Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Evidence that We Need New System of Quality Control

by Daniel L. Bennett

Recently, I piggy-backed off excellent reporting by Education Sector's Ben Miller and commentary from Kevin Carey that described the public Chicago State University as one of the nation's growing number of drop-out factories and a non-trivial source of financial impropriety:
state audit found that even as the university suffered budget cuts, [Elnora] Daniel [former President] and other employees had spent lavishly on meals, alcohol, and first-class airfare. Daniel had brought five relatives and a university administrator with her on a nine-day Caribbean cruise for a “leadership conference.” Lax financial oversight allegedly resulted in the university paying more than a quarter of a million dollars for two photocopiers purchased from a company owned by a university employee.

Meanwhile, students contended with broken elevators, dirty classrooms, and ill-equipped labs. As enrollment declined, so did graduation rates. Of the first-time, full-time freshmen who started in 1996, about 18 percent graduated within six years.
Carey described situation at CSU as also being one of gross incompetence that will likely go unchecked:
Because colleges and universities are unusually well-regarded institutions that serve a noble societal purpose and are run by people with esteemed academic credentials, the public conversation about them tends to discount the possibility of gross incompetence. In reality, universities can be terribly mismanaged just like K-12 schools, fire departments, or huge multinational oil companies. Failure to acknowledge this prevents us from tackling the problems that most need to be solved.
Now the Chicago Tribune reports that Carey's prophesy was correct:
Chicago State University's accreditation has been reaffirmed after being in limbo for more than a year due to concerns about poor retention and graduation rates.
This provides more fuel to the fire that our nation's quality control system is seriously flawed and in dire need of real reform. Now, I obviously need to learn much more about CSU's history to be in a position to make a judgement as to whether it should be eligible for federal aid, but it seems common sense that its accreditation status should not be simply reaffirmed because it has:
started several new programs to help students who are struggling. Among them: an early alert system that every month flags students who are missing class, not turning in homework or failing exams. Tutoring is then offered to those students.

The library is now open until midnight, and the university purchased textbooks that are kept at the library for students who can't afford their own. The university also worked with the Chicago Transit Authority to add a bus stop on campus.
In other words, the poorly performing school is being awarded for spending more money. At best, the school should be given a short-term probationary status with some goals that must be reached in order to retain accreditation. What I'm saying is that our accreditation system has no teeth. It is afraid to make any tough decisions due at least partially to the fact that it is a self-regulated collegial system. CCAP has been exploring accreditation reform recently and will be releasing a paper in the near future that includes our recommendations for a better quality control system of higher education. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Glen S. McGhee said...

And don't forget Kevin Carey's stunning expose of the Middle States association,

Complete now with this soap operatic in-fighting and airing of dirty laundry for all to see: