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Green Acres

How much does “diversity” cost a college or university? It must be a lot.

If you think of the number of diversity deans, provosts, and other administrators who owe their positions entirely to institutional pursuit of diversity, and count their salaries, benefits, overhead, and operating budgets;  add scholarships and financial aid earmarked to students whose enrollment increases “diversity;” mix in the expense of faculty positions created primarily for the purpose of enhancing diversity; an…

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Too Many College Students? Hardly

Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS), is a skilled writer with a quick wit. His latest article on American higher education, “Helium, Part 2,” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, deftly weaves together a variety of the favorite targets of the NAS—government funding of higher education, lack of “rigor” in colleges, President Obama, the decline of “college curricula rooted in the civilization that has sustained the university for more than a mill…

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The KIPP Charter Model Goes to College

The New York Times Education Life section featured a fascinating story on Sunday about the “New Community College,” an experiment within the City University of New York (CUNY) to reinvent two-year schools with more resources and a higher degree of paternalism.  This mixture has proven quite successful in some K-12 charter schools, most notably the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), so the New Community College approach is being closely watched by national observers. As noted in the article,…

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The Penn State Scandal, Part 2

As promised, today’s post will follow up on my last by offering a brief context that explains the NCAA’s traditional jurisdiction and how it typically behaves. Before the NCAA handed down its sanctions against Penn State this week, college football fans and sportscasters alike were speculating that they would administer the “death penalty,” that is, cancel the team’s entire 2012 season of play. Let’s look at the most infamous time that phrase was invoked and that penalty was imposed by the NCA…

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The Penn State Scandal Revisited

Well, it’s impossible to resist weighing in on the NCAA’s sanctions of Penn State’s football program, handed down on Monday. It was the lead story in today’s Chronicle and it’s the elephant in the room even for those academics who don’t care about intercollegiate sports. My verdict on the sanctions echoes my opinions of the Sandusky case, about which I wrote last month, but I’m even more surprised and outraged by what the NCAA decided to do. In short, they treated a football program as if …

Learning Takes Time

We are not the first to suggest that enrolling for college classes has a lot in common with signing up for a gym membership. The promise of both types of investment is that you will emerge from them a changed person. The gym provides an opportunity for you to build muscles, slim down, or become more fit; the college offers an environment where you can learn facts and theories, or learn how to do certain things, or perhaps change in deeper ways, in values or in outlook or in the range of people y…

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Helium, Part 2

The bubble-psychology of the consumer who holds fast to the belief that every bet is an investment; the mesmerizing allure of the prestige college that can dazzle parents to overlook the meretricious quality of the education it provides; the exigency-driven tuition hikes at public universities; the gamesmanship of college tuition—these are parts of the bubble as it currently exists (see Part 1), but they aren’t what drives its expansion. What is inflating the bubble still further is federal po…

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Bubble Update: More Helium, Part 1

The bubble in American higher education is inflating rapidly. Ironically this is happening just at the moment when large numbers of Americans are noticing that there is indeed a higher-ed bubble—that colleges and universities are enrolling too many students at too high a price; that the market for college graduates is saturated and oversupplied; and that there is a serious disparity between the costs and the rewards of the typical college-degree program.

One might think that parents who have som…

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Weighing Teaching and Research: a Longstanding Dilemma

I’m grateful to Bruce Henderson for writing a terrific article in the Chronicle on June 11, “Just Because We’re Not Publishing Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Working.” The article concludes with a nod to Ernest Boyer, who more than twenty years ago argued that teaching should be redefined as scholarship, an argument only to be met with positive lip service and no policy changes that enacted his recommendations. Year after year, administrators have praised Boyer and excellence in teaching in general, but…

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Going Public the UVa Way

“Why does a stationary skater remain stationary?” That’s a question that Lou Bloomfield asks his students in the opening lecture of “Physics 1050: How Things Work,” which he has taught at the University of Virginia for 21 years.

Many physics students think they understand inertia. But they might not actually understand how profound inertia is unless we see it in … uh, inaction.

So Lou stands up on one of those huge lab tables that anchor science lecture halls and places a smaller table on top. O…