The Costs of College
Why is the overall quality of undergraduate learning so poor?
While some colleges are starved for resources, for many others it’s not for lack of money. Even at those colleges where for the past several decades tuition has far outpaced the rate of inflation, students are taught by fewer full-time tenured faculty members while being looked after by a greatly expanded number of counselors who serve an array of social and personal needs. At the same time, many schools are investing in deluxe dormitory rooms, elaborate student centers and expensive gyms. Simply put: academic investments are a lower priority.
The situation reflects a larger cultural change in the relationship between students and colleges. The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always rightThe proliferation of counselors and student affairs staff working for Deans, Associate Deans, Assistant Deans, other Sub-Deans and so forth places all sorts of upward pressure on college budgets. All that re-enforces the consumption mentality that shows up in my classroom all too often. And that rarely is the source of complaints by critics of higher education.