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Sunday, June 29, 2014

How do we measure how well our colleges are doing?

This writer misses a critical point.  The education factories (aka colleges and universities) take in a student and then produce a graduate (with the exception of those that drop out or flunk out).  So measuring only the average SAT scores of the incoming freshman tells you nothing about how an institution of higher learning has done at the job of education. Likewise, measuring only the GMAT test scores of the graduating seniors tells one only how the graduating seniors did-not how much the students learned.  And yet both of these factors are heavily weighted in the formulas that rank our colleges and universities.   

How do we measure a typical factory? The measure of economic value created is output divided by input.  One takes something of less value and efficiently creates a product of greater value. If one takes something worth a dollar and adds a dollar of time and materials then you have $2 invested. If someone then buys that product for $4 you have produced $4 of value for $2 of input–well done. On the other hand if you spend $10 producing something and can only sell the finished product for $5 then you have destroyed $5 of economic value. You will be out of business soon (unless you are the government or have big government subsidies).

Back to how we measure college. My theory is that if I have a college or university that is lucky enough to accept only the brightest 2% of graduating American high school students (say Harvard) that four years later this same college should produce graduates that are in the top 2% of IQs (even if their "education" has been absolute BS).

But what if a college accepted students that had average incoming SAT scores in the 50th percentile and yet it produced graduates with GMAT scores in the 70th percentile? Now we’re talking. I would have to say that this college has made a real difference. Unfortunately I have yet to find this mythical institution. 

Measuring how bright the incoming freshmen are is a horrible way to measure how good a college is.  Likewise tracking how well the graduates "do from the U" without regard to the IQ of the incoming freshmen also tells me little.

What matters is how much improvement in thinking, questioning, writing, and preparedness for the job market that an institution of higher learning produces for the time and dollar spent.

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