Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ending the credit hour: for colleges a great solution that will never happen

This thoughtful essay by Kevin Carey in NYT questions one of the more sacrosanct sacred cows in academia:  why we don't award degrees based on skills and demonstrated proficiencies, but rely on an antiquated "credit hour" system that essentially awards course credit and degrees based on professorial whim.

(Yes, I am quite aware that I am one of those whimsical professorials.)

(Which is why I can tell you, authoritatively, that the system will have to collapse before anybody reforms it.)

Anyway, here's a representative snippet:
Much attention has been paid to for-profit colleges that offer degrees online while exploiting federal student-loan programs and saddling ill-prepared students with debt. But nearly all of the institutions caught up in the 10-day credit dodge exposed by The Chronicle were public, nonprofit institutions. And both the credit-givers, like Western Oklahoma, and the sports machines at the other end of the transaction, like Florida State University, were doing nothing illegal.---snip---The lack of meaningful academic standards in higher education drags down the entire system. Grade inflation, even (or especially) at the most elite institutions, is rampant. A landmark book published last year, “Academically Adrift,” found that many students at traditional colleges showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing, and spent their time socializing, working or wasting time instead of studying. (And that’s not even considering the problem of low graduation rates.)

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