VIA Middle Class Political Economist: America Shows No Increase in College Graduation Rates Over the Last 30 Years

Via Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality blog, an interesting graph from Prof. Kenneth Thomas, the Middle Class Political Economist:

Middle Class Political Economist Percentage

Here is what he says:

Jared Bernstein (via Paul Krugman) highlights an amazing breakdown in the prospects for reducing economic inequality any time soon. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has made no progress whatsoever in increasing college graduation rates. To be specific, 25-34 year olds in 2009 had a college degree rate of about 40%, almost exactly the same as for 55-64 year old baby boomers. In the meantime, other industrialized countries were racking up substantial gains, most spectacularly in the case of South Korea where a little over 10% of 55-64 year olds have college degrees, but more than 60% in the 25-34 age group do. If you want to understand how South Korea has gone from a poor developing country to an industrial powerhouse within our lifetimes, this is one big reason.

So here’s a real conversation starter: what might be the response of the public universities of this country to a graph like this?



A Response to Friday’s Panel from Peter Bishop (TECH)

[Editor’s note: Peter Bishop, of the College of Technology and its program of Future Studies, of which he is Coordinator, had this email exchange with Frank Holt.  He later agreed to share these thoughts on the CTE blog. We thank him for his interesting comments during the session, and for giving permission to quote his email here.–DM]
Thanks for your session today.  Since I came late and had to leave early, I’m assuming that were teaching the session!
Can you send me your slides?  I just came into the last one, which is also a favorite theme of mine.  For-profit universities almost always have central development and distributed delivery, almost all with para-professionals and part-time adjuncts who are usually working in the field full-time.  It’s a much more efficient model.  I know Phoenix could price their courses much lower as a result, but they price it just below state university rates in order to leave their healthy profit margins intact.
And yes, the rest of the system could move toward central development through the licensing arrangements you mentioned.  I’ve offered to license our futures curriculum many times since it is unique and very few colleges could mount such a course on their own, but so far no takers.  But maybe someday.
It occurred to me, however, that we do have a form of central development in the textbook market which is now expanding its effect on the course through CDs, DVD, test packs and now websites
And I found the discussion following your talk very interesting.  One tendency we have in thinking about the effect of trends that are changing an institution (like higher ed) is to believe that the new will completely replace the old.  That does happen, but much more often it reduces the old as it grows and gobbles up parts of the market, but rarely does the old go away completely.  And I love your analogy of college as the grand tour.  The undergrad experience will remain for many, but it will be expensive so smaller than it is today.
I found the rest of the discussion a study in dialectics.  Attached are the many either-or problems/dilemmas/dichotomies that people were bringing up.  I tend to be a both-and person myself.  Most of the New stuff is definitely on the rise, but it doesn’t mean that all the Old stuff goes away.  The task is to maintain balance and not let either, the New or the Old, take over completely.
So thanks again for holding this session.  Should be a lot more of this type of discussion…
So what do others think?  What would a “both/and” model of past, present, and future higher education look like?

VIA Dissent: Three Crises in Higher Ed Affordability

To place some of yesterday’s discussion of our historical challenges into context, I thought I’d pass along the economist Mike Konczal’s recent discussion of higher education’s debt crisis, from Dissent magazine.  Here’s a representative passage:

Privatization is an ongoing project in state-level school systems. Mark Yudof, the President of the University of California system, once described the evolution of the “hybrid university”:

“[T]he extraordinary compact between state governments and their flagship universities appears to be dead – or at least on life support…Though we believers in the civic value of education may lament it greatly, with the wage premium widening, education today is increasingly seen as a private, rather than a public, good. Consequently, many legislators appear more comfortable with students’ paying higher tuition than they did in the past, tacitly encouraging students to borrow today and pay back later…Paradoxically, to continue the long tradition of broad access for students to public research universities, these institutions will have to become more like their private peers; to ensure the access for low-income and historically disadvantaged students that low-cost tuition once allowed, I believe that public research universities will have to work hard to augment funds for student aid and scholarships.”

This is an active project, reformulating state schools so they mimic their private peers. This involves reducing state funding for students and having students pick up the slack. The privatization school doesn’t view accessible higher education as a social good, a necessary component to equality of opportunity, a means of creating alternate hierarchies of education, or part of the basic process of how a civilization functions with its citizens. It focuses on the private economic gains of a university education and finds ways to shift costs to private citizens, with debt to make up the shortfall. Finding ways to get students to pay higher tuition, like choosing out-of-state applicants, becomes a priority. This creates a cycle: the more public universities are defunded and reconceived as a private good, the less civic interest there is in defending them as a public good.

Ultimately, as Konczal points out, this discussion of affordability turns on the question of “what kind of public universities and education we want to have.”

So whose wants, needs, desires, opinions, demands are being attended to now, as we watch the transformation of public higher education across the board?