Inside Higher Ed reports that a conference organized by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) yesterday sought to define accountability for higher education. The author, Doug Lederman, suggested that much of the discussion follows from the so-called Spellings’ Commission on the Future of Higher Education. While the call of one presenter to limit tenure certainly deserves scrutiny (who, according to Lederman, argued that “gender and race studies professors” should not be awarded tenure because they have “openly political agendas”… uh, unlike AEI favored and tenured faculty). But possibly more significant and more likely to occur is the proposal outlined by former commissioner of higher education in Indiana and now president of the National Consortium on College Completion, Stan Jones. Lederman writes:
“We have a performance funding scheme now — it’s called ‘pay to enroll,’ ” he said. “One of the simplest things we can do is to reimburse for courses completed rather than courses attempted” by their students, he said. Added Stan Jones, former commissioner of higher education in Indiana and now president of the National Consortium on College Completion: “If we could make that change, counting courses at the end of the semester rather than the beginning, that would have powerful implications. Everybody would drag out their [list of] courses and say, ‘Where are we having problems?’ ” (It was acknowledged that such an approach could create perverse incentives of its own, by discouraging institutions from enrolling academically underprepared students who might be unlikely to succeed — a potential risk of the entire emphasis on “completion” that is increasingly in vogue.)
Of course, it could also encourage institutions to pressure faculty to ”ensure“ students complete courses: passing students who have in fact not met course requirements will become more common.