Some Academics Aren’t In Tune With President Obama on Higher Ed Reform

Last week President Obama discussed his proposals for reforming higher education in an effort to control costs, debt and increase graduation rates. Over the next week will blog a variety of viewpoints concerning the president’s proposed reforms.

The first reaction comes from academics polled by Inside Higher Ed (“Disappointed but Not Surprised”). Colleen Flaherty states:

in reacting to Obama’s higher education policy speech at the State University of New York at Buffalo Thursday, in which the president proposed a ratings system for institutions to be tied to federal aid, faculty members expressed disappointment. While emphasizing that access to college is a good thing, they said, the speech failed to address deeper problems facing higher education — such as lack of funding, skyrocketing tuition and the increasing employment of adjunct faculty — and was too enthusiastic about massive open online courses (MOOCs), whose pedagogical effectiveness remains largely untested.

Faculty noted a number of perceived flaws in the plan. First, they argued that the outcomes-based assessment (graduation rates) was just an extension of K-12 federal No Child Left Behind Act. Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors stated that non-elite Universities would become obsessed with ratings and move toward a more standardized curriculum that produced graduates in able to get more funding. Other professors also voiced displeasure with the idea of focusing on outcomes rather than learning. The idea of providing “value” in higher ed was viewed as problematic because as one professor mentioned:

I’m not seeing the value of a college education in terms of participation in public culture, or a graduate’s acquisition of the skills and curiosity essential to ‘learning how to learn.’ … Do we really want to say that an elementary school teacher has had a less successful college education than a hedge fund manager? I hope not.

Please read the article for the full range of views.

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