Higher Education Report Offers Sobering Message
> 9/8/2006 11:50:42 AM

This year's national report card on higher educationfinds America's college enrollment and graduation rates declining astuitions move disproportionately upward. Though the United Statesremains the world leader in most higher ed categories, with our highschool and college classes growing progressively larger, the percentageof students who go to college and complete their degrees has begun todrop after largely stagnating over the last decade. Patrick M. Callan, head of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, tells the New York Timesthat completion is the most pressing issue regarding collegeperformance. The United States' graduation rates now rank in the bottomhalf of developed nations. Callan states that future classes willinevitably suffer because of these trends:

“Thestrength of America is in the population that’s closest to retirement,while the strength of many countries against whom we compare ourselvesis in their younger population. Perhaps for the first time in ourhistory, the next generation will be less educated.’’

Themost upsetting portion of the report relates to the costs of tuitionand the growing discrepancies between students of differentsocioeconomic classes. While all expect slight increases in tuitionwith each school cycle, prices are rising considerably faster than bothinflation and average family income, making college even moreunaffordable for low-income students. While colleges in a contentiousmarket continue to raise rates and profit margins, student grants covera significantly smaller portion of the end price. Even with stateassistance, college education currently costs a typical low-tomiddle-income family nearly half their annual earnings. In five of ourfifty states, students in the high-income bracket are more than threetimes as likely to attend college.

How can we begin tosolve this problem and not leave our graduating classes ill-preparedfor the job market? Callan suggests that general, widespread reform isthe only option. He argues that colleges should be forced to holdthemselves more accountable for declining performance and that thefocus of our national discussion should shift from dealing almostexclusively with the needs of top-tier students to expanding highereducation opportunities throughout the population. Can we make thesechanges without compromising the overall quality of higher education?Callan asks as many questions as he answers:

"Dowe have to have a train wreck to make the improvements? ...to make it a21st century higher education system, which serves more people better,which knows more about the critical outcomes, which puts adequateprearation and financial resources behind the aspirations of the nextgeneration of students? Do we have to have a train wreck for that tohappen? The great American irony is that by any measure you want to usewe have a disproportionate share of the best colleges and universitiesin the world...and yet we're falling behind in the education of theAmerican public. How do we reconcile these two things?"

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy