Dimitrios Halikias and Richard Reeves of Brookings evaluate the effectiveness of the state colleges and universities.  Some of the news is not good.  "Just 20 percent of America’s selective public universities manage to accomplish both objectives—to be both ladders [providing upward income mobility] and labs [establishing a reputation for scholarship]. Twenty-five percent are laggards, failing on both counts."  They don't quite say "subprime party school," but consider this.  "The majority of low-mobility universities also produce little to no research."  And the egalitarians who are offended by the reality of mediocre students from wealthy neighborhoods matriculating at a rate higher than that of strong students from poor neighborhoods will not be surprised.  "Almost thirty percent of students at low-mobility, low-research institutions come from the top quintile of earners, while under 7 percent come from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution." Safety school!

And the regressive transfer is there.
[W]e estimate that students from top-quintile families at these laggard public universities receive almost two billion dollars in annual subsidies. Such expenditures seem almost indefensible. Why should taxpayers pay to send relatively affluent students to public universities that both fail to produce research and fail to facilitate social mobility? There is a strong case that this money could be spent more wisely.
Don't apologize for being selective, and look for that excess capacity in what I call access-assessment-remediation-retention.  I like "laggards" in place of my lengthy formulation.

But there is trouble, even among the ladders, notes longtime higher education skeptic Richard Vedder.
Only 70 schools, 20 percent of the sample, were cited as the “leaders” in higher education (having high-income mobility among the students, along with high levels of research among the faculty). I took six schools from the top 20 on that list: the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of New Orleans, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Wayne State University, the University of South Alabama and Cleveland State University. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education website College Scorecard, I observed that at all of these schools, a large majority (over 60 percent) of full-time students failed to graduate in six years –well above the national average. These “leaders” did not do what many of us consider Job One: graduate entering students.

A decidedly alternative interpretation: many schools prey upon the poor and academically unprepared: they admit them, telling them college is a ticket to a better, solidly middle-class life, knowing full well that most of them will fail to graduate –but will incur large student loan debts (at “leader” Wayne State, over 60 percent of students who borrowed had failed to pay at least one dollar of their student loans back –three years after attending). Yet these schools sucker academics of the Thomas Piketty perspective into believing they are “leaders” in the quest for intergenerational income mobility. A better than decent case can be made that some of the Halikias-Reeves “leader” universities should actually die: their social costs exceed the social benefits.
That might be equally true of any institution of higher education that will not recognize its work is the same as the Ivies and the state flagships, but achieving a political consensus to defund whole campuses and limit enrollments to the college-ready, -willing, and -able doesn't seem likely.

But something that cannot go on, won't.

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