Author: Richard Vedder

Richard Vedder teaches at Ohio University and is the author of "Restoring the Promise: American Higher Education Today."

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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Gordon Gee: A Brilliant Hustler Steps Down

Gordon Gee’s sudden retirement from Ohio State (after a widely reported, off-the-cuff slur on Catholics) probably ends a remarkable career of academic leadership almost without parallel in American higher education. For a university president to survive 10 years as president of one institution or 25 years in total as president is very unusual, yet Gee […]

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Why So Much Lying on Campus?

One of the things that strikes me about modern universities is the inordinate amount of lying that goes on -both by institutions and members of the university communities- and how little is done about it. As respect for moral absolutes is replaced with a mushy moral relativism, perhaps a decline in honesty is to be expected. But […]

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Only 3.3% of Recent College Grads Unemployed, But…

The New York Times reports a relatively small proportion of young Americans work by international standards, and suggests it may be because we are lagging in educating college students, since college graduates have low unemployment rates (3.9 percent in April for all college grads). There are several problems with this conclusion. First, while the Bureau of […]

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What Will Convulsive Change Do to Our Colleges?

In the highly competitive free market economy that propelled the United States into our planet’s richest nation, business enterprises making mistakes pay huge and sometimes fatal consequences. Indeed it is what Joseph Schumpeter aptly called “creative destruction” that forces firms to be productive, efficient, innovative, and willing to take risks. Contrast this to higher education.  […]

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Let’s Reclaim the Word ‘Diversity’

Universities enjoy a privileged position in our society and lots of independence from political and economic forces, partly to provide an environment where diversity of views reigns -where conformist, stifling uniformity is suppressed in favor of a “free market in ideas.” Coupled with that historically has been a sense of meritocracy -the academy is an […]

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Accreditors–Hip Deep in Politics

Accreditation is rapidly changing. Instead of remaining just a mildly annoying and inefficient barrier to innovation and change in higher education, it is evolving into a major impediment. Increasingly outrageous decisions by power hungry accreditation czars are becoming a serious problem. I have recently written about this issue here, but the problem is growing so […]

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The Damage That Accreditors Do

If I were asked to name the ten organizations most adversely impacting Americans – I would undoubtedly think of a few terrorist groups like al-Qaeda or criminal elements like Russian or Italian Mafia crime families, but also on my list, right below the quasi-corrupt NCAA that exploits young athletes to profit and entertain adults, might […]

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Why Liberals Should Want Less Spending on Colleges

Let us look at the typical liberal/progressive American who supported President Obama in 2012, who enthusiastically favors raising taxes on the affluent, and who supports most federal programs designed to help economically disadvantaged Americans. My guess is this individual also probably supports vastly expanding federal financial aid to college students, favors increased state appropriations for […]

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University Presidents to Keep an Eye on

Two university presidents are in the news. Mitch Daniels, until recently Governor of Indiana, became Purdue’s president amidst much publicity. Arguably the most important leader in American higher education, Mark Yudof, announced he is retiring as the head of the University of California, having previously run the universities of Minnesota and Texas. Just recently, another […]

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Some Pluses, Many Negatives for Higher Education

As American higher education begins its 378th year, we can rejoice that our universities have several strengths, but lament their growing number of weaknesses.  The beginning of a new year is a good time to reassess the system. Let us begin with the strengths: A large portion of adult Americans have had higher education experiences, giving the […]

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Dishonesty in the Pay for College Presidents

Major university presidents, supported by their governing boards that typically they have wrapped around their fingers, behave often like Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Leona Helmsley (“only little people pay taxes.”) The most recent outrage is the revelation by Jack Stripling of the Chronicle of Higher Education that 25 of the 50 highest […]

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The Unstoppable MOOCs

By Richard Vedder Although difficult to measure, it is unlikely that higher education has had any productivity advance in the 50 years since I finished college. Economists like Princeton’s William Baumol have argued that rising college costs are inevitable, given inherent limitations on reducing the cost of disseminating knowledge -only so many people can fit […]

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Should We Charge Different Fees for Different Majors?

In the first couple weeks of any survey course in the principles of economics, students are taught that prices are determined by the interactions of consumers (demand) and producers (supply). Prices for many things, such as oil, or of common stocks, constantly change with the frequent shifts in the willingness of consumers and producers to […]

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Universities Are Vocational Schools

Why do students go to college? A new poll has a one-word answer: money. That’s one of the findings in a broad Gallup survey of college admissions officers done for Inside Higher Ed. The admissions officers seem to believe that those planning to attend college view it largely as a signaling device that directs the best […]

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Three Pell Grant Scams

Many politicians, including senators such as Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin, have grown indignant over the allegedly vast amounts of higher education money captured by for-profit institutions via the Pell Grant program. In fact, they consider this something of a scam. The truth, of course, is that throughout its history, including now, the vast majority […]

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Three Things Colleges Don’t Want Us to Know

Universities are in the knowledge business, and the creation and dissemination of it is at the very core of what colleges do. Yet some forms of knowledge about higher education itself are either unknown, or hidden from the public. Why? Release of the information would prove embarrassing and possibly even costly to the school. 1. […]

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Elite College ($50,000 a Year) or Good State School ($20,000)?

The new Sallie Mae-Gallup survey of attitudes toward higher education, “How America Pays for College 2012,” shows that Americans are becoming increasingly resistant to rising college prices. Some people who were saying “I want the best college money can buy” a few years ago, are now saying “We aren’t going to pay sky-high tuition when […]

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The 12 Reasons College Costs Keep Rising

When asked the question, “Why do colleges keep raising tuition fees?” I give answers ranging from three words (“because they can”), to 85,000 (my book, Going Broke By Degree). Avoiding both extremes, let’s evaluate two rival explanations for the college cost explosion, followed by 12 key expressions that add more detail.

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‘The For-Profits Care More for Their Students’

Inside Higher Education has just released its second annual survey of college presidents on their views about major problems and challenges facing higher education. Over 1,000 presidents responded to the survey, from all types of schools, including over 50 for-profit institutions. To me the most interesting finding is that public and private schools have somewhat […]

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How Universities Promote the “Coming Apart” of America

Every decade or so, Charles Murray writes a blockbuster book captivating America. First came Losing Ground, focusing attention on our dysfunctional system of public assistance, and, along with Richard Herrnstein, The Bell Curve, a controversial but rigorous examination of the role played by cognitive endowments in American life. I suspect his new book, Coming Apart: […]

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About All Those STEM Dropouts…

The New York Times proclaimed recently that science educators and others are vitally concerned that high dropout rates of students studying math, science, and engineering (the “STEM” disciplines) will imperil our nation’s technological leadership. There is a shortage of people in these fields, it is argued, and efforts to increase numbers are thwarted by dropout rates […]

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Steve Jobs and Our Non-Innovating Universities

The passing of Steve Jobs has focused my mind on something I haven’t thought about for a while: American capitalism is so vibrant, so creative, so much a creator of wealth and happiness, while higher education is far less so on all scores. Perhaps this explains why, when we tax capitalists and their suppliers (including […]

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