Academia Resists Reform Efforts

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Attempts to reform higher education usually result in the object of those efforts digging in its heels. “The aversion to applied learning has grown stronger since A Nation at Risk came out [in 1983],” Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale said at the National Press Club on September 29, 2010.

“A good 40 percent of Americans don’t do well in traditional pedagogy,” he avers and “four to five percent of BAs are in the liberal arts.” Carnevale heads the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown.

Nevertheless, according to Carnevale, the professoriate argues that “American education exists for some other purpose than to create loyal foot soldiers for American capitalism.”  Carnevale agrees, in part.

“That’s true but we have one requirement for citizenship,” he says. “You have to have a job.”

“If you don’t work, the rest of us won’t support you.” Carnevale has worked for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.

He was the keynote speaker at a conference on working learners sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the University of Phoenix. Nonetheless, some of his own prescriptions might fall short of realistic.

“We’re losing an awful lot of kids on Algebra II,” Carnevale said. “We need alternatives.”

While outsiders look at colleges and universities and see clearly that the problems lay in unemployment after graduation and underemployment beforehand in less-than-useful courses, insiders, such as the other panelists at the symposium are less certain of what troubles the Ivory Tower. Some, predictably, see the maladies stemming from inadequate funding, despite the billion dollar endowments of even the smallest public colleges.

“There’s a big pot of money at the Department of Labor that can be used for education,” Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said. Similarly, American University economist Robert Lerman sees a problem with “underfunded apprenticeships and internships.”

Those in the for-profit world of higher education seem to have more of a handle on what plagues post-secondary education. “Seventy-three percent of students do not take the traditional path to college,” William Pepicello, President of The University of Phoenix notes.

“Sixty percent of our students receive financial aid,” Kim Stephan, Director of Distance Degree Programs at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, said. Nonetheless, she sees a bigger problem in that “sixty to seventy-one percent of them require remediation.”

Incidentally, Dr. Stephan got one of her degrees online. At Ivy Tech, she is the director of the College for Working Adults, “a grant-funded position supported by the Joyce Foundation Shifting Gears Initiative.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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