Friday, March 18, 2011

Reminder: CCAP Blog Has Moved

Our new and revamped site is now live: (alternatively, if you want a much shorter url, use We have migrated our blog, which you can access at, over to our new site; we will cease posting our blogs on out blogger account. Please update your bookmarks as necessary.

If you use our RSS feed, please note that you must now use our Feedburner Feed:

Thank you so much for your patience and we look forward to continuing to engage in discussions related to higher education policy.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The CCAP Blog Has Moved

Our new and revamped site is now live: (alternatively, if you want a much shorter url, use We have migrated our blog, which you can access at, over to our new site; we will cease posting our blogs on out blogger account. Please update your bookmarks as necessary.

If you use our RSS feed, please note that you must now use our Feedburner Feed:

Thank you so much for your patience and we look forward to continuing to engage in discussions related to higher education policy.

Links for 3/3/11

Andrew Ferguson
Like most parents with kids about to apply to college, I’d heard how the process had descended into Absurdistan. But it wasn’t until I saw the feral squint of parental ambition in the faces of these well-to-do moms and dads that I realized how weirdly competitive and confused the whole thing had become…

the Principle of Constant Contradiction, a law of nature as ironclad as anything Newton came up with: for every piece of college admissions advice you receive, you will soon receive an equally plausible piece of advice that directly contradicts it…

Higher education is a highly competitive industry run by people who 1) won’t admit it’s an industry and 2) won’t admit they’re in competition with one another…

There’s no consensus about what American higher education is for. Some of us cling like Matthew Arnold or Cardinal Newman to the idea of the university as a place to nurture the young into the glories of civilization -- to furnish their minds with the best that’s been thought and said, as a preparation for a spiritually fulfilling life. Others of us in buck-hustling America see a college education in purely utilitarian terms, as a way to train for a high-paying job. Still others see it as a tool of social transformation, righting the inequities of society. And a very large number of people, particularly those under the age of 22, see it as a four-year booze cruise.
The result is a system of higher education that’s neither one thing nor the other -- a perfect recipe for frustration and disappointment…
Dean Dad
San Diego Community College district… colleges don’t set their own fees, and don’t get to keep the money. Therefore, the only way they can stay within their budgets when their allocations get cut is to turn students away…

I hadn’t realized just how badly the California system was designed until that moment. When revenue is completely decoupled from services, then growing your way out of the problem is off the table. My sympathies to the citizens of California, who are trapped in a system that makes absolutely no sense…
Bill Gates
We know that of all the variables under a school's control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students.

Yet compared with the countries that outperform us in education, we do very little to measure, develop and reward excellent teaching. We have been expecting teachers to be effective without giving them feedback and training…

Compared with other countries, America has spent more and achieved less. If there's any good news in that, it's that we've had a chance to see what works and what doesn't. That sets the stage for a big change that everyone knows we need: building exceptional teacher personnel systems that identify great teaching, reward it and help every teacher get better…
Jeffrey R. Young
Actually Going to Class, for a Specific Course? How 20th-Century.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Links for 3/2/11

Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland
In one respect, trouble was inevitable: Voters had put $2.2 billion under the control of seven of the region's most obscure elected officials. They would be spending it with almost no public scrutiny — despite their promise of "strict oversight"

[P.S. You won’t believe what they did.]
Erin O’Connor and Maurice Black
This is not the profile of a profession that deserves the public trust. And yet academe has far fewer checks and balances than other peer review professions. Doctors can lose their licenses. Lawyers can be disbarred. But incompetent or dishonest professors are often forever...
Joanne Jacobs
Many districts turn merit pay into a small across-the-board pay boost, write Green and Buck. In Houston, 88 percent of teachers qualified for a small “merit” bonus. That’s nothing compared to Minnesota, where 22 school districts gave Q Comp bonuses to more than 99 percent of teachers…
Terry Ryan
The New Teacher Project (TNTP) reports that 14 states actually have laws on the books that force quality-blind layoffs…
Lloyd Armstrong
The rhetoric generally tells us that the crisis in American higher education is a financial one, not an educational one. However, it seems increasingly clear that the educational goals we have set for ourselves and our students are the goals appropriate to 20th century United States that had few real economic competitors. Much of our education has assumed that our graduates would go into a profession, and work in that profession for one, or at most a few, companies during their lifetime. That assumption is increasingly incorrect. Many of the professions for which we train students are in a decline as their functions move overseas. Graduates are increasingly required to change the focus of their work (not just jobs) several times in their working lifetime. As has been noted before, the offshoring phenomenon continues to move up the educational scale. Consequently, more traditional education - which was the answer to many problems in the 20th century - is not necessarily the correct answer in the 21st century…

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Update on CCAP Website Redesign

CCAP will be launching its revamped website within the next day or so. When it does go live, we will complete the process of transitioning our blog from blogger over to our new server. For those of you who use our blog's rss feed, we will provide you with the new rss information as soon as we go live. Thank you for your patience.

Links for 3/1/11

Publius Audax
the total bill (at UT-Austin) runs to at least $95,000.

Can we really reduce that cost by nearly 90%, while maintaining or even improving quality? Yes, we can, if we do two things: intelligently exploit the huge economies of scale in higher education in Texas, with 950,000 students in college; and take full advantage of technology…
The showdown in Wisconsin over fringe benefits for public employees boils down to one number: 74.2. That's how many cents the public pays Milwaukee public-school teachers and other employees for retirement and health benefits for every dollar they receive in salary. The corresponding rate for employees of private firms is 24.3 cents…
Judith Scott-Clayton
Of all the potential merits of for-profit colleges, perhaps the most useful is simply the role they serve in upsetting the status quo…
Jamie Merisotis
Problem: College degrees are poorly understood in terms of the learning they represent.

Solution: Develop a degree qualifications profile (DQP) to define the specific learning outcomes of every degree issued by accredited colleges and universities.

Problem: Higher education programs and degrees are defined by seat time rather than learning outcomes.

Solution: Develop a new system of learning credits that are based on outcomes, not time…
Oliver Staley
With $10 million from hedge-fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin, List will track the results of more than 600 students-- including 150 at this school. His goal is to find out whether investing in teachers or, alternatively, in parents, leads to more gains in kids’ educational performance…

Monday, February 28, 2011

On New Jersey Taxes and Pensions

by Andrew Gillen

Over at Quick and the Ed, Kevin Carey bashes on past and current New Jersey Governors. I’m all for bashing politicians, but the story Kevin tells is a bit… skewed.

Kevin’s version is that [evil] past Republicans cut taxes, and as a result did not fund teacher pensions. Fast forward to today, and [evil] current Republicans point to the underfunded pension and say we can’t afford to pay teachers their pensions.

There is just one little problem with this story. In 1997, when the tax cuts happened, the tax burden in New Jersey was 11% (total state and local taxes paid as a percent of total income). This was the fifth highest tax burden in the country. In 2009, their tax burden was 12.2%, the highest in the country.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to blame tax cuts for the state of teachers’ pension funds when taxes went up. Moreover, if the state with the highest tax burden is unable/unwilling to fund pensions, then it doesn't seem like even higher taxes are going to remedy the situation.

More Information = Better Schools

by Andrew Gillen

Our focus on the 3 I’s of higher ed reform (incentives, information, and innovation), just got another boost today. From the Economic Logician:
Publish school performance information!

Simon Burgess, Deborah Wilson and Jack Worth exploit a natural experiment in Britain: Wales suppressed the publication of school rankings in 2001, while England kept it. Using a difference-in-difference analysis, they show, oh surprise, that the performance of Welsh students regressed significantly, based on national exams… What is then a good argument for withholding school performance information?
There are a series of vigorous debates over how schools should be ranked, the role of government, etc. But as the evidence continues to trickle in, it is getting harder and harder to argue that there is little benefit in providing more information.

Links for 2/28/11

If policy makers began to tie funding to performance — both graduation rates and measures of actual learning — we might not drive down the cost of the good colleges. But I bet we’d stop wasting so much money on colleges that are doing their students a disservice. And I bet there are more of these colleges than we care to admit. With better data on learning, we could also figure out how to evaluate new kinds of schools that may indeed be cheaper than traditional colleges are…
Mark Smithers
there are a few dirty little secrets about online learning at traditional universities. Here are two: 1) Not many courses have any form of content online whatsoever (even when the university promotes a policy of minimum online presence). 2) When a course does have online content it is invariably rubbish…
Andrew J. Rotherham
In any organization that is serious about effectiveness quality-blind layoffs are nothing short of insane…
Marc Parry
WikiLeaks, scourge of governments worldwide, now has a copycat for academe. And the new group is itching to publish your university’s deepest secrets…
Theodore C. Wagenaar
most academics resist assessment in general and on principle. Some professors dislike the scrutiny. Others feel that assessment reflects corporate encroachment and a threat to academic freedom. Still others fear a homogenization of the educational experience…

Executed well, assessment encourages faculty members to articulate their course and assignment goals more clearly and to develop sound rubrics. That helps them think more broadly about overarching program goals, and how to measure students' success in reaching those goals. That, in turn, typically leads to greater faculty interest in how classroom activities connect with academic performance. Asking what is important leads us to ask about what works, and both contribute to good-quality assessment, better teaching, and greater learning…

Friday, February 25, 2011

Links for 2/25/11

Dean Dad
“measure student learning.” Historiann dismisses this one out of hand, with a quick reference to No Child Left Behind and the following: “Let’s just strangle this one in its crib unless and until we get some evidence that more testing = more education.”

It’s a fascinating response, because it encapsulates so cleanly the unthought impulse that many of us have. Testing equals Republicans equals bullshit; now shut the hell up and write us large checks. Trust us, we’re experts.

It’s written a little more carefully than that, of course, but written specifically to defeat verification. It rejects any sort of “measurement,” but does so by calling for “evidence” that measurement works.

What would that evidence look like? Might it involve, say, measurement?...

The knee-jerk response to any sort of accountability rests on a tautology. We know better than anyone else because we’re experts; we’re experts because we know better than anyone else. Screw measurement, accountability, or assessment; we already know we’re the best. Just ask us!...

Aristocratic pretensions aren’t gonna cut it; the “appeal to authority” isn’t terribly appealing. We need to show, rather than tell, the public that we’re worth supporting…
Daniel de Vise
Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., today announced a Four-Year Degree Guarantee: Students who follow a few institutional policies are promised a degree in four years, or else the college will waive tuition until the student has finished…
James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar
Younger professors have fallen into place. Indeed, they are also products of the corporate university; many have been narrowly “trained” rather than broadly educated…

The corporate model treats students like customers, and as customers they expect services and products for their tuition fees. The services include high grades in return for little effort…
Joanne Jacobs
“Creative destruction” is a bitch, but it beats destruction.
Unions and Feds had better watch out. You don’t want to be fighting against this guy.

Back to the Future: The Need for Apprenticeships and Post-Secondary Certificates

by: Onnalee Kelley

There are broadly three ways to approach post-secondary learning. Some colleges—mainly Liberal Arts institutions—teach their students by providing them with the ability to adapt to many different skill sets. Other universities teach students by focusing intensely upon one particular field that corresponds with a student’s major. Lastly, training from certificates and apprentices immerse the student in a particular skill set and teach him or her kinesthetically as well as didactically.

At the American Enterprise Institute’s Conference on Higher Education last week, Diane Auer Jones argued for advancement of these post-secondary alternatives by providing information about the benefits of certificates and apprenticeship programs. The three different approaches to learning are all imperative for our society and are individually needed, given the various demands of the labor market. However, President Obama’s goal to have America produce the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 seems unfeasible and impractical partly because of labor demands. If we look at where the current labor demands are, we notice that there are people who hold BAs and are unemployed or underemployed. CCAP’s study From Wall Street to Wal-Mart identifies that even though proportionately more Americans are achieving college degrees, the college-level job creation has not kept pace. This mismatch leaves 34% of college graduates underemployed. Therefore, I believe President Obama’s goal reinforces this disparity and I do not think we can benefit from having 60% of our population holding a BA degree when many workers already do not need a degree to competently perform their jobs.

There is a popular statistic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that has become the basis for arguments, like President Obama’s, that we need more college graduates. The data show that almost all of the fastest growing jobs require a college degree. However, as Auer Jones mentioned, our focus should actually be on which jobs are seeing the largest absolute growth, because that is where the most new jobs will be. From this list, only one-fifth of the largest growing jobs require a bachelor degree. Examples of jobs that are on this list are home and personal health aides, customer service representatives, office clerks, and truck drivers. The full BLS list is available here.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is trying to ensure American workers receive high-quality training. While the ETA is looking for new ways to train workers efficiently and effectively, the Department of Education (ED) is trying to get people more Bachelor’s degrees, even though a Bachelor’s degree might not be the best way to train these future workers. These two government bureaucracies are not working together with a common goal. Along with this troublesome dichotomy, the market calls for workers in jobs that do not require Bachelor’s degrees. Do we need retail salespeople to be educated at an elite East Coast school? Do we need truck drivers to major in philosophy at a 4 year college? From an economic and practical stand point, the answer to those questions is no. These examples represent imbalanced and mismatched post-secondary education.

Certificates and apprenticeships are effective, productive, and quite affordable. They provide a pathway for students to be educated efficiently and a way for businesses to hire quality employees. Both the employee and the business make a well-informed decision to work or hire, which would drastically decrease mismatched pairs. Currently, there are only about 28,000 registered apprenticeship programs which are poorly advertised and many students are uninformed of this as a post-secondary option. Certificates that take a year or more to obtain are slightly fewer than 400,000. These are growing at a slow rate because of the community colleges are shifting the programs from long-term to short-term certificates. Certificates that are over a year have a great sustainability rate for the career at hand. The ETA and the ED should focus more on the advancement of apprenticeship programs and long-term certificates instead of aiming for more people to get BAs. Once the focus is shifted, these types of education programs will create a more productive, educated, and market-based society.