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Letter: Traditional 4-year college model needs to change

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Drew Robertson


Morton Marcus is quite correct in noting that education, Medicaid and prisons are devouring state budgets and in suggesting the full privatization of job training as one response. This would shift much of the risk of such education from taxpayers to the employers who demand the training and to their future employees. This is appropriate as the latter are the beneficiaries of that training, and it would give employers an incentive to sharpen their predictions regarding future needs.

One corollary that Marcus addresses only obliquely is that the traditional four-year residential college experience must decline, despite the fact that our society has oversold its value in recent years. The essential text on this matter is Charles Murray’s “Real Education” (Crown Forum, 2008). Indeed, this book is a must-read for anyone pondering the state of American education today. (Pssst, it’s only 152 pages of text.)

Murray showed that more people are going to college, and taking on debt to do it, than can benefit from it. Many, of course, drop out. This was before the Great Recession, which has only worsened the prospects for many college graduates and dropouts alike.

We should anticipate that fewer students will be attending traditional colleges. The weaker institutions will be forced to merge or close, and the recently published Gallup-Purdue Index ought to be a useful guide to which ones should do so. All of this is necessary and probably inevitable, but it will be painful for those who have staked their careers on the current system. They will resist change furiously.

For students, though, the much more valuable alternative will be more postsecondary technical education with the awarding of certificates and other credentials. Our area is well-situated for this shift with the many efforts of the Columbus Education Coalition, including its affiliation with the Lumina Foundation. One goal of both organizations is to promote the attainment of postsecondary education certificates and degrees by 60 percent of the population, with a target date of 2025.

By all means, let us pursue this goal, putting the risks and benefits where they belong as we do.

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