Higher Education: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus is a call to action for the nation’s colleges which are becoming more and more unaffordable to the middle class and the poor. Hacker explains that education has now become a half trillion dollar a year business. The author questions whether or not students and parents are getting fair value for the tremendous amounts of money being paid in tuition and fees.
Professorial staff get paid far more than people in other professions like accounting or engineering. In addition, Hacker points to a growing number of top heavy administrative jobs like Coordinator of Learning Immersion and Senior Specialist for Assessment. These types of positions combined with high administrative salaries add significantly to the overall cost according to Hacker. For every $1000 spent on college tuition in 1982, $2540.00 has to be spent today to cover the same things $1000 purchased in ’82.
Hacker decries teaching methodologies, indicating that power point presentations take students away from learning. The author points to individual institutions of higher learning that provide a top quality education either free or at a low cost. Examples are Berea College, Raritan Valley Community College, Cooper Union, Arizona State University, Evergreen State College and Western Oregon University. MIT also gets an honorable mention.
The top college majors have changed to business, social sciences, humanities, education, health, psychology, fine arts and engineering in that order. Hacker believes that colleges need to educate in the basics. He favors a free or significantly reduced cost for education by pointing to workable models like Berea College and others. Hacker calls for reducing tenure and having far fewer paid sabbaticals. In addition, he calls for a fairer spread of donations to other more needy college institutions.
Higher Education is an important book which parents and students should read. College administrators need to be cognizant of the contents of this work or risk becoming irrelevant. The authors point out many areas where costs could be contained so that tuition would be more affordable to both parents and students alike. In addition, Hacker calls for more emphasis on the professions as opposed to purely academic or theoretical coursework.