The nation's primary and secondary education is a national disgrace; will we allow our undergraduate education to become so as well? If we continue down our present course, the answer is an unambiguous yes. To change course, we need to start examining the incentive structure that college administrators face.
To a large extent, college budgets are determined by enrollment size. More students mean higher budgets and therefore incentive to admit students unprepared for college. Colleges should not admit students requiring remedial education. That's not to say youngsters shouldn't receive remedial education, but let them get it elsewhere -- maybe at the high school that awarded them a fraudulent diploma.
We might rethink the financing of higher education, particularly at government-owned colleges, so as to introduce competition that might improve quality and drive down costs. High school graduates meeting academic criteria for college admission should be awarded a voucher in the amount of the per capita college cost paid by state taxpayers. The voucher could be used at any college, an idea similar to the GI Bill. There was a time when we could have prevented the K-12 slide to mediocrity, but we didn't seize the moment. Now's our chance with higher education. Will we let this moment pass us by?
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