Thursday, September 18, 2003


In the two articles I posted this morning, one by Stanley Fish and the Times article on Columbia's new school, we get very different pictures of the university spending.

Fish criticizes Republicans for demanding that colleges be accountable to parents. He says that tuition only covers 26% of costs. And then he lists items that tuition does not cover like lab equipment and security (quote below).

He had me for a minute. Then I remembered an article from a couple of years ago where he bragged about how much his university was paying big name faculty in order to raise its rankings. And he is the highest paid Dean in the country. (Here's one piece on Fish's hiring practices: Boston Globe .)

We get a different picture of university expenses from the article about the new school that Columbia is setting up to attract faculty. This $12 expenditure will do nothing to help students. Nothing. It will help the big name faculty who aren't even teaching classes. It's all about the rankings.

I think parents have a right to know this information. I think that every parent should demand to know where every dollar is going and how it is going to benefit their kids. Parents need to be more educated about what is important. Don't be swayed by the rankings, which are only based on reputational analysis and not a quality classroom experience.

(I'm not done ranting yet.) And there is this $12 elementary school which boasts a 5 to 1 ratio. There is absolutely no evidence that a small class size leads to be better performance. An article from Education Week discusses the latest research, and quotes one of the leading experts:

"They rush in to reduce class size everywhere, and then they have no ability to say anything about its impact," says Eric A. Hanushek, a senior fellow on education policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Joanne Jacobs had a recent post about class size, too.

Given that research, the $12 million elementary school seems even more like a luxury that students must pay for.

UPDATE: See also Timothy Burke who also criticizes Fish. (Though he really offended me off by using the sexist term, "mommy track.")
The Invisible Adjunct weighs in.
As Don rightly pointed out, my brief discussion of class size was too brief. Class size does have some affect when the population is disadvantaged. Of course, the children of Columbia's faculty are hardly likely to be disadvantaged. Thanks, Don.

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