ghostly door

Behind that spooky college door

A recent piece in Inside Higher Ed, “College Express,” skewers methods some institutions of higher learning (or so-called diploma mills) have taken to speed up, or “simplify,” obtaining a degree:

 “All of our classes are accelerated. Classes that were already accelerated have been further accelerated.”

It also casts a wary eye on jettisoning “traditional” classes; offering online classes with little regard to quality; having lax curricular requirements; and accepting too eagerly alternate ways of certifying skills:

“Certificates, letters, badges — just forward them to us, and we’ll find a way to make them count.”

Though humorous, this article is a good barometer of some of the anxieties in higher education today. I’m reminded of other specters that keep us awake at night, such as grade inflation (both at the K-12 and post-secondary level) resulting in a slow march to educational mediocrity . . . we have no shortage of frights.

How, then, is a student to know where to go and what to take in order to get a good college education? Alas, it’s not an easy question. College rankings and statistics may give a general picture, and yes, policies shape school practices; but getting a good education has a whole lot to do with your individual educators. The best professors are good communicators devoted to rigor and student learning  – and these reside in community colleges and state colleges as well as more highly-priced universities. Of course, some students don’t recognize who their best profs were until years later: immediately after class, they may leave stinging remarks about too much work or “too-low” grades on “Rate My Professors,” which is why I submit it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of true educational quality from student peers. But word of mouth is still valuable, and were I a student today, I’d ask my academic adviser who has a great reputation for pushing his or her students – who’s demanding? That’s whose class I’d take.

Though this blog is all about DIY college prep, and certainly, much learning can be done by a solitary curious mind, talented and dedicated instructors keep inspiring and impacting individuals semester after semester . . . and I don’t think these teachers can ever be replaced.

How do you think students should search for quality in education?

Article quoted above is “College Express” by Carolyn Foster Segal, published 8/2/12 at Inside Higher Ed.

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