1.10.07

CALCULUS, ETHICS, AND LOGIC. Chicago's Mayor Daley proposes to streamline college course offerings.
"They should cut half the courses. It would cut the cost down tremendously. What are the basic courses that you need in college? Cut some of the unnecessary courses out" to reduce administrative overhead and let students graduate sooner, he said.
I suspect, however, that my answer is not what he's looking for, as a strict enforcement of those requirements at a suitable level of rigor would mean more college dropouts (or perhaps, fewer applicants.)

The Sun-Times, unfortunately, trots out the worst possible defense for the current 120 credits = baccalaureate formula.

Judy Erwin, executive director of the [Illinois Board of Higher Education], said she wasn't sure many programs could be cut in half and remain as vital.

"We are trying to improve the rigor of teacher preparation," she said, as an example. "I don't know that can be done in two years."

No, under the current formula, the people who have taken two years of education "methods" would have to take another two years to unlearn that stuff, and another two years on calculus, ethics, and logic. (I digress.)

The mayor is attempting to address the perception that higher education is too expensive and takes too long. The suggestion he offers is unlikely, however, to help the people he would like to help. In shortening the time to completion (while cutting out "unnecessary" required courses, especially the ones that are hard?) he's treating the degree as a job market signal, and turning it into one that will be easier to acquire. Where the signal does not induce efficient self-selection, it loses value to potential employers. Accordingly, the mayor's suggestion is likely to diminish the life chances of the constituents he would like to help, as the flight to quality I believe is driving the positional arms races to get into the Ivies and the remaining flagship land grants will only be intensified by simplified graduation requirements. The mayor proposes to further encourage inefficiently optimistic enrollment leading to an intolerably low completion rate. (Yes, I'm repeating myself.)

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