Top colleges for value, mobility

University of California at Riverside tops the Washington Monthly’college rankings, which give top honors to schools that enroll and graduate “students of modest means” while “charging them a reasonable price,” write the editors.

The rankings also give credit for research — are these schools “creating the new technologies and ideas that will drive economic growth and advance human knowledge?” — and whether they encourage students to join the military or the Peace Corps or perform community service.

You’ll see it doesn’t intersect very much with U.S. News‘ college rankings.

Two years ago, President Obama pledged to rate every college and university in America by “who’s offering the best value,” note the Monthly‘s editors.

The higher ed lobby mobilized to kill the ratings plan. In June, it was canceled.

The Monthly also ranks the best bang-for-the-buck colleges.


College is not a commodity

College is not a commodity, writes Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities and a former president of Cornell and the University of Iowa, in the Washington Post.

Unlike a car, college requires the “buyer” to do most of the work to obtain its value.

. . . The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Yet most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.

When college students see themselves as consumers, they “feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable, writes Rawlings.

So let’s acknowledge that college is not a commodity. It’s a challenging engagement in which both parties have to take an active and risk-taking role if its potential value is to be realized.

. . . Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds, a much harder challenge than most people realize, until they actually try to do it.

When I headed off to college in 1970, my father said I’d get as much out of it as I put into it.

Via Instapundit.

College heads resist federal database

College presidents say their institutions should be reporting their graduates’ debt levels and job placement rates, but don’t want the federal government collecting and publishing data on student outcomes. They really don’t like Obama’s proposed ratings system.

Higher ed lobby creates info ‘blackout’

Without tracking college students’ success — or failure — it’s impossible to evaluate how colleges are performing, argues a New America Foundation report, College Blackout: How the Higher Education Lobby Fought to Keep Students in the Dark.

Ever-rising college costs, more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, and graduates doubtful that they’ll be able to earn enough to repay their loans have driven college value to become a major concern for most prospective students. Yet students, families, and policymakers are finding their questions can’t be answered—because the higher education lobby has fought to keep it that way.

The private nonprofit colleges, which “rely heavily on federal financial aid, drove efforts to preempt the creation of a federal student unit record system,” charges the report.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings’s higher education commission proposed a federal database in 2005. Congress banned it in 2008.

Such a database would be able to track students as they move into higher education and through college — or, increasingly, multiple colleges — and into the work force, notes Inside Higher Ed. “It would produce more robust information about student outcomes, such as graduation rates and salary information.”

Despite privacy concerns, support is growing for a federal database.

Whites doubt value of college degree

Whites doubt the value of a college degree, but Latinos and blacks are convinced higher education is essential, a new survey finds.

Is college worth it? The “overeducated American” is a “myth,” argues College Summit. But college returns have been exaggerated, concludes another report.

Obama college plan needs reality check

President Obama’s plan to link financial aid to college “value” will penalize lower-income students for attending colleges with low graduation rates and low earnings for graduates, argue two analysts, who call for a “reality check.”

Comparing college graduation rates is meaningless, unless students’ academic ability and other characteristics are taken into account.

Best bang-for-buck college is Amherst?

Washington Monthly‘s 2013 College Guide and Rankings “asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country.”

Are they educating low-income students, or just catering to the  affluent? Are they improving the quality of their teaching, or ducking accountability for it? Are they trying to become more productive—and if so, why is average tuition rising faster than health care costs?

The Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Colleges are topped by Amherst: Nearly everyone graduates and the net price is only $843 after financial aid. Then come two City University of New York schools, Cal State Fullerton and the University of Florida.

Here’s are some stand-outs in value, with more on how the Monthly rates college value.

A master’s in sandwich truck

After earning a graphic design degree, Zachary Lynd invested $30,000 in savings in a project he hopes will earn a master’s in visual design. It’s a sandwich truck, which is competing with hot dog trucks at the beach in Montauk, Long Island. Lynd “sells lobster rolls for $16, and a key lime tart and fruit salad for $5,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

It’s a “masters thesis roach coach,  writes Edububble. “Let’s just hope he can pay off the debt on the Airstream and the masters degree before someone starts handing out doctorates in making sandwiches.”

The case for and against college

Is college worth the time and money? Here’s the case for and against college.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, wait-listed students can start at community college while living in dorms and participating in campus life.