William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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GREAT! – AT 9:05 A.M. ET:  Have you noticed something?  Have you noticed that some Americans, led by courageous Republican governors, are starting to push back against the education establishment?  How long overdue this is!

For years we've put up with the arrogance, corruption, bias, and lowered standards of American colleges and universities.  Protected by a fawning press and the leftist establishment, our "institutions of higher learning" deflect any criticism by charging critics with "anti-intellectualism" and "contempt for the next generation."  They have all the lines ready.

But the market is starting, finally, to work, despite the indifference of the media, many of whose members sit around waiting for their honorary degrees and invitations to deliver commencement addresses.  When private colleges start charging $60,000 a year, and when public institutions establish departments in Left-handed Pacific Islander and Oppressed Scuba Diver Studies, the fury starts to grow.

You don't have to agree with every suggestion made by the growing chorus of critics to be excited by the fact that the critics are starting to show some courage.  The education bubble is bursting.  Now maybe we'll finally expose the dry rot underneath.  It reminds me of Rudy Giuliani taking on crime in New York, and defeating it.  From Fox:

The $10,000 bachelor's degree could be coming to a campus near you.

What began as a challenge from billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates to make college more affordable is now catching on with governors eager to stem spiraling tuition costs and mounting student debt. Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced recently that 23 state-run higher education institutions will soon offer the four-year degree programs for $10,000, following similar calls by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. At least one lawmaker in California is calling for that state's vaunted university system to embrace the idea, too.

The bargain baccalaureate could prove popular with students and parents, frustrated with ever-mounting tuition costs that can't guarantee jobs for graduates. Nationally, student loan debt tops $1 trillion and the price of going to college has risen 440 percent in the last 25 years, according to Sallie Mae.

“The public has come to realize that the degrees that cost far more than $10,000 aren’t delivering,” said Thomas Lindsay, director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “They’ve come to the realization that you don’t get what you pay for.”

Proponents of the plans say the savings can be gleaned by using more web-based instruction, as well as forcing the public schools to be more efficient. The $10,000 degree also may not be available to everyone. Under one model being implemented in Texas, only high school students who graduate with at least a 2.5 grade-point average and complete at least 30 hours of college credit are eligible. They then a spend a year at Southwest Texas Junior College before completing their degrees at Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College, where they must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average and take 15 hours of classes per semester. If those criteria are met, students can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or mathematics.

COMMENT:  It's a great start.  These programs will be expanded and improved over time.  They will make maximum use of the internet, and they will favor the hard sciences.

There is precedent here.  Right after World War II, Robert Hutchins, chancellor (president) of the University of Chicago, moved considerable funds from the humanities to the physical sciences.  There was the usual uproar, but Hutchins simply responded, "We are building a university."  He recognized that the age of modern science was upon us, and that a great university had to be prepared.  He was right

Our colleges have become complacent, self-satisfied, and far too devoted to satisfying the political demands of leftist-approved groups.  Now they need to be jolted out of their sleep. 

A few years ago I had a talk with a true educator, one of the nation's most revered.  He never went along with the trendiness.  He mentioned that he had a niece at an Ivy League school and complained, "She's home more than she's at school."  I thought it remarkable that an educator would say that. 

Things are starting to happen.  It will be a tough fight.  We will be opposed by massive interests.  But I'm optimistic that these first stirrings will bear fruit.

February 7, 2013