By Richard Vedder
Today's INSIDE HIGHER ED has an interesting story on gubernatorial races in five states, and how higher education is a pretty important issue in all the races. What struck me is that several candidates, in both political parties, promoted policy recommendations that we have been adovating at CCAP since our inception, and that the Spellings Commission also promoted. On the whole, I am a bit more encouraged this morning that I was yesterday afternoon.
For example, several candidates called for better integration of the educational experiences between high school and college, and between colleges. In particular, there were calls for allowing good high school students to participate in dual credit programs, allowing them to earn college credit while in high school. The current system of more our less denying access to colleges for students until they reach, roughly, the age of 18 is wasteful and inefficient, as there are a lot of good 16 and 17 year old students who can and should be doing college work. A little parental bragging here: my own son got an A- in a college freshman English while in EIGHTH grade, and knocked a year off the 8 year high school/college experience (and saved some resources in the process).
Similarly, one candidate is calling for seamless transfer of credit between higher education institutions within the state. There are sometimes legitimate quality control issues, but too often institutions deny credit because of peculiarities of local graduation requirements rather than for any truly sound educational reason.
Another theme in some campaigns is support for community colleges as the lower cost alternative to increasingly costly four year universities. I am generally a fan of this trend. An awful lot of kids drop out of expensive four year schools, wasting vast resources. Too many of them belong in community colleges, where if they succeed, they can move on to the universities. This reduces the consequences of failure, and perhaps even the possibility of it. It saves money and works to lower the overall average tuition paid by postsecondary students.
On an completely different note, I see that EduCap, Inc. has cancelled a conference for higher education people planned at a luxury resort in Nevis. EduCap is run by Catherine Reynolds, who Doug Lederman of INSIDE HIGHER ED describes as "flamboyant" but who I found quite subdued during our mutual service on the Spellings Commission. I do worry about bribes, and payoffs to college officials who tout particular private student loan programs, and it was this concern that led to a small uproar culminating in the conference's cancellation. When billions of dollars are floating around, some corruption is bound to occur. A good case can be made for private student loan programs, but higher education suffers if their is a hint of corruption. I am opposed in general to having American academics attending conferences for other American academics held outside the U.S., on the grounds of efficiency and waste -- R and R for faculty. The same holds for financial aid officers.