ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

UM Staff Member: Attending College a “Losing Proposition” for Many

September 19, 2012 by Armand B. Alacbay

Last week, Robert Katz, a library technician at the University of Minnesota, had strong words for the freshman class. He observed (Minneapolis Star Tribune), "If the education that the U is offering is viewed as an investment, then the school does not even measure up to Wall Street's dubious standards." He warns the University's incoming freshman class that "[f]orty percent of them will not graduate within six years," and that most in that 40% will never receive a diploma.

Katz continues: "For many, the payback for attending the U will be that they are filtered out by perspective [sic] employers because of their credit scores," referring to a staggering default rate of 20% among those who owe the equivalent of $22,000 in student loan debt. The author urges the university to be more transparent with outcomes measurements, and proposes that it scale back operating expenditures in order to make tuition more affordable.

One will find similar cries across the nation. "Is College a Lousy Investment?" asked Megan McArdle this week in Newsweek's cover story. Yet grimmer was the front page story on the Sunday New York Times the preceding week, "Debt Collectors Cashing In On Student Loan Roundup." Is higher education leadership listening to the rising, angry chorus?

ACTA has long advocated that trustees insist that their institutions demonstrate progress using objective measures of institutional performance. In At a Crossroads: A Report Card on Public Higher Education in Minnesota, ACTA assessed both public higher education systems in Minnesota using metrics of student progress, cost and effectiveness, intellectual diversity, and board governance. The 2010 study found that students could graduate without taking a single college-level course in literature, U.S. history or government, or economics. Meanwhile, as tuition rose over a five year period, administrative spending grew at a rate faster than did instructional spending. For a copy of the full report, visit ACTA's publications website. Its findings call for urgent attention from students, parents, and policymakers.

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