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College president recommends a cure for America’s threatened university system


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Don Kassner, president of Andrew Jackson University, says “It’s going to be a rough year for education.” He says the system is under attack from all sides – and rightly so. “The recent Delta Project report lambasted colleges for doing a poor job of cost containment. Clayton Christensen, in his book, Disrupting Class, is critical of the current ‘one size fits all’ education system. In fact, after reading that book, most people will come to the same conclusion: it’s ‘every child left behind’ instead of ‘no child left behind.’ Finally, Marc Scheer penned No Sucker Left Behind which exposes a system of education that is failing on all fronts – it’s too expensive, there is no real access, and the quality is poor,” Kassner concludes.

Kassner has some recommendations that he thinks will get the American education system on the right track:

1.) Support free market initiatives. The government should get out of the business of education and let the private market deal with it. This idea was first proposed by Milton Friedman seventy years ago. Look around – the home school market is booming because parents no longer have confidence that the public education system is the best way to educate their children…and they are right. Watch what your children are being taught the next few months. It’s the testing season – schools need to show the government that children are making progress, so everything will be focused on how to master standardized tests. This cramming teaches kids to take tests, and of course that’s very useful in preparing for a career.

2.) Tax endowments. Make colleges spend that money on current students. In the opening chapter of No Sucker Left Behind, Sheer reports that the wealthiest schools have an average of $331,000 in endowment funds per student; the average school has about $35,000 per student. What are the schools waiting for, a rainy day? Scheer points out that many of these schools employ huge staffs that are responsible solely for developing and managing these funds. For-profit colleges put idle cash to good use and pay taxes on any gains.

3.) Make teachers teach. Why are colleges using grad assistants to teach? Are these students qualified? Young people can’t teach young people – knowledge comes from experience – not simply from studying. When I was first hired to teach at San Jose State University, I wasn’t given any instructions so I had to pick the textbook and develop my lectures, course plan and tests. The school’s attitude was, “You know the material – go teach it.” I’m a pretty good teacher today, but back then, I was horrible. Over the last several years I’ve talked to faculty members all over the country who have had the same experience. Is “winging it” good enough? Is that what you expect when you pay lots of money, much of it borrowed, to attend “High-tuition Ivy-on-the-walls U?” No! It is unacceptable! At Andrew Jackson University, we pay teachers to teach – not to do research, not to make public speeches, not to “get published” – but to teach. It’s a simple, yet very important point.

4.) Expose marketing techniques. The marketing of higher education has become very “dirty.” Hundreds of “college information” sites lure students by claiming to provide free information about all of the choices out there. These sites then sell names to thousands of colleges at between $15 and $100 per name. Potential students who innocently use these sites are making these companies very rich. One student can be worth as much as $500 to an “information site” because the sites sell his name and contact information to multiple schools. Potential students are being misled – most have no idea that the time they are spending on these sites is generating that kind of revenue for the sites. Because students will likely enroll at a college that buys these leads they are indirectly costing themselves thousands of dollars. If the cost of a lead to a school is factored in, and the low lead-to-enrollment conversion rates are considered, plus non-starts, and low retention and graduation rates, an online lead generation service is adding $10,000 to $15,000 per graduating student to a college’s cost of doing business.

5.) Reform the financial aid process. I’ll just advise you to read No Sucker Left Behind. Author Marc Scheer does a great job of exposing the pitfalls of our current financial aid system.

“These five recommendations, if implemented, constitute a good start to reforming the system, but this will take time as colleges are mired in an old business model,” Kassner stated. He concluded, “At Andrew Jackson University we have already implemented everything I’m recommending, and the result is high quality education at a very low price. So we know it works. And we’re willing to share our know-how with others.”



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