Author: George Leef

George Leef is Director of Research for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Making a Bigger Mess of Student Loans

The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy Federal student aid programs abound in examples that demonstrate a point economists often make: government policies almost always have undesirable consequences that weren’t anticipated, or if they were didn’t matter much to the politicians. At the time they were begun, during President Johnson’s “Great Society” years […]

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English Departments See Iceberg Ahead, Keep to Course

Last month, the Modern Language Association (MLA) issued the report of its Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature.  The crucial word in the report is “unsustainable.” The authors recognize that the old model of luring students into doctoral programs, keeping them at work on degrees for up to a decade, and then […]

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Good Data Not Good for Bad Colleges

More often than one might think, Americans on the “Right” agree with Americans on the “Left” when it comes to higher education. A few years ago, the Pope Center hosted an event that brought together three critics from each wing of the political spectrum to explore the intersection of their views. I suspect that there will be […]

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A Fair and Balanced View of For-Profit Colleges – in the New York Times

When you stop and think, it’s unfair to the many writers at the New York Times who produce columns that don’t have an ideological edge, to tar them with the brush that is rightly applied to its overwhelmingly unfair and unbalanced editorial pages. Just because the most conspicuous part of a newspaper is terribly slanted […]

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The College Diploma Can’t Be Fixed

Several years ago, I attended a Liberty Fund conference where one of the readings was Edward Chase Kirkland’s Dream and Thought in the Business Community. What I remember most from the book is that many of the great business leaders of the late-1800s not only regarded college education as unnecessary for anyone who was looking […]

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The Problem with College Rankings

There are a number of college rankings. Of course, the best known by far is the U.S. News& World Report ranking, which for many people is the college ranking. (This year, Princeton edged out Harvard for bragging rights.) Forbes publishes another ranking, using an approach designed by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. (Stanford […]

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The Abusive Professor at Michigan State

In a revealing incident at the beginning of Michigan State’s new academic year, writing professor William Penn went off on a rant aimed at Republicans. Fortunately, a student captured it on video, which is included in this story on Inside Higher Ed. Among Professor Penn’s comments were such ideas as these: “If you go to […]

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Educational Malpractice Abounding

In this heart-rending L.A. Times piece, we see how educational malpractice from early school on to freshman year at the University of California – Berkeley has damaged a young black student, Kashawn Campbell. Kashawn was one of the very few male students who showed any interest in his studies and for that reason, the school […]

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More Pay for Taking a Course? NO

In a session that left many liberals furious, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed a law that granted teachers an automatic ten percent pay increase if they completed a master’s degree. That move has led to a lot of hand-wringing. In a piece about this story on Inside Higher Ed, writer Kevin Kiley noted that […]

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Are Income-Contingent Loans a Good Idea?

Here’s an idea much in the news recently: the best way to finance higher education is through post-graduation payments by students based on their income.. Oregon made a splash with legislation calling for a pilot program along these lines; students would pay no tuition or fees while in school, but would repay the state a […]

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More Education Doesn’t Always Make You Better Educated

Among the several “the sky is falling!” arguments we hear about higher education is that the current generation is “in danger” of being the first generation of Americans that will be “less educated” than the generation before it. In that formulation, “less educated” means having fewer years of formal education. With a somewhat smaller number […]

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Let’s Not Have More Disaggregated Data

Quite a few people have built careers in higher education around the supposed need to study how different groups compare, and when the inevitable disparities are discovered, setting up programs to address the “underrepresentation problem.” To get a sense of just how deeply ingrained such thinking is, consider this piece from Inside Higher Ed, “The […]

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The Alleged “Rich Kid Problem”

Egalitarians never run out of things to complain about. Any statistical disparity between groups causes them to wring their hands and call for action to remedy the “inequity.” The latest outbreak of egalitarian fever has to do with higher education in America, specifically the alleged “rich kid problem.” Jordan Weissman of The Atlantic recently penned […]

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One Way to Improve the Higher Education Act

The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization this year, so this is an especially good time to talk about improvements to it. (We ought to consider repealing it instead, but almost nobody in Congress would support that.) One idea, recently advanced here by Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is to stop […]

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Exposing Fraudulent Academic Research

The New York Times recently published a fascinating piece that exposed the fraudulent research of one Diederik Stapel, a professor of social psychology at Tilburg University in The Netherlands. What we learn from the piece is applicable to America, where the incentives for producing worthless research are no different. Stapel had become an academic star […]

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For-profit Higher Ed is Fine – Government Funding is the Problem

One of the more annoying tropes of the left is that while it may be all right for profit-oriented businesses to function in many markets – I have yet to hear anyone demand that dry cleaning, for example, be done by non-profit entities – they shouldn’t be in “helping” fields like health care and education. […]

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Zakaria Wrings His Hands over a “Crisis” in Higher Ed

Fareed Zakaria, in his new Time magazine column, “The Thin-Envelope Crisis,”  does some hand-wringing over the supposed complicity of our colleges and universities in the decline of economic mobility in our country. He writes, “The institutions that have been the best at opening access in the U.S. have been its colleges and universities. If they […]

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The Implausibility of “Stereotype Threat”

Defenders of affirmative action must work hard to explain away a serious problem: the tendency for the students admitted due to preferences to do relatively poorly in their coursework. When the class average in a calculus course is 85 but the average among the students who were preferentially admitted is 65, people start asking the […]

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Should University Presidents Speak Out?

A friend recently sent me an article entitled “University Presidents – Speak Out!” published in The Nation, a periodical I mostly avoid. In the article, author Scott Sherman laments that university presidents don’t air their views more often on the “big issues.” His idea of an estimable college leader is someone like Lee Bollinger of Columbia […]

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Gary Becker Wrong to Say College Is Still a Good Investment

University of Chicago economics professor Gary Becker,  recipient of the 1992 Nobel Prize, maintains a consistently interesting blog with the prolific law professor Richard Posner. Recently, Becker responded to a Posner post (on reasons to change our system of legal education) with an argument that “higher education is still a very good investment.” I submit […]

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Stop Using the “Critical Mass” Theory

Those who advocate admissions preferences for “diverse” students say that colleges will be better learning environments if the student body isn’t all “the same.” Former Harvard president Derek Bok famously said, “It just wouldn’t do to have an all-white university.” In its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, a majority of the Supreme Court echoed […]

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The Campus That Says Having White Skin is Unfair

Superior, Wisconsin is at the far northwest tip of the state and the population is overwhelmingly white. There have never been any racial troubles in the area. Nevertheless, officials at the University of Wisconsin branch campus have become “sponsors” of a group calling itself the “Unfair Campaign.” The campaign is built around the assertion that […]

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A Costly STEM Mistake in Connecticut

Connecticut governor Daniel Malloy recently made a splash with a plan to spend $1.5 billion expanding the University of Connecticut’s science, technology, engineering and math programs, thus–he thinks — turning his state into a magnet for high-tech employers. Alas, the idea of using educational central planning to boost the economic fortunesof a state is beset with problems. […]

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Feel-Good “Divestment” Campaigns Thrive on Campuses

College campuses abound in silly sentiments and enthusiasm for actions that make zealous students, professors, and administrators to feel good about themselves, but accomplish nothing. The current push to compel colleges and universities to divest their stock holdings in companies that produce fossil fuels — discussed in this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education […]

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The Lean Years Are Upon Higher Education

The Book of Genesis alludes to seven years of plenty followed by seven lean years of want. For American higher education, the last forty years (roughly) have been years of plenty, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that many lean years lie ahead. Perhaps there won’t be any more fat years. The latest piece of […]

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Incivility, Persuasion, and Higher Education

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an excellent article by Father John I. Jenkins,  president of the University of Notre Dame, entitled “Persuasion as the Cure for Incivility.” In it, he argues that Americans need to get out of the terrible habit of “arguing” with people who disagree with them by demonizing and vilifying them.  He’s […]

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How Law Schools Evade Market Competition

Almost every day you’ll find new evidence that the United States has vastly oversold higher education. The evidence du jour is in the Wall Street Journal of January 3, a piece by a young lawyer named Chris Fletcher. In it, Fletcher points out that, according to an estimate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the […]

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Right-to-Work and the “Weakening” of Academic Unions

The Michigan legislature has just passed a Right to Work bill. That will allow unionized workers in the state, including teachers and professors, to stop paying dues to the union representing them and not be fired – as would have previously been the case.  Unions almost always bargain for and get contract clauses stipulating that […]

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It’s Not Just the Athletes Who Can’t Read and Write

Tar Heel alums may be embarrassed over the scandal involving the amazingly low academic standards for “student-athletes” at the University of North Carolina, but for the rest of America, it is the gift that keeps on giving for its insights into the true priorities of our higher education leaders. This recent article in the Raleigh […]

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Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, But…

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or its title, but how about from an extended interview with the authors? On November 2, Inside Higher Ed carried such an interview with the three authors of a new book entitled Occupying the Academy. The authors, Christine Clark (a professor of multicultural education at UNLV), Kenneth […]

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