By Richard Vedder
American business had a bad day yesterday as the Dow fell 2.3 percent. What happened to American higher ed yesterday? Did its stock rise or fall? What are the colleges doing --are they getting better or worse? Who knows? Fortunately, as an outgrowth of the Spellings Commission report, some real moves are coming to provide more transparency into the operations of universities.
Much of the act has to take place at the state level, and I was encouraged yesterday when the American Legislative Exchange Council brought two pieces of model legislation closer to adoption. They are proposing a Higher Education Sunshine Act and a Higher Education Accountability act. The first proposed law to be introduced into state legislatures would require universities to provide information as to the extent of intellectual diversity on campus and encourage universities to promote intellectual diversity in carrying out its mission. Colleges are more interested in skin color diversity than idea diversity, and the free flow of different ideas is critical to a vibrant university environment.
The accountability legislation would require universities to report in a consumer and legislator friendly manner all sorts of data on an easy to find web site --admission standards, data on costs, crime statistics, transfer policies, teaching loads, average time to degree, etc. -- the kinds of things parents and students want and need to know. Some states are already doing that, and legislators need to nudge others to do so.