| August 6, 2013

‘Lemon laws’ for higher ed?

I recently lauded Dr. Bill R. Path, president of the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, for his forthright observations on the state of higher education.

Now he’s out with an excellent new Huffington Post piece which confirms my suspicion that indeed he was absent the day they covered “things college presidents aren’t supposed to say out loud.” In “Expecting More from Higher Education,” Dr. Path writes:

Many claim the higher education systems in the U.S. today are broken — producing far too many graduates who cannot compete in the new job market. Consider the following statistics: about 1.5 million or 53.6 percent of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were either jobless or underemployed. And of those who were actually employed, about 48 percent were in jobs that required less than a four-year college education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Let's face it, if you bought a brand new car and the very next day it failed to get you out of your driveway, you would be justifiably upset and you would probably have it towed back to the dealership. If you learned over half the consumers who bought the same vehicle had a similar experience, you would expect a national recall.

In many states there are "lemon laws" that protect consumers who have purchased products that repeatedly fail to meet basic expectations. Auto manufacturers have made significant improvements in the quality and performance of their vehicles since these types of laws have been enacted. Though costly, most manufacturers will voluntarily conduct a recall of defective products rather than face the liability of a class action lawsuit or risk damaging public confidence in their brand.

In a similar fashion, bachelor degree granting institutions have an obligation to address the employment concerns of new degree-holders. These institutions must take the lead in combating the growing epidemic of underemployment among recent college graduates. The responsibility for university officials does not end when they shake a student's hand at graduation and issue a diploma. Accountability measures for student success must include real world achievements, not just academic achievements. It is imperative that colleges and universities begin to place just as much emphasis on job placement rates as they do on graduation rates.

Again, I realize Dr. Path has an understandable bias towards the kind of education provided at a technical institution. Even so, as a taxpayer I appreciate his candor. It reminds me of another straight-talking college president.

[Cross-posted at]

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