College: Is that watered-down degree worth it? 

As high school graduation season approaches, there’s at least one thing both the Left and Right can agree on, according to a panel of scholars assembled this week by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy: Undergraduate education in the U.S. is a poor value and getting worse.

An undergraduate degree costs three times more than it did 30 years ago, and more and more parents are questioning whether it’s worth it. So are some academics.

Kevin Carey, policy director of Education Sector and a self-described liberal Democrat, succinctly summed up the problem: “The fiction is that our institutions of higher education take learning seriously and that our students are getting some skills. Every piece of evidence completely contradicts that.”

Claudia Dreifus, author of “Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids…” heartily agreed. “The system has a life of its own. The buck stops nowhere,” she said. “It’s a mutation between the late Soviet Union and the current health care system.”

Not only are colleges and universities failing to pick up the academic slack created by dysfunctional K-12 programs, they can’t even keep up with the digital revolution – while charging increasing amounts of tuition and graduating students whose “writing is deplorable,” and who “can’t make sense of which articles on the Internet are BS and which are utter BS” – according to Berkeley professor Murray Sperber, author of “Beer & Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education.”

Conservative Ohio University economist Richard Vedder summed up the problem with higher education:

  1. College is too expensive and inefficient;
  2. Students don’t work very hard – and learn even less;
  3. There’s no adequate system to evaluate what they have learned;
  4. Only a minority of college students graduate on time;
  5. There’s a major disconnect between most university curriculums and the needs of the labor market; and
  6. Federal and state student aid policies merely expand the disaster.


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