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College Education Report
a section of the Education Report chapter
of the Grandfather Economic Report series
by Michael Hodges (email)

A Special Report on College Education Standards
- standards & quality fall - - as spending per student rises -
classroom days decrease - grade inflation rampart for money reasons -
- fewer citizens take science & engineering graduate courses -
- shortage of business school professors who majored in business -

- as global competition is soaring to the highest in our national history -

- the U.S. had a 46 percent dropout rate from college in 2006
giving it the second-highest dropout rate in the world behind only Mexico

The Grandfather Economic Reports is a series of picture reports of threats to the economic future of families and their children, compared to prior generations. You are now at the brief section on College Standards in the Education chapter. We hope you will find useful information to help you and your loved ones.

(I present the following tell-all charts, despite difficulty in locating more recent data)

drop in college mandatory coursesDROP IN MANDATORY COURSES:

Fewer and fewer core courses are mandated by colleges.

Note the accelerating drop - including an 81% plunge since 1964.

And, those courses dropped were deemed the toughest.

An obvious departure from mandatory standards, as was done to better prepare prior generations.

This chart indicates that the relative quality of a 1993 college diploma is 81% less in 1993, than in 1963.

This correlates with the 72% decrease in the SAT/cost productivity index for public secondary schools in that period - see Education Report for chart.

dop in college science courses requiredDROP IN REQUIRED SCIENCE:

Note the dramatic departure from the past shown for science requirements for the 30 year period 1963-93.

From 1914-1964, 70-90% of colleges required science courses.

No longer. 1993 shows a dramatic plunge to 33% requiring science. That's equivalent to 60% less requirement.

If secondary schools do not prepare students for science and math, then colleges respond by simply reducing requirements - - instead of proudly holding to tough standards.

The Grandfather International Education Report shows foreign students now dominate our university science & math programs at undergraduate and graduate levels, as they come prepared.

AND - the International Test Evaluation Report shows lower and lower performance of U.S. students in math & science vs. those in foreign schools. The last series showed the U.S. at or next to the bottom.

What does this say about the fact more kids go to college than before, but face significantly lower achievement standards than ever before?

Is this the way to prepare for the future in a more competitive global economy in a higher technological era.


According to the Edge Reports*: "Your favorite standardized test and ours, the SAT, has undergone some major changes in the past two years. First it was the restructuring of the format, including a new name -- the Scholastic Achievement Tests. Then it was the recentering of scores to make the average on each section of the test about 500."

"Maybe the ultimate change would be that you don't have to take the test as part of the college admissions process at all. And according to a recent survey by FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, there are actually 236 colleges and universities nationwide that require neither the SAT nor the ACT for admissions. A full list of those schools is available from FairTest; you can call them at 617- 864-4810," which includes some of the former great schools in America. (* The Edge Report used to be at > http://www.jayi.com/jayi/Fishnet/Edge/Nov_Dec/no_sat.html - but that link now seems broken as of 2001).

(newsgroup soc.college.admissions)

According to the following, there are now just 2 public universities with tough SAT standards - and one of these is about to disappear -

"The University of California is one of the few public universities requiring not just the SAT-I but also three SAT-II subject tests. (To my knowledge, the only other public university that does this is the University of Virginia.)."Gary Glen Price Department of Curriculum & Instruction University of Wisconsin-Madison

"If UC eliminates using SATs for admission, the importance of grades would be magnified, but without any means for comparing school quality. High school students would be more reluctant to attempt difficult courses and there would be more cheating and other problems with use of grade-point-average. Without SATs, late-bloomers (students with poor 9-10th year grades) would have more trouble gaining admission."

"You ask how campuses adjust to a change in student ability? Professors lower expectations, simplify exams, assign easier textbooks, and otherwise accommodate the "new type" of student (sometimes while longing for the 'good old days' of well-prepared students). For example, textbooks have become simplified by publishers who want widespread sales and use computer word-count and vocabulary programs to eliminate "difficult" words and complex sentences that might stump some students. Moreover, students struggling at a campus usually can find easy teachers, easy majors, and tutoring, along with commercial class notes to help them stay off probation. At major research campuses like UC Berkeley and UCLA, most professors orient themselves toward research and graduate students; thus the goal in undergraduate lecture classes is to design the class so most students can pass, don't complain, and keep the lecture course from burdening the research professor." Steve Gordon, California State University (LA)

Another input from the same newsgroup from college admission professional: "1. Although the SAT has been dropped as a requirement at some colleges (mainly those that accept almost every applicant anyway and those where revenue volume goals exceed quality education goals), the SAT has gained significance at others because of grade inflation (reducing the grade variance among applicants) and because of the huge numbers of applicants to major universities (due to population, job pressure, and multiple applications). 2. There are many studies but I cannot cite them now. Most colleges concede that the SAT is very influential in their decisions. 3. At some campuses, the majority of first-year students are in remedial math and/or English. At Calif. public universities (including UC system), students are being forced to take remedial classes off campus at junior colleges or high school extension classes. The question of what is truly "college-level" and what is "remedial" is always controversial."

Author note: while reducing standards may be justified by some as 'politically correct' (it may increase the applicant pool - which benefits college revenues, while driving up costs), it reduces the value of a diploma from a given institution, compared to the past. SATs, which have served the nation so well in past generations, should be retained as a main measure of admission for those institutions that want to be recognized as 'quality first.' If I were a parent assisting my child in selecting a college, my first choice would be those that adhere to such standards - - otherwise, I might be shortchanging my child's future. The bottom-line: does a parent go for high measurable standards vs. low when advising a son and daughter? And, for an employer reviewing job applicants, first consideration will be given to graduates of colleges with the highest measurable standards.

COLLEGE GRADE INFLATION AND SOCIAL PROMOTION: "The recent mid-term removal of a chemistry instructor at the University of Montana because he was "too tough" illustrates the widespread grade inflation in the U.S. Grade inflation will not diminish until the root cause of grade inflation and course work deflation is eliminated." Society for A Return to Academic Standards - Dr. D. Larry Crumbley


drop in college classroom daysAnd, this chart shows colleges require fewer and fewer classroom hours - - as if time with a professor does not matter - - just as more children spend more time in day care by non-mothers than before - - as if mothers don't matter.

Again the major drop from the past occurs for the past 3 decades - with another dramatic plunge.

These three charts may be summed up:

fewer days in class with fewer and fewer tough, challenging requirements than any time in the 20th century.

Nation-wide, while this chart shows the number of class-room days dropping at the college level, this is following the trend of public secondary schools, where the academic year has been cut by 22% (37 days). In Florida, 42% of those going to college require remedial training, yet they had previously 'passed' standard competency tests before leaving high school. Source: Jeb Bush, Chairman Foundation for Florida's Future, Imprimis, April 1997.


As mentioned above, a Sept. 2006 OECD report showed the U.S. has a 46 percent dropout rate from college (defined as not completing a degree within six years) giving it the second-highest dropout rate in the OECD behind only Mexico. Sept. 12, 2006 (Bloomberg) By Paul Basken http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=as_58xYSH1yw&refer=us


So, how well are today's college graduates prepared for even simple basic skills, which in prior generations could be handled easily with less years of schooling? READ ON.

(Associated Press - Arlene Levinson - 2 February 2002)

There is a continuing epidemic of grade inflation - - just like the escalation in fake profits reported by corporations.

The upward swing in college grade inflation has dramatically increased since the 1960s, at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Dartmouth, Temple and nearly every other institution.

Reluctantly, it seems, some are starting to look at this matter. Stanford University faculty senate reinstated the F in 1994 after nearly a quarter century absence. It had been dropped in 1970 along with the D. Columbia University decided in December 2001 that, with nearly half of undergraduates making the dean's list, the honor was losing its meaning. At Harvard, President Lawrence Summers has asked the faculty to review their grading standards after a 2001 report in The Boston Globe showed a record 91 percent of Harvard seniors graduated with honors last year. An internal Harvard study found nearly half the undergraduate grades were A or A-minus students.

There are reasons. "Everyone can agree that it's a serious problem, but it remains very difficult to solve," says Dick Sabot, a professor emeritus of economics at Williams College in Massachusetts who has studied college grading patterns. "Any individual professor really has a quite powerful incentive to continue to inflate grades." Sabot looked at grading at Williams and a dozen other schools, focusing on grade disparity among academic departments. He found that students tend to pick courses in which they can expect better grades. Since faculty generous with B's and A's attract more students, their programs are rewarded with more staff and money. At a large university, this can mean millions of dollars to a department, Sabot says. "The low grading departments were, in effect, punishing themselves," Sabot says. "Or the high-grading departments, whether consciously or not, were boosting their enrollments with better grading."

New college students expect to get high grades, regardless of achievement, because they are used to that treatment during high school - - as reported elsewhere in the Education Report. At the high school level, students want good grades to get into their colleges of choice, and there are indications that grades are rising there, too. More than 44 percent of freshmen entering four-year colleges fall 2001 reported they had A averages in high school, according to survey by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. That same survey found just under 18 percent averaged A's in 1968.

National Center for Educational Statistics - Sept. 1996:

Source: Wallin, Jeffrey 'Colleges should change course.' USA TODAY, 20 September 1996 [National Center for Educational Statistics ]

Input about the Naval Academy - Nov. 1997:


Huge percentage students require remedial work -

- additional evidence of public high school failure to assure their diplomas have meaning

Dramatic evidence of poor output quality is the fact that "of the 12 California state university colleges, 60% of students need remediation; a Florida study shows at least 70% of recent high school graduates need remedial courses when they enter community college - - in other words, they need to learn material they should have mastered in public high school - but did not - - costing an extra $59 million per year." Source: USA Today, pg. 14A, November 24, 1997. That averages out to two-thirds of high school diplomas are bogus - even to attend less demanding state and community colleges.

'This year, of those students graduating in the top third of their high school classes, 64% of freshmen entering the California university system failed entry-level math tests; 43% failed the verbal exam. Even at the elite University of California, where entry competition is tremendous (meaning the very best grade averages from high schools, top of class, etc.), 35% of entering freshmen needed remedial classes. Many argue that the business of colleges should be providing college courses, not teaching students what they should already know. In New York, where 87% of students entering the City University require remedial courses, Mayor Guiliani has proposed removing remedial work from CUNY curriculum. Massachusetts is one of four states now considering charging back to high schools the costs of remedial courses for their graduates.' USA Today, May 12, 1998, page 13A.

Author note: maybe state officials are reading these Grandfather Economic Reports, and its related internet news group postings, which have for the past year trumpeted charging back remedial courses to high schools, as only economic pressure (in my view) will cause school districts to shape up, restructure, privatize, or whatever. Perhaps high school administrators should be fined for poor performance, as such lack of quality is effectively 'stealing' from the young generation. See Remediation Report.



The Inflation Report includes: "The cost of higher education rose four times faster than family incomes 1982-92. In this period, costs rose 4% annually vs. 1% for family incomes. (Families had to borrow to finance such education, whereas prior generations did not). In 1992, 40% of the 14 million students in higher education at all levels relied on federal guaranteed loans - - up from 30% in 1982." National Science Board (S&E Indicators, 1993

This shows that colleges, just like secondary schools, produce less quality at higher inflation-adjusted cost per student. The main Grandfather Education Report includes a quote from Economic Professor Walter Williams: 'school quality is inversely proportional to spending.' Although I have not seen Dr. Williams' data, the Grandfather Education Report series confirms his findings - - and that statement is as true for colleges, as for secondary schools.

College education professionals posting in related newsgroups report during their own undergraduate days they worked part-time to earn their way - - gaining pride in self-achievement while avoiding future debt via loans. But today's significantly higher inflation-adjusted costs prevent the majority of students from doing so. We know college costs have soared at much, much faster rates than the CPI, responding to supply-demand. This author submits that the significant lowering of standards, for graduation from high school and for entry to colleges, has created an unjustified demand (more unqualified applicants) - - producing accelerating prices. Therefore, the lowering of standards also excludes the ability of students to earn their way (a great experience in learning and discipline and most respected by future employers), as was the case for prior generations. - - forcing a quantum jump in debt loads of graduates in general - - even on those who were fully qualified for admission without remedial courses.

Can you imagine allowing high schools to export unqualified graduates, who then go into debt also for their remedial work? One educator from Columbia Law School writes: "I will say that I think only ~10% of the population is really 'college material,' but if people want to pay for school, I won't stop them. Of course, I don't think that state schools should be in the business of educating mediocre students." Other professionals write that they recognize increased high school 'grade inflation' and 'social promotion' trends, but if colleges want to increase their own revenue they must lower their standards to accept what the market offers - - and, claim that if they raised standards then many colleges would 'close their doors.' Its a 'feeding frenzy' - - and Johnny and his parents lose.

Perhaps local high schools should be charged back the cost of remedial education for their graduates - - instead of Johnny going into debt because the school did not do its job. Maybe that would sink in at the local school board.

Comments (1996- November 1997) from teachers, professors and students confirm that dumbing down of quality standards, grade inflation and social promotion are not only the norm, but escalating - and teachers are much less effective than years ago, and they are embarrassed, scared, and frustrated. (see the Education Quality Comments by Others Report.

in the 1990s

Technical Brain Drain - fewer, and fewer U.S. citizens take technical graduate courses

According to the National Science Foundation, enrollment of science and engineering graduate students declined 1993-98, but in 1999 showed a minor up-tick in foreign grad students on temporary visas while the numbers for U.S. citizens declined again. Foreign students on temporary visas are less likely to stay in the U.S. and contribute to the economy. Source: Business Week, March 5, 2001, pg. 30.

So - - the technical 'brain drain' in the U.S. continues

Fewer Qualified Professors for America's Business Grad Schools

If you spend a lot of money to seek an MBA, because with a diploma you hope "to make it big" - - think about the quality of the teaching you may get for all of that money. Does unqualified professors sound nice?

In 1999 - - 1,104 PhDs were awarded in business fields. During the past 10 years these numbers have fallen well below general population growth, despite more people attending college. As a result, there is an escalating shortage of qualified professors to teach business graduate students. How do top business schools make up for the deficit? Read this > > Concedes Richard Schmalensee, dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management: "We and others end up hiring people who don't know a lot about business." At MIT these new faculty hires get light course loads in their first 4 years with time to learn about business. Source: Business Week, 3/5/01, pg. 106.


This report on college standards correlates with the main Education Report showing a 35 year 71% decline in the quality/cost productivity of public schools. It also points out the validity of the concern from data shown in the International Education Report, which shows poor performance of US students at all levels vs. many foreign nations - - especially in courses that require standards like math and science. These charts lend further credence to the statement included in the Education Report by Dr. Milton Friedman: that the quality of US schools is less than it was 3 decades ago - - and to Professor Walter Williams' statement: "there is an inverse relationship between spending and quality output."

Few could disagree with the statement that today's college graduates may be less educated to meet their future challenges than were prior generations prepared to meet theirs - - that their ability earn while they learn has been replaced by tremendous debt loads, even for remedial courses.

It is interesting that the period of decline in the above charts nearly coincides with the cessation of real median family income growth and rates of saving - - as shown in the Family Income Report. Less education quality cannot equate to improved living standards. The same report shows that government employees, including the education system, have seen their total compensation increase at faster rates than the rest of the nation, while quality and standards fall in education - - and our president asks for volunteers to teach kids how to read.

Further, many reports show college costs have risen at much faster rates than general inflation - - yet, there is no justification if such higher cost services produce less quality output with reduced standards of achievement and classroom hours - - while also producing consumer debt.

And, our nation faces the greatest competitive global economic challenge in the nation's history - as reported in the International Trade Report.

The public is catching on and expressing outrage, as shown by 1997 polls (poll A - state-wide in Florida and poll B on vouchers).

There is zero evidence of any 'remedy' in process. To the contrary, there is much evidence of attempts to 'cover-up' education quality deficiencies in secondary education by revising SAT standards, and replacing them with 'feel-good' NAEP tests which are only given to a small sample - - as well as reducing clear measurement standards and admission criteria. This is equivalent to 'solving' the social security and deficit problem by simply revising the way the U.S. has measured cost of living for decades, as shown in the Grandfather Inflation Report.

The message: instead of facing up to real problems with firm corrective action, it is easier to simply allow those responsible for such failures to simply reduce requirements and change the way we measure- - - and call it a day.

Who cares what this means to families and their children concerning their futures - and to our nation's economic and security future.


Since it is apparent primary & secondary schools are basically a government monopoly (as governments control all resources - instead of the customers: the parents), and much of higher education is funded by government guaranteed loans, grants and subsidies (instead of the customer- the student & parents), the following action is indicated as a possible remedy:

Remove federal & state governments from monopoly control of, including union power over, the education revenue stream - - and allow the customers (parents & students) full freedom to choose with full control of said resources - - to cause competition to occur for said funds between all schools. And, may the ones with the best quality and highest standards and the most efficient delivery system win. Federal & state government's only role should be to establish recommended (not mandated) standards of achievement and tests, and report results.

Social Promotion & grade inflation practices must stop, and strict local-established teaching testing and class testing standards must be established.

Disallow all guaranteed student loans, and research grants, to any university or college that accepts students as a 'freshman' requiring remedial education, and does not use the SAT as the prime measure for acceptance - - at a consistent or increasing score requirement. Proven measurable performance achieved should again become the norm, as for prior generations. If a college wishes to also be in the remedial education business, not only must such be separate from the normal freshman class, but its students may not receive government-guaranteed loans - - all costs to come from students, parents or their local high school districts - - and entry of remedial graduates to the freshman class requires prior SAT performance.

Disallow student loan guarantees (by taxpayers) to students not meeting a targeted SAT score requirement - - regardless of financial need. If they do not qualify, they must seek their own remedial studies - - and retake the SAT. For financially disadvantaged students, their remedial course work should be paid for by the high school budget from which they 'graduated.'

Place financial sanctions of some type on all high schools who graduate students requiring remedial education at the next level within 3 years of graduation. And, establish a national database that reports trends of the percent students from each state (and each school district) that require remedial work - and, publish the results for viewing by parents and taxpayers. There must be a price-consequence for poor performance of high schools.

Finally, colleges professionals should energetically lobby for the establishment of K-12 standards in the lower schools, by promoting and supporting a Governors Association appointing a board of educators from prominent universities to establish and maintain the test standards. All the governors should be permitted to submit nominees and then board members would be selected by majority vote of the Governors. ( If the Federal Government designs performance tests they indirectly control the curriculum because the schools will teach to the tests. I do believe we need some means for schools and parents to measure their students performance against some tough national standards. The important, in fact critical, issue is who and how these standards are established maintained. It is at the Governors level that vouchers and charter schools are being promoted. I don't believe the NEA has a lock on governors and the top universities. If candidates are restricted to professors from top universities I believe their professionalism will prevail over any NEA attempts to warp the system to their agenda. They also are motivated to assure that students delivered to their schools have high academic achievement so they do not need to spend their time teaching the boring basics).

(for other recommendations see: Main Education Report Recommendations)

May our young generation be better served

Go to main page of Grandfather Education Reports - for the list of sub reports in the education chapter,
which includes:
- - Grandfather International Education Report section for comparison with foreign students via color graphics.
- - International Math & Science Test Report.

or, return to the HOME PAGE of the Grandfather Economic Reports, the home page and index of a series of mini-picture reports showing economic threats to families and their children, compared to prior generations.

SEND email to author Michael Hodges

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