Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rate My Professor and MTV -- and Charles Murray Revisted

By Richard Vedder

I understand that MTV is entering the higher education business. About time, I'd say. They want to buy I think is a great Web site. The private sector is providing information that the higher education consuming public wants -- are the prospective professors of courses I need or might want to take any good? The fact that an important business like MTV wants to own this site shows that if colleges and universities will not be transparent and provide information to students, then the private sector will.

A suggestion for MTV/rateyourprofessor: go the next step, and start rating universities themselves. One way of doing so is by using the technique used to evaluate professors -- ask the students. But also, provide some other measures -- sample recent alums to see if they are working, going to grad school, or unemployed/homeless. Push schools for more meaningful information on outcomes of higher education, not just inputs. Give US News a run for their money. Competition and information have done wonders to raise the quality of life for Americans who buy goods from, and work for, the private sector firms operating in markets that have made America an economic powerhouse. Let's take some more of that to higher education.


On another note, I loved both of Bryan O'Keefe's blogs recently posted. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray and Bryan are absolutely right in what they say about the overinvestment in higher education. I would only add that perverse federal court decisions, notably Duke v. Griggs Power, have enhanced the economic power of college's as screening devices. The rising college/high school earnings differential has allowed tuition fees to explode, and that, in turn, reflects the inability of employers to meaningful evaluate prospective employees fully. Raw intelligence trumps college provided skill enhancements a majority of the time, I suspect, as an explanation for that earnings differential.

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