Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Article on the Commission on Higher Ed

The article in University Business is out now. The online version has a cool Flash-driven interface that lets you flip pages. I had a conversation with a friend--I'll just call him Bob--the other night about the topic. He was pretty critical of the idea of using earned income as a proxy for learning. Bob was also quite dubious about the prospect of trying to isolate the effect of college from other factors. This problem would, of course, be shared by any other approach as well. The reason is that people who choose to go to college are different from those who do not. How much difference there is might be detectable by looking at partial completion, two years vs four years, etc. I think this can be overcome, and would certainly be easier using income rather than scores on a test. Another problem is how to account for graduates who start their own business or otherwise have their actual "income" being non-comparable to a salaried position. And what about people who intentionally choose lower-paying jobs for personal reasons. Someone who graduates and heads off on a Peace Corps mission may not really be judged simply by looking at salary. This begins to prompt questions about what it is we really value. That discussion should precede any measurements and judgments we make about the effectiveness of higher education, and certainly precede actions.

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