Thursday, August 7, 2014

Data on Grade Inflation in American Universities

Tim Taylor (see here) points us to research by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy regarding grade inflation (see the following graph).

Rojstaczer and Healy state:

Even if grades were to instantly and uniformly stop rising, colleges and universities are, as a result of five decades of mostly rising grades, already grading in a way that is well divorced from actual student performance, and not just in an average nationwide sense.

Taylor notes (see here)

Like so many other bad habits, grade inflation is lots of fun until someone gets hurt. Students are happy with higher grades. Faculty are happy not quarreling with students about grades...

To me, the real and practical problem of grade inflation is that it causes students to alter their choices, away from fields with tougher grading, like the sciences and economics, and toward fields with easier grading. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Executive Orders

I "don't have a dog in this fight" as the saying goes, but for the record:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The fall of "faculty governance"

Timothy Taylor (see here) has a new post entitled "Administrators Take Over Academia."  Using recent research and data, he details how the notion of "faculty governance" - once a cornerstone of higher education - has declined to the point of irrelevance in some Universities.  It seems to be the norm these days as universities continue to spread the "we are a business" propaganda without ever making clear what they mean by that.  He shows the graph below which details the rise of this philosophy.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More on the Changing World of Higher Ed

In my previous post I highlighted a new report from The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research (click here for the report).  Below is another graph from the report:

Here is some of what Timothy Taylor (from the blog the Conversable Economist) says about it:

The picture that emerges from all this is fairly clear. When it comes to employment, colleges and universities have tried to hold down faculty costs in dealing with the expanding numbers of students by the use of time-contract faculty and part-timers. The nonprofessional staff are dealing with the increased number of students by using improved information technology and other capital investments, without a need for  a higher total number of staff. But the number of professional staff is rising, both in absolute terms and relative to the number of students. Desrochers and Kirshstein report these patterns in a neutral tone: "Growing numbers of administrative positions (executive and professional) and changes in faculty composition represent long-standing trends. The shifting balance among these positions has played out steadily over time in favor of administrators, and it is unclear when a tipping point may be near. Whether this administrative growth constitutes unnecessary “bloat” or is justified as part of the complexities involved in running a modern-day university remains up for debate."

I'll only add that institutions are defined by their people. As the full-time and tenured faculty become a smaller share of the employees of the institution and the professional administrators become a larger share, the nature and character of the institution inevitably changes. In this case, colleges and universities have become less about faculty, teaching, and research, and more about the provision of professional services to students and faculty. As far as I know, this shift was not planned or chosen, and the costs and benefits of such a shift were not analyzed in advance. It just happened.

His last paragraph is quite telling, since it is pretty clear to me that the "character" of many institutions has already changed.  For example, the practice of management in higher education now operates as a kind of "corporation envy" and the administrators view themselves as industrial managers in a "command and control" environment, not as colleagues engaged in the practices of teaching and learning.  One example of this:  the idea of "shared governance" is already diminished as faculty are increasingly viewed as "contract employees" who are necessary for the delivery of service, but unnecessary for the maintenance of the culture of the institution of higher education.  Whereas faculty tend to view their responsibility as educating students, administrators see their role as placating customers.  Whereas faculty tend to see the development and propagation of quality as a major challenge, administrators see "brand management" via "happy customers" as the key challenge.  The disparity of these two views of the role of institutions of higher education leads to predictable dysfunctions (for both faculty and administrators).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The changing world of Higher Ed

There are lots of opinions about what is wrong with Higher Ed., what has happened, what needs to be done, etc.  It's a big issue and, like most big issues, there are many ways to examine it.  One thing is pretty clear, however, and that is the fact that Higher Ed. has increasingly become an organizational form expected to address social problems.  Thus Higher Ed. continues to add departments that are, viewed in the best light, forms of social support for students who are less and less prepared to do college work.  The graph below is an interesting snapshot of this trend.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Wasted Financial Crisis???

Adam Davidson at the New York Times asks: Did we waste a financial crisis?  (see here).  Davidson says:

Remarkably, five years after the crisis, the health of the financial industry is just as hard to determine. A major bank or financial institution could meet every single regulatory requirement yet still be at risk of collapse, and few of us would even know it.

So, while Republicans block every attempt at financial reform and Democrats (those who aren't secretly glad the Republicans are blocking reform) go on the talk shows and decry how "hard" they are trying, the rest of us are stuck with a huge bill for stabilizing the financial sector with the added insult that it most certainly can happen again.

Sunday, August 4, 2013