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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

To control college costs: Work harder, dump gen-ed, fire DEI staff

College costs keep rising, even as more young people question a degree's value. The James Martin Center for Academic Renewal asked for ideas on how to control college costs.

Work harder, suggests Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The Great School Rethink. "Fewer than two-in-three students complete four-year degrees in six years, he writes. "If students worked harder, they’d finish faster" and spend less. "If faculty taught more frequently, we wouldn’t need as many instructors."

British students race at Cambridge's Trinity College in the 1981 movie "Chariots of Fire."

In a survey last winter, 64 percent of four-year college students said they put “a lot of effort” into school, yet less than a third of self-described hard workers devoted even 10 hours a week to studying. "We’ve normalized a college culture where 12 hours of class and another 10 to 12 hours of studying constitute a full week's work," Hess writes.

In Great Britain, Cambridge expects students to spend 42 to 46 hours a week on academics and finish a bachelor's degree in three years, he writes.

At the nation’s most expensive colleges, professors don't work very hard either, Hess writes. They teach just "one or two in the fall and the same in the spring," which "amounts to three or six hours a week of teaching for 24 weeks a year and the occasional office hour, with most time devoted to bureaucratic work, research of uneven provenance, or griping about campus parking."

At community colleges and regional state universities, which cost much less, "faculty routinely teach four courses each semester or more."

Photo: cottonbro studios/Pexels

General education" classes are a waste of students' time and money, argues Phillip W. Magness of the American Institute for Economic Research. "While a case remains for restoring a classical liberal-arts component to the bachelor’s degree, the unfortunate reality is that many course offerings in this area amount to little more than low-rigor ideological activism. In effect, many modern Gen-Ed requirements exist to provide job security for faculty in bloated and hyper-politicized departments with declining enrollment."

At many European universities, Magness notes, "students choose a major at the outset and finish their degree in three years."

Even as more American students earn Advanced Placement and dual-enrollment credits, they seem to take longer to finish what used to be a four-year degree.

Only one in five high school graduates in the class of '23 was prepared to earn a B or C in entry-level college classes, reports ACT. Scores hit a 32-year low this year. "More than 40 percent of new graduates didn’t meet ACT’s college-readiness benchmarks in any subject, and only 21 percent met benchmarks in all four."

The Martin Center's Part 2 adds more ideas.

Ezra Meyer, a recent George Washington University graduate, calls for end to student debt cancelation. If students think they won't have to pay their loans, they'll have no incentive to be thrifty in their college choices, he writes. Universities will keep jacking up tuition.

"If colleges want to save a few million bucks without cutting vital services, while at the same time preserving their academic integrity, they should eliminate DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) programs and their accompanying bureaucracies," writes Rob Jenkins, an associate professor of English at Georgia State University-Perimeter College.

Jenna A. Robinson, president of the Martin Center, makes a pitch for performance-based funding to incentivize good management.

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