Friday, January 25, 2013

College completion

In the New York Times, an article on a report from the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment (now there’s a great name) on the need to increase graduation rates. The group’s chair is Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee:

The report, “College Completion Must Be Our Priority,” which will be released on Thursday, calls on colleges and universities to find ways to give students credit for previous learning, through exams like the College Board’s College-Level Examination Program, portfolio assessments or other college equivalency evaluations. It also calls for more services and flexibility for nontraditional students, suggesting innovations like midnight classes, easier credit transfers and more efficient course delivery, including online classes.

“These are all very important things, they’re all unusual, and they’re things we’re not doing,” Dr. Gee said. “We concentrate most on the admissions side of things, getting the bodies in, and there’s no one in charge of seeing that they get through and graduate. I’m going to call this person the completion dean.”
I’m struck by two things in Gee’s remarks:

1. The frank language of business: “getting the bodies in” and moving them out (while still warm of course). Here is the language of credentialism at its worst. The life of the mind? The pursuit of knowledge? Not so much.

2. The assumption that there must be someone “in charge” to see to it that students graduate. Thus the solution to any academic problem: more administration.

Gee’s Wikipedia article makes interesting reading. You can find the report here.

comments: 4

Stefan Hagemann said...

I couldn't help but notice that Dr. Gee's monogram is EGG. Not perhaps the good kind.

Elaine said...

That is so depressing that I don't know what to say.
If it weren't for the questions and comments and discussions in which the un-shy, articulate students participated (myself on the sidelines, riveted) I don't know what my college education would have given me.
The classroom is INVALUABLE. Irreplaceable. Imperative.


normann said...

The college completion rate is a quantifiable performance criterion, and as such is an objective datum. How else, in the absence of hard data, would anyone be able to obtain a reliable measurement of whether educational sector dollars have been deployed in the most socio-economic beneficial manner? Don't you believe in scientific management priniciples? Get with the program. We are all Thatcherites now.

Without the matching handbag, of course...

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the comments, Stefan, Elaine, and Norman. My own not knowing what to say accounts for my not replying earlier. I find in the “completion” meme not what administrators might call “exciting challenges” but an insistence upon contradictory paths: 1) diluting education in the name of “flexibility” yet 2) still calling the result “college.” Merely having the credential doesn’t produce the benefits of a (real) college education.