Monthly Archives: March 2012

A $10,000 degree?

How to get a $10,000 degree at Texas A&M-San Antonio:

  1. Show up with half the course work already done while in high school.
  2. Go take another two semesters of coursework somewhere else for about $2,000.
  3. Take your last 36 hours in actual Texas A&M-San Antonio courses. Hope that your professors share the same standards that your high school and community college instructors.

You can find more on this at the Texas Tribune: (“Texplainer: How Can I Get a $10,000 Degree?“).

Do college professors work hard enough?

So, I took a break from grading on Sunday evening to check headlines and I came across a strange article (“Do college professors work hard enough?“) in the Washington Post. I say strange because I’ve never seen someone blame the high cost of education on schools orientated toward teaching. Also, the author (David Levy) has to be one of the dumbest former chancellors walking the planet.

Apparently, Mr. Levy doesn’t realize that pretty much every full professor teaching in the US has to do some kind of research (that’s how they got to be full professors). He must have been a really weak chancellor if he didn’t get his faculty at the New School University to do research. Or, he does crummy research (he looked at one whole school). It couldn’t be the case that he’s trying to whore the truth out in order to rake in some consulting contracts.


Insider Higher Education published a piece (“And the Livin’ Is Easy“) that summarized and linked to some of the response to Levy’s article.

How Much Is Your Alma Mater’s College Football Team Worth?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting (“How Much Is Your Alma Mater’s College Football Team Worth?“) that  the University of Texas football program is worth $805 million.  This makes UT football #1 and well ahead of Florida who finished $175 million behind UT. In fact, UT’s value more that doubles that of #14 Arkansas (a mere $345 million). You have to be worth more than $105 to rate in the top 50.

How can college football be competitive in this environment? Most can not. And, they’re probably not supposed to be. The television networks are making too much money off the battles of the big names to worry about whether or not little programs can actually compete.

When you hear about student-athletes being “exploited” by schools that make millions, remember that not all schools make millions and that paying players will only increase the gap between wealthy programs and the rest of the field.  It seems odd to me that the NCAA’s response to players being “exploited” for millions is to allow schools toss a few thousand dollars at select athletes. That seems to embrace the assumption that college sports have become a business and that paying off a few noisy players is more important than protecting real competition.

Higher Ed Support Drops… Again

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports (“State and Local Spending on Higher Education Sank Again Last Year“) that state and local spending on higher education fell to a 25-year low for the second consecutive year despite enrollments climbing to record highs. You can read the original report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers. It has all the details, including this chart that summarizes the challenges pretty well. : College Kills Faith?

Many thanks to for swatting down the claim by Rick Santorum that higher education undermines faith (“College Kills Faith?“). Santorum claimed that “62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.” FactCheck produces evidence to demonstrate that Santorum is incorrect.

Santorum has not commented on how the impact of misleading statements coming from candidates impacts the faith of young people.

Romney on higher education

While Rick Santorum’s views on the leftist and Satanic leanings of America’s universities have gotten much more attention, there has also been some coverage of Mitt Romney’s record on higher education (“The Republican candidate’s record on higher education“). You can check it out if you’re curious.

Public views of the impact of colleges

The Pew Center for the People and the Press recently released a report on public opinion and college (“Colleges Viewed Positively, But Conservatives Express Doubts”). The results are more odd than interesting.

For example, 60% of respondents said that the impact of colleges on the way things are going in the country are positive while 26% said their impact is negative. A two-to-one ratio of positive ratings is pretty good in this study. In fact, the only institutions included in the survey that got a higher percentage of positive ratings was technology companies (70%) and small businesses (75%). Churches (57% positive) come in just behind colleges.

So, what does this mean?

Americans are do not really like most institutions. People are looking for someone else to blame for the country’s troubles. Republicans and Democrats assign blame to different places.

One problem with the results presented here is that the targets are incredibly broad. For example, I am not sure what people think of when they are asked about “technology companies.” Sony? Apple? Microsoft? Rock Star Games (the make of the violent video game Grand Theft Auto)?

Everyone seems to grumble about national news media but they’re still in business. My guess is that when respondents were asked about “national news media” conservatives decided to think of the liberal media that makes them most angry and liberals thought of the conservative media that makes them the most angry. It certainly seems that respondents were looking for things to feel negative about and that would say about as much about the respondents as the institutions.

The grumpiness of the respondents coupled with the partisan differences makes me discount some of the negativity directed at colleges. It will be hard to separate the real concerns of Americans from the fallout of the politically motivated culture wars raging around us.

More coverage of assessing what students learn in college

The Washington Post has run a story (“Trying to assess learning gives colleges their own test anxiety“) on the problems schools are having demonstrating how much student learn over four years.

With this kind of coverage you can be sure that assessment of higher education will become an even bigger issue and we can expect to spend more time grappling with assessment and all the issues it raises.

Four-year graduation rates in Texas

The Texas Tribune has a story (“Four-Year Graduation Rates Lag, But Do They Matter?“) on four-year graduation rates that includes a data base you can use to compare schools. The Texas Tribune should be commended for providing a tool for looking at graduation rates while also noting that four-year graduation rates are dubious measures.

I did quick chart that compared the rates for SFA and similar institutions.

Four-year graduation rates

I’m always mystified by politicians who go directly from complaining about students not being ready for college to asking colleges why students do not graduate in four years. One of the leading reasons students do not finish college on time (or not finishing at all) is that many are not ready to start college when they show up.

The focus on four-year graduation rates (like a lot of the higher education debate in Texas) is largely misguided. Schools should not be judged on these rates unless you consider all the other factors behind student graduation. We could start measuring success if the state’s leaders would have a meaningful conversation about success means. Unfortunately, the state lacks real leadership on higher education and progress will have to wait.