Constructive Criticism of Higher Education

Patrick Gibbons

Less than half of Nevada’s college students will graduate within six years. So is poor funding to blame for the dismal graduation rates?

The Education Trust – a national think tank on higher education – lists both the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at above-median per-pupil spending levels. In other words, even as UNR and UNLV saw their funding increase three times faster than the rate of inflation over the last decade, graduation rates have not improved.

Of course, some people question the use of graduation rates altogether. To them, if a student quits or transfers out, that isn’t the fault of the professor or the school, but rather the student’s “free choice.” People like this argue that a “free market” institution like NPRI should understand this more than anyone.

If you think about it, however, we absolutely should look critically at a university when a student quits.

People only quit school if they realize that the marginal value of quitting the program is greater than the marginal value of continuing in the program. That is: The value of quitting school and getting a job in the market is greater than the value of spending more time working toward a degree.

This means the student makes a judgment that higher education, at least in his particular case, is not providing anything significantly useful or marketable in the private sector. He may even rationalize the situation and decide that college, as such, is a waste of time. Sadly, some students come to this conclusion after landing jobs they could have received without spending four-to-six years in college.

So can colleges address their graduation-rate problems by proving to students that they can provide marketable, real-world skills that are in high demand in the labor market?

It sounds reasonable enough to me.

See also,

Higher Education Per Pupil Spending Ranks
Higher Education Graduation Rates