Jay Mathews, Washington Post education columnist.
We tend to downgrade the academic merits of state universities such as the ones competing for the football championship this year: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. Their acceptance rates are too high to merit top ranking in U.S. News. Alabama’s acceptance rate is 57 percent, and its rank among national universities is 88. Oregon’s rate is 74 percent and its rank 106. Florida State’s numbers are 57 percent and 95. Ohio State’s are 56 percent and 54. They don’t compare to the top three U.S. News schools: Princeton with a 7 percent acceptance rate, Harvard with 6 percent and Yale with 7 percent.

Yet the four football powers share characteristics that lead to valuable college experiences for bright and energetic students. They have talented faculties, good facilities, critical masses of academically ambitious students and successful alumni. Public universities are among the country’s most successful institutions, with foreign students pouring in and even many of my ex-newspaper friends finding jobs there.
That "we", I suspect, refers to the Acela set and the trustafarians.  Mr Mathews's conclusion, however, is on point.
High school students smart enough to see how much there is to learn in public universities should be happy they have so many chances, with less admissions stress and less expense, to assemble the makings of great lives.
Provided the students push themselves, and the faculty see their duty as to push their students. George Leef of the Pope Center revises and extends.
Americans used to understand that education is what the individual makes of it. A couple of generations back, before the college credential mania set in, few judged an individual based on his or her college pedigree or lack thereof. Now, sadly, we have gotten into the bad habit of doing that.

An equally bad habit is that we see in many students, who think that college education is merely a matter of passing enough courses to get enough credits to earn the degree. They regard education as a passive endeavor in which they enroll and then accept whatever education might come their way.

University of Virginia English professor Mark Edmundson is correct in arguing that students need to fight for their education by seeking out courses they want to learn about and the professors who really want to teach students, rather than treating them as annoying impediments to the research that advances their careers.
In my experience, the greater impediment to research is the proliferation of adminstrative burdens, including those in which professors must somehow balance special education initiatives or productivity fetishes against the challenges of persuading students not to be passive vessels.

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