"How do I know that my son or daughter has learned something in your class? You tell me, 'Well, you know, he got an A, he showed up every day, and he was here for 15 weeks. He must have learned something.' Yet we want to know that there's value."
When any sector of the economy undergoes sweeping change -- just as higher ed is experiencing now -- every new development feels like a major turning point. But in hindsight, what we think of as big moments at the time often turn out to be just blips in the life cycle of an industry.
After graduating from high school, he enrolled in Moberly Area Community College, a half-hour south of Macon. Two semesters later, the 28-year-old dropped out. His transcript was filled with A's, but he was bored in his classes.
When Harvard and MIT announced that they would offer online courses free to the masses, they pledged $60 million to the effort. All for courses that, for now, won't bring in a penny in tuition revenue.
Many of the ideas entrepreneurs were pitching seek to break the tyranny of the degree and the corner that colleges have on the credential market. But what's missing, at least for now, is what to replace that market with.
College campuses are full of long-held assumptions about how academe works. A perilous one for the future of American higher education is that high-school students pick a college, enroll, and -- two or four years later -- graduate from the same institution.
Beginning this spring, Virginia families will have access to a key component in answering the value-of-college question: median salaries for the graduates of hundreds of programs across every public and some private colleges in the state.
But for an expense that is among the biggest of a family's lifetime (perhaps second only to the purchase of a home), we should be able to do better than rely on annual rankings from a magazine that doesn't really publish anything beyond rankings anymore.
Hardly a week goes by when we don't hear another announcement that has the potential to chip away at the student market that is currently the lifeblood of colleges on the margins, in both quality and financial health.
Student loans are not going away, despite calls by Occupy protesters to have the federal government finance public colleges entirely and write off all student debt. So rather than debate the impossible, we should instead discuss better ways of financing a college degree.
Employer unhappiness with college graduates is nothing new. Still, with three million unfilled jobs in a bad economy, it stands to reason that some employers are having difficulty finding the right workers.