When Higher Ed Is Just A Game

Want to know what happens when higher education is treated as nothing more than a game? Here is what happens: “How to Raise a University’s Profile: Pricing and Packaging” (The New York Times, 6 February 2015).

The president responsible for increasing tuition price and improving the packaging at George Washington University is Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. It is another example of how university leaders will do anything EXCEPT improve administrative and academic processes, for the purpose of providing a lower cost and higher value educational experience. As president, Mr. Trachtenberg did the easy thing and followed the herd.

According to Rate My Professor (I know, don’t say it), the average professor rating at George Washington University is 3.66, while at my school, Central Connecticut State University, the average professor rating is 3.71 (as of 8 February 2015). It is possible, therefore, that students could have received an equivalent education for a fraction of the price by attending public higher education. And many students would have very low debt or be debt-free upon graduation.

Here is another except from the end of The New York Times article:

“I was given an institution and told, ‘Make this place better…'”

The plan, obviously, was self-centered (the institution), not student-centered (inclusive of parents, payers, and other stakeholders). “The place” is better, but the student is not.

Here is another except:

“I asked Mr. Trachtenberg if it was morally defensible to let students borrow tens of thousands of dollars for a service that he himself had compared to a luxury good. He is not, by nature, one for apologies and second-guessing. ‘I’m not embarrassed by what we did,’ he said. ‘It’s not as if it’s some kind of a bait and switch here. It’s not as if the faculty weren’t good. It’s not as if the opportunities to get a good degree weren’t there. There’s no misrepresentation here.’ He seemed unbowed but also aware that his legacy was bound up in the larger dramas and crises of American higher education.”

The fact is, if the faculty at George Washington University is like most college and university faculty, they are not good – or at least not as good as they could be. See What is Good Quality Teaching?Are You Satisfied With 10 Percent?45 Teaching Errors, The Value of Higher Education, and Higher Education Quality.

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