America and the channels for achieving the American Dream

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Throughout American history, governmental efforts, at both the federal and state level, to expand opportunities for higher education has represented a key means by which the nation has provided channels for achieving the "American Dream" (Mettler 2009). Billions of tax-payer's dollar have been spent to increase the opportunity for middle and lower income student to attend college to ultimately be able to climb the social ladder, either through Pell Grants or government subsidized loans.  However, as Mettler also points out, progress towards expanding access to higher education has stalled and as a result, has exacerbated economic inequality rather than mitigating its effects. As federal grant that helped enable many to attend college who previously could not afford it have deteriorated in real terms, tuition has skyrocketed. Consequently, students have relied more and more on student loans.# Thus,  it is necessary to ask: does a college degree necessarily guarantee the better jobs and thus, a better lifestyle?  If this is the sole justification for attaining a higher education, are we really learning anything while we attend school or are we simply passing by to get our credentials for the better jobs once we graduate? This also begs the question; how well is this money really being spent? While it may be true more people have been able to attend college thanks to enormous government spending, how do we know whether or not these people are they really getting anything out of their education? Does it even matter so long as they get their credentials to pursue or advance their careers? Basically, are American tax-payers seeing a return on their substantial investment to higher education?

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According to Richard Vedder (2009), an America economist and public policy scholar, the answer to all of these questions is no. He argues in his book, Going Broke by Degree, that America's universities have become less productive, less efficient, and more likely to use tuition money and state and federal grants to subsidize non-instructional activities such as athletics. He also claims these factors combine to produce dramatic hikes in tuition, making it more difficult for Americans to afford college. Furthermore, because it is conventional wisdom that having post-secondary credentials is a basic requirement for good jobs, increasing numbers of people consequently have gone into debt, often deeply into debt, to obtain their credentials. So, even though people have acquired their desired credentials and possibly the jobs they sought, many spend decades paying the cost of those credentials; thus, keeping them from ever attaining their ultimate goal of the "American Dream".        

Though scholars and policymakers have argued for years over where and how much money should be spent on higher education, there is almost no research or concern regarding the effect the billions of dollars being spent on higher education has on actual learning or the economy, in general. Even the Commission on Further Education, also known as the Spellings Commission (lead by then Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings under the George W. Bush administration), found "a remarkable shortage of clear, accessible information about crucial aspects of American colleges and universities, from financial aid to graduation rates" and even conclude that "most [colleges] make no serious effort to examine their effectiveness on the most important measure of all: How much students learn"(Spellings Commission 2006).  Other research has concluded that the money being spent on higher education through Pell Grants and subsidized loans have simply enabled the middle and upper class students to choose the schools of their preference rather than making the college experience possible as federal student aid has been extended up the economic ladder.#

 If this is the case, the money we believe is being used to send more kids to college is really allowing the already privileged have greater choice-making power. Up until now, it seems that policymakers have continuously thrown money at the multitudes of issues concerning higher education in the United States instead of determining the return on such a heavy investment (OBAMA'S BUDGET). This paper hopes to shed light on the existing, though limited, research done on the inefficiency of American colleges and universities and the dysfunctional system of government funding for these institutions. To do so, this paper reviews the 60-year history of federal student aid legislation, assessing the results and identifies trends and problems that will affect the future of higher education in the United States. Upon reaching a conclusion, I will have examined the rationale and structure of the student aid system and how it might more effectively expand college opportunity while ensuring educational quality. The analysis will hopefully encourage policymakers to consider the multiple objectives of government aid: not just getting students into college, but promoting student learning and degree completion. To begin, we must analyze how higher education policy has been an example of policy drift. In order to do so, I will provide a brief overview and analysis of the history of higher education policy since 1944 when the G.I. Bill solidified the federal government's role in education and in achieving the "American Dream" for decades to come.

History of Federal Student Aid and Policy Drift

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The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, or better known as the G.I. Bill,  marked the true beginning of federal involvement in higher education financing. Its original intention was two-fold: to adjust wartime production to a peacetime economy and to avert the civil strife of disgruntled military veterans who arrived home without jobs or good prospects. # Making college education a realistic expectation for many Americans, it also allowed future generations to see higher education as an entitlement and produced the idea of the American population as educated, middle-class, homeowners.

In 1940  about one-half million Americans attended college, which was about 15 percent of their age group. By 1970, 7.5 million students were attending colleges in the U.S., or 40 percent of college-age youths.# However, while the G.I. Bill made the "American Dream" more attainable for more Americans in the years following its conception, it would also shape the entire U.S. educational system for decades to come.

    Born under FDR's New Deal, many Americans did question the concept that the federal government could play an instrumental role in improving the quality of life enjoyed by all Americans during the 1960's of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Johnson himself said the New Deal had given him "an abiding faith in the capacity of the government to change things for the better."# Thus, it is no surprise some of the most important bills passed during the Great Society were aimed at addressing the changing social landscape of American life. Such influential bills included the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Social Security Act of 1965, the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. The ESEA spurred state governments to become more involved in education and helped pave the way for passage of the Higher Education Act. While the goal of these acts was to equalize the "playing field" for all Americans in various aspects of life, some would actually promote just the opposite.

One major piece of federal legislation that dramatically shaped and complicated the higher education landscape was the Higher Education Act of 1965. The HEA was originally passed in 1965 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. To encourage growth and change, the bill was designed to be re-authorized approximately every five years. Title IV of this act marked the first explicit federal commitment to equalizing college opportunities for needy students.  Title IV originally included the establishments of Pell Grants and a College Work-Study program designed to send poor high school graduates to college. In addition, a guaranteed student loan (GSL) program was established to ease the cash-flow problems faced by middle-income college students and their families. In addition, the creation of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL) would further complicate the funding for higher education programs as the federal government promised to reimburse private lenders for defaulted loans. While the intentions of the HEA, specifically the GSL and FFEL programs, were certainly in good faith, unintended consequences following the implementation of the law would change U.S. higher education in a way that would accomplish the exact opposite of its original intention: mitigating inequality.

    The 1972 re-authorization of the HEA would further promote inequality as it established the basic charter for today's federal student aid system with the creation of the Student Loan Marketing Association; better known as "SLM" or "Sallie Mae". Because students were seen as high-risk clients, to encourage lenders to make loans to students policy makers created Sallie Mae as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) that would function as a secondary market for student loans, thus freeing lenders to increase the volume of student loans. #In her research, Suzanne Mettler has examined how Congress has since put put banking and lending organizations' interests before that of the consumer's. She has discovered that such organizations have made monumental financial profits by providing student loans. If the overall objective of establishing lending organizations such as Sallie Mae is to send more students to college, why then are such institutions reaping such high rewards? Student become more and more in debt to the banks and lending companies  because they see a promise in taking out such high- interest loans by attending the better schools. Simultaneously, the banks do not care if the student defaults because the government has guaranteed to pay out the full loan. Thus, the only party that seems to benefiting from the student loan industry is not the students, or taxpayers, but rather the giant lending corporations. Certainly, scholars and policymakers have immediately caught on to this unintended, though very real and unfortunate trend. However, because of what Jacob Hacker refers to as "policy drift" (especially regarding higher education policy), or "changes in the operation or effects of policies that occur without significant changes in those policies' structure" (Hacker 2004, 246), little has been done to mitigate the inequality produced by the malpractices of the student loan industry. The most obvious example of this are Pell Grants and student loans following the 1972 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Mettler shows that, unlike Social Security, a government benefit that increases over time due to the mandatory  cost-of-living adjustments, Pell Grants  decrease in value over time because there is no such mandatory adjustment for inflation or rising cost of tuition. This is so because policymakers have failed to take deliberate action  to change this policy (Mettler 2008). It is the drift toward a system that relies primarily on student debt to finance higher tuition that has turned the original commitment to equal opportunity on its head.

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Today, loans are easily the largest source of aid as shown in Figure 1.2

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Furthermore, loans have increased from about one-fifth to more than half of all available student aid (Collegeboard). Even in 1994-95, federally sponsored loans provided more than $25 billion, over four times the size of the Pell Grant program that was meant to be the system's foundation (Gladieux and Hauptman). Figuring that money could be saved by cutting out the middleman, Congress created the Direct Loan program under the Clinton Administration in 1933 in which money goes from the Education Department directly to students. Just like Clinton's Student Reform Act of 1993, Obama's education reform as outlined in his sweeping Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act will redress the loan-grant imbalance as it expands Pell Grant distribution and allows students to borrow directly from the government through the Direct Loan Program instead of private lenders. Much of the intent of direct lending is to lower federal costs compared with the elaborate subsidy structure of the guaranteed loan program (Gladiuex and Hauptman). However, with regards to the access to higher education education, the discussion has stressed the unfortunate erosion of need-based standards. While broadening eligibility has popularized programs with the middle class, the shift has softened the federal emphasis on subsidies for low-income students. Furthermore, because no HEA re-authorization has been able to include a mandatory adjusted price index for Pell Grants, their value has declined in real value. That is until Obama's recently passed reform. Not only would the Education Reconciliation Act add one million recipients of Pell Grants, but it also includes a mandatory adjusted price index so that its value can correlate with the rate of inflation. Still, many argue with no corresponding number of available dollars, more "need" is chasing roughly the same number of available dollars. Obama counters this claim arguing that the savings from the Health and Education Reconciliation Act, specifically the new direct lending mandate, will pay for the expansion of Pell Grants.#

Still, despite all that is being spent on funding for higher education, why are colleges becoming increasingly expensive? While policies are designed to make college more affordable, scholars have found the same policies are the reason tuition costs have continually increased. Richard Vedder finds that the exact legislation that is designed to make college affordable has made it more expensive. He claims there is no competition to keep colleges and universities from raising their costs (2004). Vedder argues that the relative absence of competitive forces has led to declining productivity of university faculty, thereby increasing costs. He points out those third-party payments, such as government subsidies, lower consumer sensitivity to costs. Ronald Ehrenberg (2000) has maintained that the costs of gaining credentials from elite, selective colleges have risen as a result of the intense competition for prestige among these institutions. This argument can be understood in light of the view that third-party subsidies make consumers insensitive to costs. Without motivation to keep costs down, the competition takes place almost entirely in the sphere of prestige.

An additional way in which the mass production of college education has actually increased the cost of that education can be found in the very effort to make it affordable to a wider range of the population. Subsidies, either by the government or by the educational institutions themselves, have contributed to rising costs. By putting additional funds in the hands of purchasers through grants and loans, the subsidizers have pushed up the amounts to be spent on tuition. When the institutions provide the financial aid, they must also raise costs for those not receiving aid in order to cover expenses. Subsidies, then, have pushed college costs up both indirectly, by increasing the importance of credentials in the job market, and directly, by increasing the amount of money available for enrollment to obtain those credentials (Hess 2007). Many argue that rising cost of tuition is just one of the many negative consequences of mass higher education. Thus far, this paper has briefly examined government funding for access to higher education in the United States since the G.I. Bill. However, that is just one half of the overarching issue. The second is accountability in these institutions. Though the government has devoted substantial money and effort in providing for and improving higher education for its citizenry, how can we be sure that we are seeing an adequate return on such a massive investment? Thus, the issue of quality in our higher institutions must finally be addressed.

Critics of Mass Education

The quality of education in higher education institutions has held an ongoing pivotal role in the discussion regarding higher education since the turn of the 20th century. With regards to federal student aid, many believed the G.I. Bill would deter the quality and respectability of higher education. Such critics of mass education included former Harvard President James Conan Bryant who expressed concern that the G.I. Bill would create "unqualified people, the most unqualified of this generation" coming into college. The former president of the University of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins, predicted that the GI Bill would turn nearly all of our colleges and universities into "hobo jungles."

According to Toby, critics of mass higher education are convinced that the expansion of higher education has gradually decreased the quality of education for three reasons (Toby 2009).  First, as a wider range of students have entered college and university classrooms, the level of the intellectual culture of those classrooms has declined. Second, as degrees have become more valuable as credentials, the credentials themselves have acquired greater importance than any learning involved in their acquisition. Third, as more people have acquired credentials, intensified competition has occurred among degrees. Those degrees are narrowly oriented toward occupations which have diminished the relative value of traditional liberal arts degrees and learning (Toby 2009). For instance, according to a recent study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined by 40 percent in the past decade (NAAL 2010). Furthermore, Arum and Roska have found that on average, college graduates do not gain any significant critical thinking or writing skills from when they first entered their respective institute for higher education (Arum and Roska 2011). This means, among other things, we need to have alternatives to the U.S. News rankings that really reflect excellence in teaching and pushing students to reach their fullest potential.

Though Gladiuex and Hauptman's research predates Arum and Roska's study, they too have found a decline in the quality of learning in the higher institutions and they too place the blame on policy. However, they find much of the issue stemming from K-12 education as a result of specific legislation: the 1976 re-authorization of HEA. Gladiuex and Hauptman believe that increasingly more federal student aid dollars have been provided to students who are not prepared to do college-level work. While the 1976 re-authorization of the HEA extended Title IV aid to hundreds of thousands non-high school graduates who showed the "ability to benefit" from a college education, the they claim the standards to determine which students can benefit have been low and largely unregulated as only a "handful of students" do not qualify for this aid. Furthermore, they find that the same legislation encourages students to take remedial-leveled courses to receive federal student (Glasiuex and Hauptman 1995).

To not be mislead and to establish a formidable argument, we must challenge these findings. How can it be determined whether or not students are actually learning? On what basis do we measure success? While it may behoove policy-makers and citizens alike to hold institutions of higher learning accountable, what are the ways to go about doing this? Policy-makers and researchers have some idea. To begin, it must first be determined whether or not students are actually learning. While it may be true that universities and students both share the goal of earning degrees for the sole purpose of getting a job, critical thinking and writing skills are necessary for any post-graduate plans and thus, should be considered. But how do we measure how much a student has improved in these essential areas over the course of his or her college career? The answer is not simple. However, Richard Arum and Jospika Roksa have developed a survey which has jump-started this initiative.

The Decline of Learning

According to Toby, critics of mass higher education are convinced that the expansion of higher education has gradually decreased the quality of education for three reasons (Toby 2009).  First, as a wider range of students have entered college and university classrooms, the level of the intellectual culture of those classrooms has declined. Second, as degrees have become more valuable as credentials, the credentials themselves have acquired greater importance than any learning involved in their acquisition. Third, as more people have acquired credentials, intensified competition has occurred among degrees. Those degrees are narrowly oriented toward occupations which have diminished the relative value of traditional liberal arts degrees and learning (Toby 2009). For instance, according to a recent study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, the percentage of college graduates deemed proficient in prose literacy has actually declined by 40 percent in the past decade (NAAL 2010). Furthermore, Arum and Roska have found that on average, college graduates do not gain any significant critical thinking or writing skills from when they first entered their respective institute for higher education (Arum and Roska 2011). This means, among other things, we need to have alternatives to the U.S. News rankings that really reflect excellence in teaching and pushing students to reach their fullest potential.

Though Gladiuex and Hauptman's research predates Arum and Roska's study, they too have found a decline in the quality of learning in the higher institutions and they too place the blame on policy. However, they find much of the issue stemming from K-12 education as a result of specific legislation: the 1976 re-authorization of HEA. Gladiuex and Hauptman believe that increasingly more federal student aid dollars have been provided to students who are not prepared to do college-level work. While the 1976 re-authorization of the HEA extended Title IV aid to hundreds of thousands non-high school graduates who showed the "ability to benefit" from a college education, the they claim the standards to determine which students can benefit have been low and largely unregulated as only a "handful of students" do not qualify for this aid. Furthermore, they find that the same legislation encourages students to take remedial-leveled courses to receive federal student (Glasiuex and Hauptman 1995).

To not be mislead and to establish a formidable argument, we must challenge these findings. How can it be determined whether or not students are actually learning? On what basis do we measure success? While it may behoove policy-makers and citizens alike to hold institutions of higher learning accountable, what are the ways to go about doing this? Policy-makers and researchers have some idea. To begin, it must first be determined whether or not students are actually learning. While it may be true that universities and students both share the goal of earning degrees for the sole purpose of getting a job, critical thinking and writing skills are necessary for any post-graduate plans and thus, should be considered. But how do we measure how much a student has improved in these essential areas over the course of his or her college career? The answer is not simple. However, Richard Arum and Jospika Roksa have developed a survey which has jump-started this initiative.

In their survey, and subsequent book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Arum and Roksa have made unfortunate, but apparently not surprising, discoveries. One overall conclusion they make is that more than a third of American college seniors are no better at crucial types of writing and reasoning tasks than they were in their first semester of college. Drawing on survey responses, transcript data, and scores from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (a critical reasoning and writing skills test taken during the first semester, second semester sophomore year and final semester of college), the authors have found that 36 percent of students did not show any significant improvement over the four years of taking college. The sample includes 2,000 students who entered 24 four-year colleges in the fall of 2005. Though the authors did not name the institutions in the study, they claim they are indeed geographically and institutionally representative of the full range of American higher education as the sample includes large public flagship institutions, highly-selective liberal arts colleges, and historically black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities.

For a moment, I would like to focus on Chapter 1 of Arum and Roska's book titled, "College Culture and Student Learning" because they lay out the purpose of conducting this study and ultimately, the reason why I am writing this thesis. Although the culture of college, and society in general, has certainly changed since the turn of the 20th Century, the purpose of education has always remained the same- to develop every individual to their full potential. In an economist's view, the purpose of education is to enhance human capital; that is, the knowledge, skills, and capacities that will be rewarded in the workplace (Arum and Roksa 2011). Furthermore and more direct to the point, the authors cite two economists, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, who justify public funding for higher education. They claim that higher education is required for both economic growth and reduced economic inequality. However, it is extremely significant to this discussion to mention that Goldin and Katz based this recommendation on the assumption that increased college graduation rates will likely have such desirable economic outcomes because the labor market values "the highly analytical individual or can think abstractly" (Arum and Roksa, 2). Finally, Arum and Roksa ask the million (or multi-billion) dollar question that this paper is attempting to examine and hopefully resolve: What if increased educational attainment is not equivalent to enhanced individual capacity for critical thinking and complex reasoning? {Basically, what is the point of spending billions of dollars funding higher education because we believe it will eventually pay off in the labor market when individuals are not reaching their fullest potential?} Arum and Roksa have found that this is exactly the case in higher education in the United States. Indeed policy (and consequently many tax-payer's dollars) has expanded access to higher education for many more Americans, especially through the continual expansion of Pell Grants. However, especially in light of Arum and Roksa's findings, we should become increasingly concerned over the the values and returns of our investment to higher education. The next section will briefly discuss potential political, economic and social explanations for this decline of learning in higher education in the United States.

American Dream

While everyone has their own perception of what the American Dream is, almost all people will associate education as of means of attaining it. Today's ethos of the American Dream simply indicates the ability, through participation in society and the economy, for everyone to achieve prosperity, including the opportunity for one's children to obtain a good education and career without artificial barriers (Leara 2010). Artificial barriers, however, are often realistic concerns. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to afford to attend the most prestigious universities. Though this obviously is not the world in which we live, the government has spent billions of dollars trying to "level the playing field". Furthermore, the notion of equal access to higher education has been inculcated into the American Dream as a result of one such government program, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act or 1944, or more commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

Though the original intention of the G.I. Bill was to prevent another Great Depression after World War II ended (Hyman 1986), it would have lasting effects on the typical American way of life, especially regarding education. The final bill offered veterans unemployment benefits and mortgage subsidies, in addition to educational benefits for veterans.  While only several thousand veterans were expected to take advantage of the educational benefits provided by the G.I. Bill, veterans would represent between 40 and 50 percent of all higher education students by 1948.#   

Summary / Response to Mettler

Suzanne Mettler, a policy expert at Cornell University, recognizes the temporal issue with major government policy, such as the G.I. Bill, writing "Policies enacted at a particular point in time do not simply maintain themselves and continue to offer the same results as they once did at the outset" (Mettler 2009).  In much of her work, Mettler concludes that despite the great orations from our leaders, policies- which our leaders have constructed themselves- will always favor corporate interests; thus, prohibiting, to some degree, the attainment of the American Dream for most Americans. She argues that while democrats and liberals have typically fought for the expansion of access to higher education, especially for lower-income people, republicans and conservatives have always rejected such efforts. She claims conservatives close the check book (and in essence, educational opportunities) and avert the attention of higher education debate to accountability (Mettler 2009). In her 54 page criticism of higher education policy and student loan malpractices titled "Representing Students or Sallie Mae?", Mettler fails to even consider the conservative argument that we should hold universities and colleges receiving government money accountable for keeping their end of the bargain by adhering to their respective mission statements: which all seem to echo widespread commitment "to challenge students to think critically and intuitively, and to ensure that graduates become adept at critical, analytical and logical thinking" (Arum and Roska 2011). Though she exposes the iniquity of the student loan industry and how Congress, particularly the Republican Party, has facilitated such malpractice, her only solution is simply for increased funding for Pell Grants, in addition to changes in student loan policy. I critique Mettler's work for this reason. She reveals startling and disconcerting facts regarding higher education in the United States. Her only solution, which seems to resonate with liberals, namely the Democratic Party, is to simply spend more money. Though it is extremely important to maintain funding for expanding access to higher education, it is equally important to take a step back and see what good is really coming from all that is being spent.

T    Student Apathy

The norms of college have certainly changed since universities were first established in this country and were only offered to the elite.  I want to refer back to the introduction of this paper when I claimed that the G.I. Bill would have lasting effects regarding the American way of life, especially regarding education. As expectations to attend college was a typical American sentiment following the G.I. Bill, I would like to briefly discuss how the college way of life has changed as a lasting effect of the surging enrollments from the late 1940's.

It is easy to blame the social aspects of college, i.e. fraternity parties and sporting events, to account for the lack of focus on the classroom. If a high school senior is lucky enough to be able attend the college of his choice, the average 18 year-old today may make this decision based on which university Playboy Magazine ranks as the "Best Party School". However, such an argument is hard to support with empirical evidence and this study will maintain its arguments within the confines of the classroom. I will continue to use statistics Arum and Roksa have found in their study to present my case because for one, they exist and are readily available and two, they are appropriate and provide insight for this discussion.

While student performance proved to be a major concern, Arum believes what is even more haunting is the amount of effort (or lack thereof) exerted by the students, which he finds is both the student and the institution's fault. In an interview with The Chronicle of High Education explaining his findings, Arum adds "students are reporting that they make such meager investments in studying because  they have such meager demands placed on them in their courses in terms of reading and writing (thechronicle.com, Jan. 18, 2011). Furthermore, the scholars have found that racial and ethnic gaps in CLA scores widen, especially in the case of African-American students, partly leading them to conclude that African-American students are more likely to attend less selective colleges with less-intense academic environments.  GO INTO MORE DEPTH ON LOWER-INCOME/ MINORITY ?

One easy and useful measure that accurately gauges students' dedication to their academics is how many hours per week they spend on academic pursuits (combining class time and hours spent studying). Fortunately, Arum and Roksa include surveys which include student responses from the 1960's up until today. The results are sobering to say the least. In labor economists Philip Babcock's and Mindy Marks' survey, they found that fifty years ago, full-time college students were likely to spend on average forty hours a week on academic pursuits. Unfortunately, that number has steadily and rapidly declined over this time frame. Average studying fell to twenty-five hours a week in 1983 and down to thirteen hours a week in 2003. To look at this trend another way, the percentage of full-time students studying at least twenty hours a week in 1961 was 67 percent while today, only 20 percent responded to the same question. (Babcock and Marks 2010; Arum and Roksa 2011).

Based on this negative trend, one would assume that students' grades would also decline. This however, is not the case. One professor who felt out of touch with her students, did an investigative study in which she enrolled in her university as a college freshmen to determine why students did not seem to take their academics seriously but were still able maintained decent grades. The author found that students have mastered "the art of college management" by which students could succeed "controlling college by shaping schedules, taming professors, and limiting workloads" (Nathan 46). Basically, students would enroll only in classes that attributed to their major with lenient-grading professors and did the minimal amount of work to receive a decent grade (Even at a prestigious, small liberal art college such as the University of Richmond, I have made similar observations). While college students today are able dictate their own grades by limited their amount of time pursuing academic priorities, it is no wonder university presidents, policymakers, practitioners, and the public have all recently become concerned with higher education. But can the blame for this increasing academic apathy be placed on the students alone? Certainly not. The next section will explore the potential reasoning behind this pattern so that we may better understand ways to correct this unfortunate development.

Faculty Apathy

Richard Vedder Harvard proposes a provocative thought: "Harvard has good students graduating because they have good students coming in--but do they really gain a lot while at Harvard? (Vedder). According to the former president of Harvard University Derek Bok, "Colleges and Universities, for all they bring, accomplish far less for students then they should" (Arum and Roksa, pg. 1, 2011). If even our most prestigious institutions of higher learner are failing to serve their purpose, the facts ought to hold true for universities nationwide. While professors at smaller schools with low faculty-student ratios are able to devote more attention to the individual academic needs of each student, Arum and Roksa note that even the most financially endowed institutions, regardless of size, have faced major resource constraints. Where professors would normally be tenured or full-time instructors, many classrooms have been led by adjunct, graduate students or teaching assistants (pg. 6). A government study has shown that full-time instructional faculty throughout at degree-granting institutions across the country, large and small, declined from 78 percent in 1970 to 52 percent in 2005 and further note that the change in lower-tiered institutions is even more drastic (NCES 2008). Furthermore, Arum and Roksa mention many of these same institutions are "federal grant universities" for the purpose of research. Instructors may devote their precious highly-valued time and expertise to their own research to advance their own career, rather than give most of their attention to students who apparently are not showing interest in what they have to offer. The Spellings Commission has also made this conclusion writing in their final report of findings in June 2006, "with faculty members rewarded for academic scholarship to a much greater degree than teaching - particularly at major research universities - we see a lack of clarity and purpose about what faculty should teach and what students should learn to become informed, engaged and productive citizens capable of prospering in an interconnected global community". At this point, to further pinpoint the source of the declining of real learning in higher institutions is a difficult task. While empirical evidence has shown that the source of this problem can be traced, it may prove more efficient to analyze what has been done to resolve this issue and what work lies ahead to improve higher education in the United States on all fronts.

TO DO:

1) Actual $ being spent     INSIDE CLASSROOM

Federal vs. State - FIGURES, TABLES, GRAPHS!!!!!!!!!! -

2) Higher Education Policy as "Drift"? - Mettler

3) Is Higher Education Necessarily a Channel for Upward Social Mobility?

4) Political Efforts towards Accountability- The Spellings Commission

Basically, the Spellings Commission has found similar percentages with Arum and Roksa. Talk         about the BOLD SUBHEADERS and their SOLUTIONS. TIE THE SOLUTIONS TO MY         OWN/     CONCLUSION.

**5) PRIMARY SOURCES!!

    CONCERNS:

    1) Am I focusing on/using too much of Arum and Roska's study?

    2) Does my To Do list make sense?

    3) How far behind am I?

    4) How bad is this?

   

Thank you!!

   

CONCLUSION

As the federal government grows into its role as the public-higher-education-financing body of first resort, it should demand far more transparency about learning results from colleges in exchange.

{ FIGURE 9 shows the average SAT Score Critical Reading has gone down almost 50 points in the last 50 years.}

Higher Education as an example of "Policy Drift"  -- LOOK AT CHANGING POLICY

As Mettler  points out,  higher education policy  in the past thirty plus years has been victim to what Jacob Hacker calls "drift" politics, meaning which refers to "changes in the operation or effects of policies that occur without significant changes in those policies' structure" (Hacker 2004, 246). The most obvious example of this, she explains, are Pell Grants and student loans following the 1972 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Mettler shows that, unlike Social Security, a government benefit that increases over time due to the mandatory  cost-of-living adjustments, Pell Grants  decrease in value over time because there is no such mandatory adjustment for inflation or rising cost of tuition. This is so because policymakers have failed to take deliberate action  to change this policy. My paper attempts to discover why policymakers have not dealt with this issue tha has been in plain sight since it was first drafted.

there are concerns that the existing aid programs aren't targeting

money to those who need it most. Today, less than 60 percent of every

dollar of federal aid is provided on the basis of student need.11 In practice,

the federal loan program has become a middle-class subsidy to help students

attend the institution of their choice or compensate for a lack of savings

by middle-class families, or a tool to help middle-class families manage

investments and cash flow.

While we would like to think that education is the means for upward mobility, several authors find that this is not necessarily the case.

In his article The Mass Production of Credentials: Subsidies and the Rise in Higher Education, Carl L. Bankston III boldly argues that while U.S. institutions of higher education have been steadily producing an increasing number of degrees, the structural demand for these degrees has not kept pace with the granting of these credentials (336). Furthermore, he argues that while the executive and legislative branches directly subsidized college enrollments, the judicial branch may have unintentionally increased demand for formal credentialsby limiting other means of qualifying for jobs. Bryan O'Keefe and Richard Vedder(2008) have argued that when the Supreme Court limited the use of ability tests for job  qualification by its decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (401 U.S. 424 [1971]), the Court pushed employers to emphasize credentials. Qualified minority members (and others) who previously would have been able to get a job by passing tests had to put time and money into getting degrees.  As the degree has become more common, it has become more often a requirement. He claims this is a problem because the asset of obtaining of post-secondary school credential comes at the expense of other assets such as demonstrated ability or experience in the field.

Meanwhile, the same dynamics of policy drift that have fostered the deterioration of grants have nurtured the growth of student loans.

As of 2002, the average undergraduate completed his studies $18,900 in debt, up 66 percent from just five years previous (Baum and O'Malley 2003). Overall, therefore, the deterioration of grants and the ascent of loans in the face of soaring tuition have combined to undermine the goal of expanded access to higher education (Mettler 2009).

Cozy Relationship B/w Lenders and Conservatives

Chronology of Mass Higher Education: How did we get from the G.I. Bill to the Lender Regime?

.

Focus: democrat vs. republican expanding access to higher education

Truman Commission on Higher Education?

The Higher Education Act of 1965,-which established the Guaranteed Student Loan program (GSL), vWork Study, and need-based grants administered through institutions of higher education, represented the landmark policy that helped to open the doors of colleges to qualified civilian students regardless of socio-economic background.

HEA of1972- created need-based grants to be administered directly to students; these became         known as Pell Grants in honor of their proponent Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI)

    -in order to ensure the availability of student loans, the law established the Student Loan         Marketing Association, otherwise known as Sallie Mae (Gladieux and Wolanin 1976).

-sought to alter the governance of higher education

    -strategy was for the federal government to provide incentives to states  that created              state higher education coordinating agencies to act as liaisons between institutions and the         federal government.

I cannot help but to connect this situation to a very simple metaphorical scenario. I do not believe I am oversimplifying higher education policy in the United States, particularly since the 1972 authorization of the Higher Education Act, is like a farmer continually raising mediocre crops, say carrots. Let's say the a large portion of the farmer's income is based on his revenue from selling carrots. The farmer invests a lot of resources (money, time, land) on raising his carrots but they always come out rather brown, shriveled and bitter. Though he is able to sell his less-than-perfect carrots, he does see a return on his investments. We must now ask ourselves, what should the farmer do in order to see the greatest return on his investments? Because he only has so much land, should he spend more money producing more of the same growing mediocre carrots and thereby, congesting his already fully used farm? Or, should he use his limited land wisely, and spend his money and time searching for other ways to produce the best carrots and thereby, allowing himself to sell same amount of carrots at even better prices? I would hope we would would all chose the latter solution. However, if the solution is so obvious, why is this not the case when it comes to higher education policy?

Of course, this metaphor does not explain everything involved in the higher education problem. However, it does make accurate and  parallel assumptions about higher education policy.

Blankston, Carl III. The mass production of credentials: subsidies and the rise of the higher education industry.

Toby, Jackson. 2009. The Lowering of Higher Education in America: Why Financial Aid Should Be Based on Student Performance.

which refers to "changes in the operation or effects of policies that occur without significant changes in those policies' structure" (Hacker 2004, 246).

These days, with

so much "what" on the table-more than $90 billion a year is spent in federal

aid to help students fund higher education expenses-it is not surprising

that a wide array of actors care deeply about the "how" and the

"when" as well.2

Hyman, Harold M. American Singularity: The 1787 Northwest Ordinance, the 1862 Homestead and Morrill Acts, and the 1944 GI Bill. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986.