Steven Brill’s book: Tailspin

I am reading it now. I did not realize that he would write about two of my favorite higher education institutions: Amherst College and UC Irvine, both in the context of bridging the moats that currently exclude many (if not most) from the benefits of 21st century American meritocracy. Amherst, because its former President, Anthony Marx, put in place a program to actively reach out beyond the usual legacies and elite high schools in its recruitment of freshman. UC Irvine, because like my own institution (George Mason), it has focused on educating bright students who are from under-represented backgrounds. And by that I mean backgrounds that historically have not had access to the top-flight resources that a UC education is all about. Reason to be a bit optimistic.

On the other hand, Brill really focuses on the legal and financial ecosystems, what he calls the Casino Economy. I wish he also wrote more about scientists and engineers in the same context of the American meritocracy.

William Deresiewicz on higher ed….

His long piece essay/movie review entitled The Miseducation of America is here from the Chronicle. It’s well worth the read, although I suspect some of our loyal readers may disagree with his positions on MOOCS and other proffered solutions to the mess we seem to find ourselves in.

Money quote:

The truth is, there are powerful forces at work in our society that are actively hostile to the college ideal. That distrust critical thinking and deny the proposition that democracy necessitates an educated citizenry. That have no use for larger social purposes. That decline to recognize the worth of that which can’t be bought or sold. Above all, that reject the view that higher education is a basic human right.

The best tuition cap of all?

Hat tip to Steve Fiore, the idea from Robert Samuels is here. Money quote:

Rather than directly paying for public higher-education institutions, state and federal governments have often relied on tax deductions and credits to support individual students. But what this system has achieved is a tremendous subsidy for upper-middle-class and wealthy families, while lower-income students are forced to take out huge loans to pay for their education.

It’ll be interesting to see what the future of public higher ed really looks like. My guess is qualitatively different from what we have today.

Non-discretionary personal spending…

Apparently we’re just like the federal government, our personal budgets are being squeezed by what amounts to non-discretionary outlays: health care and education. Patrick Appel in Andrew Sullivan’s Dish, here.

My own analogy with the non-discretionary side of the federal budget stems from two facts: health care is central to both and the mandatory expenditure nature squeezes cuts onto what’s left. In the case of the feds that includes R&D (like NIH and NSF). In the case of Mom and Pop, probably they are doing less retail shopping…and in fact that fits the latest data.