Morton Marcus: An Improved Target for Colleges

Mohsin goal for colleges

Soccer, or soccer for the rest of the world, is exciting even though it doesn’t have high-scoring matches. Excitement comes from seemingly endless attempts to achieve a goal.

This also applies to post-secondary education. The Indiana Higher Learning Commission, or IHEC, recently announced a plan to develop new goals for Indiana’s colleges and universities. Instead of focusing on institutions’ completion or graduation rates, the new program will reward “schools for achieving individual growth goals.”

What this means is not clear. Apparently, the IHEC wants to “raise college enrollment, provide training for adults without degrees, and incentivize graduates to stay in Indiana.” This could be a real step forward. Or it may be just another way to hide the decline in higher education.

Ivy Tech has understood how to play the game by the old rules. Without sacrificing their honor, many Ivy Tech campuses have started certification programs. Completion of such a program—often focused on a specific career or skill—counts with ICHE’s Ivy Tech credit.

The new standards shouldn’t hurt Ivy Tech because it already “raises college enrollment and training for adults without degrees.” We don’t know if they’re motivating — cool word — students to stay in Indiana.

Furthermore, we do not know whether increasing college enrollment is a necessary or desirable goal for Indiana. If colleges and universities are going to become vocational schools in fancy clothes, are we really dealing with higher education?

What does a business student learn about economic history? Medical student about cultural diversity? Engineering student about social impact? Sports management student about public health?

Yes, there may be elective courses. There may be embedded units of a fictional nature, but are they essential elements of education for the citizens of this century?

How does IHEC’s new, unarticulated policy match questions of cost and pricing in higher education? Cost and price are two completely different things.

How does the tuition freeze, made by Purdue, affect the student body? Purdue University has seen a decrease in low-tuition, Hoosier students compared to high-tuition, non-resident students.

Should colleges and universities be judged on the location choices of their students? Is this part of the mission of higher education? Such a policy would reduce the diversity of thought and experience in Indiana. It will further isolate our cities and towns.

It is hard to believe that the Indiana General Assembly would endorse an inbreeding program that seeks to undermine free choice. But then, the Indiana General Assembly often acts without regard for the welfare of the Hoosiers.

Morton Marcus is an economist. Follow him and John Jay in Who Gets What? Wherever podcasts are available or at Send comments to [email protected]

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