school education or training.
Marty Nemko: All high-school students should receive a cost-benefit analysis of the various options suitable to their situations: four-year college, two-year degree program, short-term career-prep program, apprenticeship program, on-the-job training, self-employment, the military. Students with weak academic records should be informed that, of freshmen at "four year" colleges who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their high-school class, two-thirds won't graduate even if given eight and a half years. And that even if such students defy the odds, they will likely graduate with a low GPA and a major in low demand by employers. A college should not admit a student it believes would more wisely attend another institution or pursue a noncollege postsecondary option. Students' lives are at stake, not just enrollment targets.
Daniel Yankelovich: In today's society and economy, virtually everyone who has the motivation and stamina should acquire some form of postsecondary education. That is a practical reality of today's economy.

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