Is This On Point? Fixing America’s Universities

Rising costs. Unfair admissions. Threats to academic freedom. The future of the American university.

NPR’s On Point today tackled the American university system and the threats it is facing. Guest host Ray Suarez talked with Columbia University’s Jonathan Cole about his new book, “Toward a More Perfect University” and Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

In his intro, Suarez laid out some of the well-known challenges on the horizon for higher education: “Faulty business models, impossible admissions standard, misused budgets straining American families and the schools themselves.” The threat, he suggested, is that if American universities do not address these issues, they will lose their best students to schools overseas and fall short of their mission to educate young people.

Among the topics addressed during the hour were the need for colleges to clearly define the values and skills students will have upon graduation, to refine the criteria for college admission and to address the skyrocketing cost of tuition. The guests proposed both structural changes–reallocations of public funding at state and federal levels, lowering interest rates on student loan debt–and cultural shifts around how we define for what and for whom college exists.

Disturbingly, it was suggested during the conversation by both Vedder and a caller that we may need to question which fields of research should be supported. Namely, they asked whether fields like Sociology and Women’s Studies should receive funding when they turn out graduates who are only qualified for low-paying jobs. This assertion, among many other contentious issues from the episode, are flamed heartily in the comments section of On Point’s website.

You can listen to the episode below.

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