How to Reform Education

As a retired teacher, who experienced a variety of working situations, from very good to unbelievably bad, I developed some ideas about how to both reform the delivered product to American citizens, and how to reduce that cost.

Let’s start with the level that is perhaps the most debased from what any sane person would choose to fund through their taxes. The university or college level (including 2-year, 4-year, and graduate/professional levels).

If a student is not capable of functioning at a college level in basic introductory courses, that student must be referred to a tech/community college (generally 2-year, few frills), for evaluation and remediation. The cost of any coursework would be paid by the district that gave that student a diploma without requiring that student to be actually ready for college. That student would qualify for another whack at the ACT upon satisfactory completion of those remedial classes. Presumably, they would score higher on that try.

Assuming that the student qualifies for normal freshman placement in classes, EVERY student must take the same core coursework in English, Math, and Science. Electives will be left up to the individual student. Failure to pass the core classes will result in reduction of money received from the government, whether grants or loans. Students may attend a summer school session to make up for any deficiencies (yes, they will need to pass exams to move to the next round of school without penalty). They can either pay for the summer school themselves, or scrounge for a scholarship (this would be a great place for those NGOs that want everyone to go to college to put some money where their mouth is).

Financial aid would be based on monetary return. If you choose a field that’s filled with opportunities for employment, you get more money. Higher grades? You get more money. Use CLEP to reduce the time in school? More money. Work-study? More money.

In other words, we (the taxpayer) help those that help themselves.

That aid, for tuition, is based on actual costs – up to a point. If students go to schools that are pricier, they can only get an amount up to 2-3 times the cost of the average public university in that state. Any addition to their loans/grants will by on a 1:1 ratio of money provided by the public to money provided by private sources, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Colleges will be expected to pay at least 1/2 that money from their endowments, up to a total of 10% of the total endowed funds. Will that reduce the endowment? I certainly hope so. Many of them could easily fund ALL students attending without cutting into their principal.

Money provided by the government for housing will be the same throughout the state, equal to the average cost of rental housing in that city for a 1-bedroom apartment.

The above means that colleges with lavish amenities will have to pay for them, without expecting the students to kick in the cost.

Would that kill the private university? No, but it would definitely lead them to stop their building frenzy, and stop treating students like entitled lords of the manor.

As for classes:

  • All syllabuses are public.
  • All materials used in class must be posted – not only texts, but readings, videos, and guest speakers.
  • No credit given for partisan activity by the students.
  • Political affiliations and political donations must not reach a lopsided level. If a department is overly on one side or another, that is prima facie evidence that hiring and selection decisions have become politicized. Department budgets will be cut 10% each year, until the balance approaches a level more in line with the state average.

That won’t stop the problems, but it will help keep the citizens from financing the damage.

Any other suggestions? Put them in the comments.


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    • OneGuy on March 14, 2022 at 10:08 AM

    I don’t have a problem with financial aid I have a problem with government and tax payers money being involved.  Remove federal and state from that equation and let students get the aid from other sources.

    • Xmaddad1 on March 14, 2022 at 12:55 PM

    First improvement is to disband the public teachers unions.
    Riddle me this Batgirl… Why do all the teacher unions require a “teaching certificate”, but most private schools do not require the cert?
    Oh yeah thats’ right without the union protection the private teachers must prove that they are qualified for the position to pass on the knowledge to the students.

    • Amy on March 14, 2022 at 3:00 PM

    There’s really two major things that need to be done. First, get the government out of the student-loan business, and leave it to the private sector.  Second, right now student loan debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy; remove that exemption.  This means that those private lenders won’t be giving out student loans unless they’re pretty sure the money will be paid back.
    These two measures combined will get the wash of money out of higher education, and colleges will either lower their tuition to bring in students, or they will go bankrupt and be replaced by new institutions (possibly able to acquire the old campus facilities at pennies on the dollar) that will.  The nation needs a higher-education system; it does not need any given individual institution.
    Perhaps one day we can get back to the point where a student is able to pay for their education just by flipping pizzas in the evenings and during the summertime.

    • Monty on March 14, 2022 at 6:57 PM

    The first thing that we, as a society, need to do is realize and accept the fact that not everyone is cut out for college.  I’m not saying that they are unintelligent or anything like that.  I’m saying that people are different and that they have different gifts.  If we are to have public education, then we need to recognize that fact and create a system that allows kids the opportunity to reach their full potential (whatever that may be).

  1. These are some intriguing suggestions.
    First, that plural should have been syllabi. My error, and a sloppy one, at that.
    Second, I have no great desire to bring all post-high school education to a crashing end at once. Any reforms should be phased in over a 4-5 year plan. We will still need some advanced education; just not those fields that are filled with future baristas.
    Start with some easy changes:

    Making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Perhaps a good thing to delay that bankruptcy for a set period of time after graduation. But, yes, that should have been the standard. That change, alone, would stop a great deal of the frivolous “studies” degrees.
    Get colleges out of the teacher prep business. The FIRST qualification needed is mastery of basic skills – reading, writing, and math. I wouldn’t object to a course of study for would-be teachers that provides them with some additional practical skills, as long as it also provided them with hands-on experience in schools. Start with teaching reading or math to kids who are working below grade level – they could spend 2 days a week in schools, working with students, and 3 days in classes, learning about methods of teaching. By middle school, a college degree in a specific subject area might be necessary – but, other than a ‘boot-camp’ kind of preparation, the best way to get them started is to throw them into the job. Perhaps with several previous months of substitute teaching/teacher aid work.
    F0r the not-ready-for-college people, use the 2-year schools as a starting point. They are a lot lower cost, and quickly sort out those who really shouldn’t be in college from those who, with some work, can manage it. I spent 2 years in community college, then transferred with a foundational preparation that enabled me to succeed.

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