Obama/Duncan/King Legacy: Good Return on Investment = Good Education
I was pleased to read in Politico that John King, Arne Duncan’s replacement as Secretary of Education, discovered that none of the 15 minority students in a classroom he was visiting in Coolidge Senior High School were familiar with the College Scorecard, the abominable metric devised by the Department of Education to measure the “good outcomes” students should expect from a college program. But I was also distressed to read that Mr. King found this “worrisome” because he thought this College Scorecard provided the kind of information students needed to make their decision about where to enroll in college. And what are the “good outcomes” measured by the College Scorecard? The descriptor of “Affordable Four Year Schools With Good Outcomes” offers the answer:
These four-year public colleges offer their students an affordable higher education, with relatively high salaries. As students weigh the costs and benefits of higher education, it’s especially important to find schools that can offer them the best possible outcomes. For students looking for a high return on investment, these institutions may offer good opportunities.
As progressive liberal arts majors dreaded, the government algorithm used to determine a “good outcome” is driven by the mean wages of graduates… and as a result schools offering technical degrees fare far better than those offering liberal arts degrees. This means that a school like Drexel University, my alma mater, where grads earn over $62,600 is presumably nearly twice as good as Evergreen State College, my daughter’s alma mater, where the average grad earns $32,800. This is, of course, absurd given that Drexel graduates are predominantly engineering and science majors and Evergreen graduates mostly liberal arts majors who work in social services and education.
Over the next several months we’ll read a lot about President Obama’s legacy. Sadly his legacy will include the fact that income is the primary measure of a “good outcome” when it comes to post-secondary education.