Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hope for Higher Ed?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on the dismal state of higher rd and argued that, without changing the perception college as a commodity good, i.e. students show up, get "filled" with knowledge and leave -- with their A in hand -- to get a business-based job, then then higher education doesn't stand a chance of overcoming the crazies in this country.

Since then, several articles have come out about how higher education is becoming an issue for the 2008 campaign. Beyond that, the K-12 education system has gotten a lot of press about the renewal of the program that seems more destined to destroy our public school system than it is to substantially reduce any inequality in educational outcomes. So, it seems, my pessimistic portrayal of any lack of concern over education seems to be misplaced.

That is not to say, however, that just because education, "K-16 Education" as we liked to call it in Michigan, is getting attention means that anything substantive is necessarily going to come from the debate. Luckily, it seems that, too, is a waivering in my usual optimism and not true. The most public and detailed of these plans is that created by John Edwards called the College for Everyone initiative. Among the things that the plan does would be to create a program for the first year of college to be paid for any student who is willing to work ten hours a week during the year for students who have shown effort in their high school curriculum.

While I want to post on the relative costs and benefits of this plan in a separate post, what I am excited about is the prospect that (via Inside Higher Ed):

In the last week or so, higher education appears to have arrived as a 2008 campaign issue. Democratic candidates are vying to be the boldest defender of student loan borrowers and one in particular — John Edwards — has issued proposals that are unusually detailed for this early in a campaign. And in a sign that Edwards’s move was noticed, Barack Obama followed Tuesday with a plan of his own. [my emphasis]

It is nice to know three things. First, that higher education is a priority and Obama seems to feel the need to react to a major initiative put out by Edwards. Second, that this is one of those issues coming out at the beginning of an election cycle with the possibility of creating a major campaign issue. Also, it would be nice to see this become enough of an issue that the Republicans are asked about it to which all of them would probably look somewhat like a deer in middle of a highway with a Mack truck barrelling towards it. I also have to think that presenting something like this policy so early in the campaign shows that, despite my proclamations to the contrary, people really do care about higher education policy. Finally, it is also nice to know that Edwards has enough of a real shot that Obama and Clinton are scared of him. I have not entirely made up my mind on a candidate, but I am sick and tired of deciding who are "top-tiered" and "second-tiered" candidates based on how much money one has raised a full nine months before the primaries start (well, maybe), and it is, therefore, nice to see Edwards who is somewhere in between have enough of an impact to drive one of the "top-tiered" campaigns.

[Update: Forgot to add a title. Oops!]


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