Morton Marcus: An improved goal for Colleges

An improved goal for colleges

Soccer, or football to the rest of the world, is exciting even though it does not have high-scoring games. The excitement comes from seemingly endless attempts to reach a goal.

That is also true for post-secondary education. Recently the Indiana Higher Education Committee, or IHEC, announced a plan to develop new goals for Indiana’s Colleges and universities. Instead of focusing on completion or graduation rates for the institutions, the new program will reward “schools for meeting individualized growth goals.”

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

Ivy Tech understood how the game was to be played under the old rules. Without sacrificing their honor, the many Ivy Tech campuses initiated certificate programs. Completion of such a program — often focused on a specific occupation or skill — counted toward Ivy Tech’s credit with ICHE.

The new standards should not hurt Ivy Tech since they already “raise college attendance rates and provide training for adults without degrees.” We don’t know if they incentivize — a wonderful word — students to remain in Indiana.

Further, we don’t know if raising college attendance rates is either a necessary or desirable goal for Indiana. If Colleges and Universities are to become vocational schools in fancy dress, are we truly dealing with higher education?

What does a business student learn about economic history? A medical student about cultural diversity? An engineering student about social impact? A sports management student about public health?

Yes, there may be elective courses. There may be Embedded modules of some quixotic nature, but are they foundational elements of education for citizens of this century?

How does the new, unarticulated IHEC policy match up with the questions of cost and pricing in higher education? And cost and price are two very different things.

How does the freezing of tuition, made popular by Purdue, affect the student body? Purdue experienced a decline in low-tuition, Hoosier students relative to high-tuition, non-resident students.

Should Colleges and Universities be judged on the basis of the Geographic location choices of their students? Is that part of the mission of higher education? Such a policy would further reduce the diversity of thought and experience in Indiana. It would increase the insularity of our cities and towns.

It’s hard to believe the Indiana General Assembly would endorse an inbreeding program that seeks to subvert free choice. But then, the Indiana General Assembly often acts without deference to the welfare of Hoosiers.

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

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