Graduate Them!

♦ The University System of Maryland (USM) reports that it “will expand its national leadership role in transforming the post-secondary academic model with the receipt of a $200,616.00 State Systems Transformation Co-creation grant from the Gates Foundation to the USM Foundation. The USM is one of several state systems of higher education that the Gates Foundation has selected to build on existing practices to substantially improve student access and success and effect change in higher education. The grant will help the USM enhance the efforts of individual USM campuses to make college completion more attainable and affordable.”

♦ The National Conference of State Legislators is looking into the “performance” of universities. “Historically, many colleges have received state funding based on how many full-time equivalent students are enrolled at the beginning of the semester. This model provides incentives for colleges to enroll students and thus provide access to postsecondary education, but this model does not necessarily provide incentives for institutions to help students successfully complete degree programs.” Currently in 25 states there are performance requirements for a university or college to receive a portion of its state funding. The primary performance statistic is the per cent of students who complete their degree. So what should admissions officer do? Raise the entry requirements! And what should the undergraduate dean do? Make sure that students graduate somewhat independent of the quality of the work they do! Maybe there will be bribes to encourage students not to drop out. (Of course, professors cannot be bribed to give passing grades! Well, with a bit of merit money?) And of course the local data analyst can do some fancy manipulations. Maryland is not yet imposing such a requirement, but neighbors Pennsylvania and Virginia are.

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