Freakonomics Goes Back to School
Welcome to College
I love the Freakonomics podcast. Sometimes it can be a bit mundane, but still hilarious at times (albeit in a bit of some uneasy comedy…as is most good comedy). Such as this podcast on lawns.
Today, Americans spend roughly $60 billion a year in what’s known as the turfgrass industry. This covers lawn supplies, lawn services and so on. That figure includes sports fields, commercial properties and private lawns; lawns account for two-thirds of the total square footage. How much square footage is that?
40.5 million acres of turf according to Cristina Milesi.
What are these unbelievable numbers? The total was 20 trillion gallons per year. On lawn-watering. You want a little context for that number? Consider we use just 30 trillion gallons to irrigate all our crops. Next Milesi calculated how much carbon the turfgrass stores in the soil.
MILESI: Then I subtracted from it the amount of carbon that was associated with nitrogen fertilization and the amount of carbon that was emitted by using a typical lawn mower.
And: what’d she learn?
MILESI: I learned that the turf would become a sink of carbon. This is not surprising. A plant, given plenty of attention, photosynthesizes carbon. But it comes at the cost of producing the fertilizer, mowing the grass and all the industry that comes around it.
So even with those costs included, lawns look pretty good from a carbon perspective. On the other hand, Milesi’s model didn’t include inputs like the carbon emissions from the trucks that lawn crews drive, or the original manufacture of all that lawn-care equipment. Nor did it include the energy used to deliver water to households and clean it for human consumption.
MILESI: We should not forget that this is drinking water. I did not account for those costs.
And, as just about any economist will tell you, water is often woefully underpriced — which can lead to overuse. Especially if you’re growing a grass species that wasn’t meant to grow where you live.
So, when they decided to cover the issue of going to college, I knew that after spending about 30 years of my life preparing to be a professor and being a professor, I would be both nodding my head in agreement and cringing at some of the solutions proposed. So, let’s review the series of podcasts.
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Why Go To College?
Here’s Stephen Dubner introducing the topic:
What if I told you there was one economic activity that is a silver bullet for income inequality?
Christina PAXSON: It is an equalizer that’s really important.
And it’s not just income.
Morton SCHAPIRO: The monetary returns are really important, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Just about any economist you talk to — they all come around to that same word.
Peter BLAIR: Incredibly important.
Amalia MILLER: Very important.
Miguel URQUIOLA: Immensely important.
Can you guess the economic activity I’m talking about? Here’s a hint:
Ruth SIMMONS: You learn more in those four years than you do at any other point in your life.
Yes, the activity we’re talking about is college. You probably don’t need to be told that going to college is important. Given the demographics of the Freakonomics Radio audience, it’s likely that you have a college degree — at least one — or you’re working on one. Despite the cost in time and dollars, our economist friends see college as one of the best investments possible. An investment for yourself:
Catharine HILL: If you can get yourself a college degree, your lifetime earnings are going to be significantly higher. You’re going to have better health insurance, you’re going to be more satisfied with your job.
And a good investment for society:
SCHAPIRO: People who have higher education, they are much more likely to vote, they’re much more likely to volunteer, they’re much more likely to do all kinds of things that enhance the democratic process and the social fabric of the country.
Let’s pause for a second here to recognize that I agree 100% with the emphasis on college…it’s incredibly important. Not just for your income (and we’ll come back to this), but there are so many other benefits to going to college that it is hard to truly capture the full experience. However, I want to stress three important aspects of college.
It is not essential to having a successful career. There are plenty of “blue-collar” jobs (I’m sure there are others that detest the “blue-collar” vs. “white-collar” as much as I do, but I doubt that there are many who hate it more…tribalism sucks). You can have a great career through hard work, training, natural ability, etc. in jobs that do not require a college degree.
You can be a great mom/dad, active in the community, and exhibit all the other benefits without going to college.
College is expensive! There are likely ways to improve on this that don’t require foundations, student loan dollars, and other forms of government support. Ways that encourage learning and sampling to allow students to choose the transformative experience that allows them to excel. This is something that should be addressed.
Those disclaimers aside, students that choose to attend college and work towards learning (and I’m not just talking about academic issues), are more likely to
have higher salaries (more does not imply always)
be more open to people from different cultures (race, religion, political, social networks, etc.)
better job benefits/perks
have more advancement opportunities.
Are there exceptions to these rules? Of course there are! The idea is not that college determines your success, but instead that the college experience can be a significant factor in allowing you to achieve your success.
The first episode got bogged down into the Ivy League schools (and other elite colleges) where it is impossible to tell what people are paying due to competition, income of applicants, scholarships both need and merit, work-study attitudes and lots of other issues. However, if we look solely at sticker prices, we get the following picture.
I would argue that including living costs is irrelevant (whether you are going to college or not, you kind of need a place to live and food to eat). College expenses (books, calculators, software, etc.) are legitimate expenses, but universities do their part to keep these costs as low as possible. Consider Open Educational Resources.
I had the opportunity to co-write https://businessfinanceessentials.pressbooks.com/ with Fang Lin and Jennifer Pursley. Will the book become dated over time? Sure, but time value of money, risk and return, valuation models, etc. are not going to change dramatically. It’s free to use and you are welcome to modify/edit it as you see fit. Many other faculty do similar things to help students.
So, if we look at public college costs, you are looking at about $10,000 - $12,000 per year before any student aid. Not cheap, but not outrageous either, especially when compared to many private schools.
The University of “Impossible-to-Get-Into”
From episode 501, we have this story of the “prestige” factor:
Peter Blair began to wonder if colleges might be sending the same signal. Could this explain why the elite schools had essentially frozen their growth? He and Smetters began to create an economic model to explore this question. The model included three steps. First, students choose which colleges to apply to; then, colleges decide which students to admit; and finally, students pick which college they are going to attend. As you can imagine, there are a multitude of variables that affect each step: the total number of applicants, the academic and extracurricular quality of those applicants, as well as net tuition costs and other factors. And there was one special variable they included in the analysis, the same one that applies to luxury goods.
BLAIR: Universities are competing on what we call prestige, which is a relative measure of: how selective is my university relative to its peer institutions?
Now Blair and Smetters took their model and fed into it real-world application and matriculation data from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. They did this twice — first with the “prestige” variable turned on.
BLAIR: We find that when we calibrate the model with prestige on, we’re able to fit the patterns in the data, which show that admissions rates have been declining at elite institutions and also the average SAT scores have been going up both for applicants and also for matriculants. So that’s with prestige on, the model fits.
In other words, their model successfully re-created the reality. Then they turned off the prestige variable. What’d they find now?
BLAIR: What we find is that in the absence of prestige, admissions rates would go up, the number of applicants would go up, the number of matriculants would also go up. The average test scores would go down slightly. Also, the number of applications per slot would in fact decrease. So competition would soften at elite institutions.
In other words, if elite schools weren’t competing to position themselves as super-exclusive luxury brands, they’d admit more people, and it would be easier to get in. You could imagine this would make a lot of people happy. But who might not like it? Just guessing here, but how about the elite colleges’ administrators and faculty and alumni and current students, all of whom really like the idea that their school is so exclusive.
We also have this discussion on the prestige factor by students:
How much does reputation matter to college students? That’s a hard question to answer empirically. To get some anecdotal answers, we went up to Urquiola’s school, Columbia, which is currently tied for second in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of best American universities. We asked students what they valued more: the Ivy League education they were getting, or the Ivy League brand attached to it.
FEMALE STUDENT: It’s a very difficult question.
We did hear a fair amount of pro-education sentiment.
FEMALE STUDENT: The education here is obviously incredible. I don’t always love Columbia’s brand. I’m more proud of my education than the fact that I’m at Columbia.
MALE STUDENT: I don’t, like, wake up every day and say, “Oh, I’m so excited to engage in this prestigious experience.” I say, “I’m so excited to learn about this particular thing.” So probably education.
FEMALE STUDENT: I think that Columbia does a good job of collecting people who care about knowing things and who care about asking questions, and to be in that kind of environment really does push you.
But the vast majority of the students we spoke with had a different answer about what mattered most.
MALE STUDENT: The brand value, for sure.
FEMALE STUDENT: You could get the same education, at a not Ivy League school and a not top 50 school.
MALE STUDENT: Especially with like with classes being online, it maybe leans slightly more towards the brand value than the education.
FEMALE STUDENT: The reason why they can justify charging $80K a year is probably the brand name. Whether it’s worth it or not, I don’t know.
MALE STUDENT: I mean, you could get a very good education at most schools in the country. Anyone will give you a very good degree and you’ll learn a bunch, but having that brand name is what makes it worth going to a school like this.
MALE STUDENT: It’s pretty much just like the diploma, to be able to say you went to an Ivy League school.
FEMALE STUDENT: I think you can get an amazing education anywhere. Obviously it’s top-notch here, but it’s the connections you have after college, too.
MALE STUDENT: When you apply to a place, and you have that brand on the top of your C.V. and the network that comes on top of it. There’s a reason why a lot of people can’t get into the school, and it’s so prestigious.
In other words, the education itself is valuable. However, the difficulty of getting into the institution may be MORE valuable. Based on how hard it is to get into the institution, the “prestige” factor can help explain the increase in the value of connections. One more little tidbit that I found really interesting (and again, this is generalized…we’re not saying every tenured or tenure-earning faculty stinks…at least I hope not).
Morty Schapiro, wearing his economist hat and not his college-president hat, has analyzed the impact of faculty skill. He wanted to compare how students did if they had an intro course taught by a tenured or tenure-track professor versus a non-tenure track professor, including an adjunct. Adjuncts are essentially freelancers who get paid much less than tenure-track professors and who are leaned on extensively by even elite colleges to teach a lot of classes. Schapiro found that students who took intro courses with non-tenure track professors did better in more advanced courses than if they’d had a tenured or tenure-track professor for the intro course. One reason tenured professors may not be as good at teaching is that, as we mentioned earlier, the top schools may value research over classroom instruction. Still, if you’re the student or the parent of a student at an elite school, shouldn’t classroom instruction be pretty important? Miguel Urquiola says that reputation and prestige tend to trump the actual quality of instruction.
Wait a minute. The actual instruction is better when you do NOT have tenured professors? Apparently, this is the case. Is it shocking to me? Not really. Because teaching requires someone to be focused on teaching…more so than research and service. This is not to say that research and service are not important (research drives a lot of the grant money). It is also not to say that there aren’t double and triple threats who perform above average in two or three of the categories. There are some real superstars out there! However, on average, teaching is largely about how much effort you want to put into it and, some put in a lot of effort.
Granted, these are not the major universities. If we look at the top-10 schools (and these will vary depending on which rating program you use — we’re using US News)we get the following:
Princeton University ($56,010 with 4773 undergrads)
Columbia University ($63,530 with 6170 undergrads)
Harvard University ($55,587 with 5222 undergrads)
Massachusetts Intitute of Technology ($55,878 with 4361 undergrads)
Yale University ($59,950 with 4703 undergrads)
Stanford University ($56,169 with 6366 undergrads)
University of Chicago ($60,963 with 6989 undergrads)
University of Pennsylvania ($61,710 with 9872 undergrads)
California Institute of Technology ($58,680 with 901 undergrads)
Duke University ($60,489 with 6717 undergrads)
If we look at just the top three state schools in Kansas, we get the following
University of Kansas ($11,166 with 19,135 undergrads)
Kansas State University ($10,466 with 16,257 undergrads)
Wichita State University ($8,800 with 12,407 undergrads)
Again, you can see two big differences. One, these program (Kansas State institutions) are much larger. Two, they are much cheaper (about $45,000 per year in sticker price). Cheaper is relative as it is going to vary dramatically from one student to the next depending on grades, department, financial need, and a bunch of other factors. That said, $45,000 per year over 4 years does add up to a chunk of change. .
Let’s also get into what we mean when we talk about averages. There are two commonly-cited numbers for averages. The mean and the median. They are calculated very differently. The mean takes the total student loans and divides by the number of students with debt. The median takes the debt of the 50th percentile. They tell a very different story.
Pew Research found that in 2016, the median borrower with outstanding student loan debt for their own education owed $17,000. Among borrowers with less than a bachelor’s degree — students who went to community college, trade school or dropped out of school before graduation — the median self-reported debt was about $10,000. For borrowers with a bachelor’s degree, the median was $25,000. For the borrowers with postgraduate degrees, the median self-reported student loan debt was $40,000.
Note the highlighted part of the text “with outstanding student loan debt for their own education”. How you define median is critical. Are you using the entire population (there are 331 million people and only 43 million have student loan debt) or are you using a population that is more likely to include recent students (say the total population between 20 - 34…which is 67.67 million). It gets complicated pretty quickly. That doesn’t imply that student loan debt doesn’t count or is irrelevant. It does and is! However, a loan for the equipment to start a lawn service or other small business is not a lot different — they represent investments in tools that are equally important for success. We don’t have 18-year-old’s making the decision to borrow money for opportunities without a clear understanding of their costs and benefits. It also indicates that graduate school adds an extra layer of costs which is often just lumped into “student debt”.
“I Don’t Think the Country Is Turning Away From College.”
In episode 3 (or episode 502 if you’re keeping track of all the episodes), Steve Dubner spends the episode talking to Chris Paxson about her role as President of Brown. One thing that I want to add is that being President of a university is a thankless position. It requires far more effort than I would ever want to spend trying to please students, faculty, staff, donors, politicians, parents, the town, and probably 100 other groups of people. It is impossible to do well (as in make everyone happy). I had the priviledge of working with our long-term President who had more energy in any given day that he gave to the job than I had in a week. Kudos!
Let’s go to a few pieces from the interview.
DUBNER: But since Brown produces knowledge and since knowledge is power, theoretically at least, wouldn’t you want to empower as many people as possible? Are there other routes you could think about expanding the Brown philosophy and education? Maybe not in Providence, but maybe it’s campuses around the country, maybe it’s campuses around the world, maybe it’s a more intense virtual offering.
PAXSON: Yeah, I don’t think that’s something — where we can really expand knowledge is through our research. And that’s an area where we’ve made a lot of investment. So it’s important to remember that major research universities, their mission is to expand knowledge. They do it through education. They also do it through knowledge-production research.
DUBNER: And of course, what you’re saying politely to me is that the leverage there is much, much, much greater than taking on an extra couple hundred students a year, yes?
So, here we see the emphasis on research above teaching. This is a legitimate debate and one that I think is important. Not everyone is equally gifted at all areas of the “professor” role. Research IS important! Unfortunately, it does not mean a good researcher is a good teacher (or vice versa). There are exceptions, but on average, those who excel at one are more motivated by doing that thing. It may be wise to segregate the roles (something about “Law of Comparative Advantage” maybe?).
PAXSON: I’ll give you two variants of an answer to that question, and one is a little bit flip, but I think there may be something to it. I was meeting with a group of reporters once who were talking about the Ivy this, the Ivy this, Harvard, Yale. And I said, “Hey, where did all of you go to college?” And they all went to Ivies. So, I think there is a little bit of journalists — no offense intended — focusing on the education that they experienced. I also do think, though, that there’s something about increasing income inequality in America, that is driving attention on the places that are really seen as being the golden tickets to not just prosperity, but to really high-end prosperity. One thing we know is that the very most selective colleges and universities are very good at propelling people into the top 1 percent of the income distribution.
DUBNER: And when you say “propelling” — can you give evidence that this is actually causal?
PAXSON: I knew you were going to ask me that as soon as I used the word “propelling.” Among the people who go to these elite schools, a very large fraction of them end up in the top 1 percent. I don’t know how much that is causal. I think a lot of it probably is. And especially the low-income students who end up coming to a place like Brown, who wind up having wildly successful careers, it’s hard for me to imagine that that would have happened if they’d gone to their local community college.
This is one of the things that, while I understand — remember that college presidents have lots of constituencies — I disagree with. The purpose of the university is to provide a transformative experience to all the people who work at the university. That does include the researchers. However, it also includes the students, the teachers, the staff, and lots of other people. Chris Paxson, likely is overselling the ability of Brown to “propel” students forward. I think she provides them with an opportunity that they probably wouldn’t have gotten (this is very good), but it undersells the assets that THOSE STUDENTS bring to the table. These students are likely overachievers (in a big way) that would be successful at any institution of higher learning. Does it create connections? Sure…review the “prestige” factor discussion raised earlier. However, I’m guessing that these same students would have found opportunities to be successful anywhere that they went.
Next came a question on endowments and, while Paxson is being honest, there is a lot of wiggle room in the answer she gives. Last year, Brown earned a 51% return (granted, there were a lot of high return investments in 2021) and I’m guessing the rate of return is trending a bit lower in 2022. However, it is still a staggering return.
The gains came over the course of FY21, which began July 1, 2020 and concluded June 30, 2021.
The 40.8% growth of the S&P 500 Index over FY21 indicates the strong performances of industries across the board.
This line of questioning closes with the following exchange:
DUBNER: But saying that there are confidentiality clauses — as I’m sure there are in many, many, many investment ecosystems — doesn’t it make it sound a little bit more like there’s this cabal of elite universities with billions of dollars who have ways of making even more money than all the rest of us don’t have access to? Are you concerned about that perception?
PAXSON: Well, I think that we’re trying to do what we can to advance our mission the best way possible.
Not exactly a shining moment.
Here is another line that might have escaped attention…but is actually a bigger issue within the field of academia (from Paxson).
My grandfather taught at the University of Tennessee. He went there as a student, and he could not have done what he did in his life if he hadn’t found his way there.
Here is an important finding from a research article by The University of Colorado (https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/6wjxc)
If your aspiration is to become a university faculty member some day, here’s a bit of advice: choose your parents wisely. Turns out that university faculty are, on average, 25 times more likely to have had a parent with a PhD than the general population. In addition, those faculty tended to grow up in neighborhoods that had a 24% higher median income than the general public.
Dang, I missed the boat there as neither of my parents completed a PhD! However, there is a lot of work being done here by creating an environment where education is seen as important and the benefits of an academic job are understood. Granted, having a parent that grew up teaching about economics is going to enhance your knowledge of what the job is like and your aptitude to pursue it. This is no different than the NBA (https://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/6777581/importance-athlete-background-making-nba). However, it does stress the importance of family connections. Never undersell how important connections are to your career!
Going back to the cost issue, the topic of “what does someone pay?” came up
DUBNER: It’s hard, though, because the net price is not published, is it?
PAXSON: Actually, it is. The Department of Education requires that we have net price calculators on our websites. You can go in, you can put in your income level, your family characteristics, and it can give you an estimate of what it will cost to go to that school.
DUBNER: The net-price calculator is for you, as an individual family. But if I want to know the average net price for a given university, I can’t find that, can I?
PAXSON: Oh, that I don’t know. You could do it. It would take a long time.
Notice that the answer here is intentionally vague. There is talk that the student support for going to school for state students has gone down significantly, but little on the cost situation for private schools like Brown. How much does it cost to go to Brown? Your guess is as good as mine because there are multiple factors that go into determining the net price.
DUBNER: Can you talk for a minute about what you economists call “cost disease” — the idea that in certain fields, wages rise much faster than productivity, and this would certainly apply in higher ed — maybe in all education. I wonder how much that is responsible for tuition inflation?
PAXSON: Ah. So, one of the arguments is that we haven’t seen the same amount of technological change in higher education. By and large, it’s still one faculty member in one classroom with a whole bunch of students, and what that’s going to do is drive prices up in higher education. We’re not seeing the same type of technological change that other industries are seeing. Now, it’s interesting because Covid has forced us all online. And for years, I heard from people who would say, “Look, put everything you do online, you can deliver the same quality of education. You can charge a tenth the price. Why aren’t you offering college degrees for $5,000?” Usually when I hear that from an alum, I say, “Would you send your child to school that way?” And the answer is no.
DUBNER: “Because I don’t want them in my basement.”
PAXSON: “I don’t want them in my basement, in their pajamas, pretending that they’re going to school when they’re really playing video games.” No. What we learned in Covid was, actually we can impart knowledge well virtually. But that’s not the kind of experience students or faculty want, and the social aspects of being in school — and when I say social, I don’t just mean fun, I mean the interactions between faculty and students, between students with each other as they learn — that’s a really important part of college. I do think that the experience with online learning has been better in graduate programs, professional programs, more targeted skill-based programs. Can you learn how to code online? Yes, you can. There’s more we can do with new technology, but I’ve become persuaded that the model that we have probably won’t change wholesale in the coming years.
This is one of the issues that I think is essential in college education. You (and by “you” I mean the entire university — faculty, staff, students, etc.) are taking young adults (18-year-olds) and teaching them move closer to actual adults. Learning, especially when you are in the 18-22 age group comes with bumps and bruises. However, having faculty, support staff, students that are willing to work together is an essential part of the college experience. Students that work together, goof around together, discuss the importance of grades, going to football/basketball games, attending a college comedy night bond together. Working on completing three projects that professors decided to make due on the same day (it happens) while balancing work study or job demands can present different challenges in time management skills (one of the factors students often mentioned with my classes). Leading a club meeting or being involved in student government while trying to figure out how you’re going to make the $4.00 food budget last (which may be because you spent $40 on drinks/snacks over the weekend) is another example of this dilemna. I would argue that most students struggled with these issues (which is a great way of learning to deal with life challenges).
The key is that students will make lifetime friends in classes. They’ll do REALLY stupid stuff and they’ll do REALLY smart stuff. Some will meet their future spouse. This will come with jerks for professors (ask any college student and they’ll have some horror stories to share — feel free to comment and share your stories) and with faculty (maybe even non-tenure track) who provided the push to get them across the finish line.
There was a time that I thought online education would be a reasonable solution. It is, but only for the right students. If you are self-motivated it can work (although, if you are TRULY self-motivated, you can probably design your own program). Unfortunately, if you are not self-motivated it can get ugly…really quickly. Assignments get skipped and students lose their motivation. It becomes a milestone to complete, instead of a learning process to celebrate. Most importantly, student/faculty and student/student engagement drops…often dramatically.
Solutions To Better College
One question that often comes up in a podcast is the host asking the guest what two or three things would they do to improve the situation being discussed. In this case, I’m playing both roles — the host AND the guest. So let me address the three things that I would recommend to improve the college experience. However, the disclaimer is that this is one person’s opinion. Which means that this might be a good discussion over a nice Diet Mountain Dew because there isn’t a “right” answer.
Cost and Administrative Bloat
Figure out a better way to structure the cost issue. And no, I don’t have a solution here other than the last 50 years shows that the college cost structure doesn’t work. A big part of this has to do with regulation and oversight. The term administrative bloat has come to be a part of campus discussion, with good reason.
Whether it qualifies as bloat or not, the overall cost of college administration has gone up dramatically in direct proportion to the decades-long upward trend in college tuition. An article from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) reports that, across the entire higher education landscape, spending on administration per student increased by 61% between 1993 and 2007.
It should be noted that I started my teaching career in 1995, so was right in this slipstream. I would guess that the number may have actually increased since 2007, but don’t have the data to back it up. That said, the administrative positions have increased dramatically. This means faculty are spending more time with non-teaching functions, leaving less time for actual teaching and interacting with students. It also means that there are more administators overseeing the faculty.
This may come with eliminating student loans (or reducing them), making college costs more visible and direct (for example, eliminating the “if you make under $125,000 you don’t pay anything to come to Brown”), etc.
One thing that I am not in favor of is the split between the 2-year college and the 4-year college. They both have a function, but the idea of the 2-year college being a feeder program for the last 2-years at a 4-year school is less than ideal. I would argue that it actually is a deterrent to the success of a college student (again, not for every one, but on average) because you are transitioning to specific coursework, meeting new people (which is good, but is a lot harder when your the new guy/gal), getting used to a new system (such as learning management systems), etc. Transitioning to a new school and settling in is a bigger struggle than most realize. It also creates challenges for the university in making sure students take the right prerequisite courses.
Split Colleges Into Teaching vs. Research
Again, I don’t have the solution. However, there are people who are outstanding researchers (and terrible teachers). There are people who are outstanding teachers (and terrible researchers). Being good at one does not imply that you are good at the other.
This is perfectly reasonable. People have different skill sets and interests, so let them specialize. I was a much better teacher. My skill set was taking complicated stuff and making it relatively simple (well, as simple as something like the Black-Scholes Option Pricing Model, Duration, Investing 101, etc. could be). I could also bridge connections and discuss things like false precision, human biases, and other “big-picture” concepts into a topic like estimating the Weighted Average Cost of Capital. On the other hand, my research skills were lacking and my service was relatively strong. I was more of a double-threat, but teaching was clearly my strength. That did not make me more valuable than a good researcher (we’ll let the markets figure that out), but it did mean that my time was better spent towards teaching.
Eliminate K-12 Integration
This is something that I think is important and often overlooked. We have splits in the educational system. There is grade school (typically grades K-6), middle school (grades 7-9), and high school (grades 10-12). Those vary depending on area (you might have K-5, 6-8, and 9-12), but typically it is along those lines. There is a reason for this as what you learn in each segment is going to vary a bit.
However, we then go into “higher” education and it seems that there has been more of a carry over into “the way students learn.” When I taught Business Finance and Investments courses, they were designed to do two things. One was to teach the basics of business finance and investments (how to calculate time value of money, what is the weighted average cost of capital, how do we value a stock vs. a bond vs. a derivative, etc.) and the second was to teach them to think. Of the two, I was much more concerned with the latter. In my business finance class, there were typically 10-20% (20% would be the high end) of students pursuing a finance major. The chances that they would be calculating the NPV of a project was relatively low (and it would’ve been wrong anyway…it is an impossible thing to forecast with any degree of accuracy).
However, having an understanding of WHY the NPV was better than the IRR, how you calculate taxes on investment income, why people tend to be overoptimistic with how quickly they will get things done, etc. are far more important. These are not the things you put on the syllabus. They ARE the things that differentiate who will have successful lives — regardless of what career path they choose.
Having a project with a rubric taught students how to fulfill a project following a precise path. Having a project without a rubric, teaches students how to fulfill a project following their own path. I was ALWAYS more interested in the latter because that is where personal success lies. This meant a lot more time interacting with students to answer questions. I wanted them to get stuck and ask for additional help because that allowed me to guide them. Also, and this is only surprising to people who don’t teach, I learned a ton from their questions. I learned how to better answer their questions. I learned that there are often multiple approaches students can take. I learned that their solutions were sometimes better than mine. Student-teacher and student-student interactions are an incredible aspect of the learning process and it can easily get lost in a rubric where you are grading technical aspects rather than the project as a whole.
We’re basing these ratings strictly on the reported data from US News and World Report, recognizing that the numbers are a couple years old and the ratings are subjective. Also, given multiple campuses, graduate students, etc. the enrollment numbers are likely subjective. Financial aid is also not factored in which can significantly lower the cost.
There are more than 3 state schools in Kansas, but data wasn’t available in the US News and World Report rankings, so I went with the big 3. Obviously (he states humbly) Pittsburg State would be in the mix!