Pay More, Learn Less

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 22, 2006 | Go to article overview

Pay More, Learn Less


Byline: Ed Feulner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many parents believe that selecting their children's college is the most important decision a family will make.

So where would you rather send your child: Rhodes College in Memphis, or Johns Hopkins in Baltimore? Colorado State, or the University of California-Berkeley? Before you answer, you may want to read a new report titled "The Coming Crisis in Citizenship" from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. (Full disclosure: I serve on ISI board of trustees.)

The report, by the University of Connecticut's Department of Public Policy, is the first to ask whether our institutions of higher education are preparing students for lives as educated and involved citizens of a republic. Researchers asked some 14,000 randomly selected college freshmen and seniors multiple-choice questions about America's history, government, foreign relations and economy.

The report paints a bleak picture. It found that many of our best-known colleges are failing their students. On average, seniors scored just 11/2 percent better than freshmen. And had the survey been graded as a test, seniors would have failed; They averaged 53.2 percent.

Even worse, "At many schools, seniors know less than freshman about America's history, government, foreign affairs and economy," the study found. Many students actually regress while on campus.

Plus, in higher education you don't necessarily get what you pay for. "Students at relatively inexpensive colleges often learn more, on average, than their counterparts at expensive colleges," the report says.

ISI found Rhodes College does the best job teaching about American citizenship. Seniors there answered 11.6 percent more questions correctly than freshmen did. Colorado State was No. 2, with a 10.9 percent gain. Meanwhile, students at many supposedly top-flight schools seem to lose knowledge while on campus. At Berkeley (49th on the list) seniors scored 5.6 percent worse than freshmen, and at Johns Hopkins (dead last) they were 7.3 percent worse.

Unfortunately, those last two weren't the only leading schools that failed their students. …

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