Author: Richard Vedder

Richard Vedder directed the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and teaches economics at Ohio University. He is also an Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ten Things Destroying American Higher Education

America’s colleges and universities are in trouble: falling enrollments, declining public support, even the beginnings of a decline in our dominance in international rankings. While many factors are at work, here are the top ten things I think are destroying America’s colleges and universities. First, going to college is too costly. Tuition fees have roughly […]

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Popping the Higher Education Bubble

Nearly a decade ago, my then colleague Andrew Gillen suggested that one could say that higher education was in a bit of a “bubble”: over-exuberant “investors” in human capital, better known as students, were potentially misallocating their resources, becoming increasingly underemployed after graduation, leading to adverse financial consequences. In the private sector, bubbles, like those […]

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digital visualization of a dollar symbol

Taxing the Campus Plutocrats

One provision in the new tax legislation is going to give scores of colleges and universities a lot of heartburn –the 21 percent federal excise tax on compensation of employees making $1 million a year or more. The idea of extra taxes on supersized salaries is not new: private corporations have paid excise taxes on […]

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Same Old College Rankings—What Did You Expect?

Shocking news: the new Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings say that Harvard is the best school in the United States. So does Forbes in its rankings, while US News ranks it second. Some eight schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Penn, Duke and Cal Tech) are in the top 10 in all three […]

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A Bi-Polar Report on ‘Laggard’ Public Colleges

Right now, the biggest news in higher education is a controversial paper from Dimitrios Halikias and Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution, arguing that “the upper middle class is substantially over-represented” in America’s universities, that “public investment…too often fails to produce either social mobility or socially beneficial research,” and that “the significant public subsidies spent […]

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Mitch Daniels

Mitch Daniels’ Bold Move Into For-Profit Education

Who gains as Purdue University acquires on-line Kaplan University? For Kaplan, the sale has strong appeal. For-profit companies have been maliciously maligned by politicians and leftist ideologues, and the Obama Administration tried to kill them through regulations that largely did not apply to traditional not-for-profit institutions. Students will like the prestige of the Purdue name, […]

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900,000 Costly Bureaucrats Work on Campus—How Many Do We Really Need?

For universities and many colleges, this is the age of administrative bloat. The Office of the President of the University of California has roughly two thousand employees – doing no teaching or research. In just the Diversity and Engagement area of her office (which probably did not even exist 50 years ago), there are five […]

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Higher Education

About 15 years ago I began writing extensively about the rising cost of higher education, even starting a research center (the Center for College Affordability and Productivity) focused on that topic. I am now convinced that rising costs are NOT the dominant problem facing our universities. There are at least seven deadly sins –not precisely […]

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How the Leftist Monoculture Took Over the Campus

By Richard Vedder I didn’t sleep too well last night, thanks to Heterodox Academy’s (and NYU’s) Jonathan Haidt and John Leo, who recently carried on a provocative exchange in this space. Two questions really bothered me: Why is there so little intellectual diversity in the academy? And what can we do about the related problem […]

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The U. Texas President on the Brink

Bill Powers, embattled for years as president of the University of Texas at Austin, appears at last to be facing his Alamo.  On Thursday, the UT Board of Regents will meet and Powers, mired in controversy over costs and mission, is expected to either resign or be fired. A face-saving compromise would be to let […]

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The Higher-Ed Bubble Starts to Pop

Everything created by humanity is subject to a cycle of creation and destruction. Humans live 70-80 or sometimes even 100 years; their business enterprises rarely last that long. A generation ago, there was no Facebook or Google, but Enron and Eastman Kodak were going strong. Even buildings seldom last more than 200-300 years. Until recently, […]

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Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students?

Here’s a scary statistic about American higher-ed: more than 40 percent of college students don’t graduate. But that number hides enormous variations in drop-out behavior. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has issued a “state supplement” report filled with interesting statistics; Here are some: Completion rates are vastly lower for part-time students relative to full-time ones; Students […]

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The Awful New Rules on ‘Gainful Employment’

The Gettysburg Address is just over 300 words long, while the Declaration of Independence is 1,137 and entire U.S. Constitution is 4,400 words. But the Obama Administration’s new rules pertaining to “gainful employment,” applicable to many higher-education institutions, including virtually all “for-profit” ones, run about 185,000 words and 841 pages, slightly longer than the Bible’s […]

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Dropouts Cost More Than $12 Billion a Year

Critics of American higher education usually focus on the deficiencies of college graduates —for example, their critical thinking isn’t much better than that of college freshmen, or they increasingly end up in relatively low-paying jobs requiring few high-level skills. Yet an indefatigable retired South Carolina college professor, sometime state legislator and relentless purveyor of collegiate […]

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Four Ideas for Higher Education

Speaking at the nation’s largest community college (Miami Dade), Senator Marco Rubio proposed some very specific ideas on higher education that deserve serious consideration. Rubio recognizes that our federal student financial assistance program has enabled colleges to raise fees: “these hiked tuition rates….form a free subsidy for colleges…which use the funds to finance a myriad […]

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Welcome to Robin Hood University

When I attended Northwestern beginning in the late 1950s, most students paid exactly the same tuition, room and board fees. Today, only a minority of college students pay full tuition (“the sticker price”) from their own funds. At exclusive private schools, some students pay nothing for tuition, room and board, but others pay $50,000 or […]

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Welcome to Robin Hood University

When I attended Northwestern beginning in the late 1950s, most students paid exactly the same tuition, room and board fees. Today, only a minority of college students pay full tuition (“the sticker price”) from their own funds. At exclusive private schools, some students pay nothing for tuition, room and board, but others pay $50,000 or […]

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How About Post-College Exams?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton observed that “Gallup’s hundreds of business clients report that many, if not most, college diplomas don’t tell them much about graduates’ readiness for productive work.”  The information gap particularly hurts students attending non-selective admission colleges of so-so reputation: how do […]

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What Charles Vest Did for Higher Education

If low-cost Internet-based learning totally transforms higher education, we can thank Charles “Chuck” Vest, long-time president of M.I.T. Chuck, who died last week of cancer, was a great man in many ways, but his crowning achievement, the OpenCourseWare program at M.I.T., spurred  huge changes whose full implications are only beginning to be understood. In 2002, […]

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Disarray at the University of Texas

In Texas, academic disputes often are Texas-sized: protracted, bitter brawls where civilized rules of conduct are often ignored. Another chapter in a long a drawn out soap opera has played out in Austin, with UT President Bill Powers retaining his job after a Board of Regents meeting regarding his fate.  Powers will soon finish his eighth […]

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Going for the Gold:
Universities Gamble Big-Time on Research

Like compulsive Las Vegas gamblers, many university presidents like to make big bets hoping for large payoffs. And like most gamblers, they usually lose. But they have a big advantage over those going to Vegas: they are gambling with other people’s money.  The most famous form of higher education gambling involves football and basketball, where […]

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Why the Huge Payouts to College Ex-Presidents?

Brandeis University gave a surprising good-bye present to former president Jehuda Reinharz: a post-retirement compensation package of $600,000 a year for little apparent work. Indeed, Reinharz is earning another $800,000 annually in a full-time job for the Mandel Foundation (a Cleveland-based charity that has generously supported Brandeis). These kinds of deals are increasingly common in higher education. […]

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New Report: Why Colleges Get
an ‘F’ in Cost Control

The College Board has released its annual report Trends in College Prices, and never has a seemingly boring document full of tables and graphs revealed more about American higher education.  Five observations culled from the data: The rate of increase in tuition fees moderated a good deal this year, continuing a trend, especially at state universities, […]

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The Collegiate Learning Assessment–Let’s Support It

Surveys suggest, unsurprisingly, that most students go to college to acquire job credentials, not to pursue  deep learning or ponder eternal truths. The biggest problem: that credentialing is extremely expensive–usually between $100,000 and $200,000–and doesn’t indicate much. Given today’s non-selective admissions policies, grade inflation and lax college academic standards, a college diploma doesn’t tell us […]

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Is the University of Virginia Going Private?

It was bound to happen sooner or later: an important committee at the University of Virginia (UVA) has recommended the de facto privatization of the institution. Specifically, “The University of Virginia and its supporters should initiate a process designed to change the status of the University from a state controlled…and supported entity to a state […]

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The Tsunami of Change—Has It Begun?

The great transformation of higher education may be under way. Two indicators: First, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that enrollments at America’s universities in 2012 fell for the first time in years. What the Census did not stress was that the decline was fairly substantial, about 500,000 students, or roughly three percent. Rather the Census, […]

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Too Many People Are Going to College

That conclusion should be obvious.  Roughly 48 percent of our college graduates are in jobs that the require less than a four-year degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the future looks worse: growth in the number of graduates in this decade is likely to be nearly three times as great as the projected […]

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Stanford Is Number One, Pomona Number Two

The ratings season has begun. Forbes has just released its Best College list (full disclosure: the Center of College Affordability and Productivity, which I direct, does the rankings for Forbes). The Forbes list, more than that of US News & World Report, emphasizes student concerns -quality of instruction, vocational success of graduates, the amount of […]

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The Universities Are Major Lobbyists Now

Colleges and universities have learned a lot from the late, great bank robber Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, answered “that is where the money is.”  In an extension of the Sutton Hypothesis, colleges have learned that an awful lot of the largess that keeps them flush with funds comes from 51 […]

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Why Ed Schools Are Useless

At many large universities with an undergraduate college of education, the education school is regarded by students and faculty alike as the weak link, sometimes something of an embarrassment. None of the top dozen or so universities in rankings compiled by magazines like US News or Forbes typically even has an undergraduate ed school, in contrast […]

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