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Scholar spells out three effective strategies to reform higher education

Writing in the American Mind, Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, spells out three effective strategies on how to reform the monolithic higher education system entrenched in America today.

Today’s colleges and universities have become indoctrination camps controlled by the far-left, and so far solutions to that problem have fallen short, Kurtz argues, pointing out that “op-eds alone are useless” and the promise of a deus ex machina — a la higher education’s economic bubble bursting — still hasn’t happened.

Other ideas, he adds, have also failed: “alumni will withhold donations (they don’t); the silent majority of classically liberal faculty will finally reassert authority (they never did, and their majority is gone now); or maybe a sympathetic American president will tweet out some solution (this will never be more than a partial success in the absence of a broader strategy). Lately, some have suggested defunding the academy, as if an army of angry conservatives could actually pull that off.”

So what’s to be done? Kurtz posits three strategies to that end:

‘The way to end the higher ed monopoly is to build up an apprenticeship sector.’

“Apprenticeship programs could move high school graduates into white-collar jobs far more quickly than college, and without crippling debt. Right now, white-collar employers use a college’s reputation and students’ grades as proxies for aptitude and willingness to work. Businesses might be persuaded to turn to well-crafted apprenticeship programs instead, perhaps with a kickstart from government funding diverted from higher education.”

“Senator Josh Hawley had the right idea when he introduced a bill last year that would “make job-training and certification programs, like employer-based apprenticeships…eligible to receive Pell grants through an alternative accreditation process.” Hawley said he was aiming to “break up the higher education monopoly,” exactly the right goal and message. Yet Hawley’s proposal has been invisible since then. Critics of the academy don’t seem to realize that if they actually want to make a change, proposals like Hawley’s are the essential prerequisite. Legislators won’t be able to vote for substantial cuts to higher education until they have an alternative to support in its place. In the long term, a robust apprenticeship sector could lead to significant reductions in total government expenditures for higher education. In the short-term, a significant portion of federal funding diverted from higher education will have to be directed to the creation and expansion of apprenticeship-based career paths. …

‘A lobby of our own’

Kurtz proposes a nonprofit activism organization that is to higher education reform what the NRA is to the Second Amendment:

[C]reate a mass-membership lobby group. Millions of Americans are itching to do something about an academy that has betrayed its fundamental mission. Right now, if a legislator supports some reform, it is largely out of the goodness of his heart. What we need is for legislators to understand that when a lobbyist for, say, NALE (The National Association for Liberal Education) steps into their office, their vote will result in in mass mailings to NALE’s membership. Those mailing will explain that their representative has either struck a blow for higher ed reform, or knuckled under to the campus thought-police. That is how to get a legislator’s attention.

Activist trustees

It’s time for those in charge of universities to start acting like it, Kurtz argues.

Right now, the appointment of public university trustees rather resembles the appointment of American ambassadors after a presidential election. …  Instead of looking to make a change, they see themselves as advocates for their schools, whose job is essentially to support the university president. They’re looking for a low-conflict, high-prestige tenure during which they can enjoy passing out football tickets to their friends. …

[W]hy not ask candidates for governor and the state legislature to sign a pledge promising only to appoint university trustees committed to a specific program of reform? That program would include proposals to safeguard free speechpromote intellectual diversity, strengthen general education, reduce the number of unnecessary administrators, uphold the principle of institutional neutrality, and more.

If some candidates hesitate to sign the pledge, others will jump on board and might edge out their rivals as a result. … We’ll know we’re headed in the right direction when the media starts covering public battles over the appointment and election of university trustees.

Kurtz acknowledges it’s a long game, but it’s one worth playing.

“If we break the higher education monopoly by substantially enlarging the apprenticeship sector, mobilize the millions of Americans appalled by higher education’s betrayal of classical liberal ideals behind a powerful lobby group … and turn the selection of reform-minded state university trustees into a public issue, we just might change the balance of forces that has protected and enriched a bloated, unaccountable, and deeply politicized academy till now,” he writes.

Read the entire piece at the American Mind.

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