How can we get more people through college? My base assumption is that public policy, like water and electricity, always takes the path of least resistance.
- Option #1: As the College Board suggests, we can improve P-16. We do a massive overhaul of K-12 so that students come to college prepared and motivated. Not only is that prohibitively expensive, but you’ll be spending most of your effort on improving education for the kids not going to college. That’s not an effective application of money to improve this particular metric.
- Option #2: Change college. We can lower standards (most likely since it’s least expensive), or we can improve quality, engage students, and reward teaching as well as research. While not requiring as broad a change as Option #1, it’s still quite expensive. College is expensive, and it’s not clear that we have enough seats in our colleges to get enough students in the system to budge those numbers that the NYTimes is complaining about. And if we built more colleges, they would try to be research-focused (or at least, research-infused) which means less focus on teaching and more junior faculty being forced to churn out papers (even if nobody, not even the author, likes them) to make tenure.
- Option #3: We create more on-line opportunities for higher-education. They’re cheaper to offer, lower quality, and don’t require building more schools. Nobody gets tenure for offering on-line courses. Even fewer students will pass than in Option #2, but if we lower standards enough (and it’s just software!), we can make that happen,too.
Pretty obvious to me from this analysis which way public policy will likely go.
Also, #3 is the "disruptive innovation."