Are they kidding? Do they really think this will float? No, they are not kidding, and yes, they believe that the university should be the servant of big business.
Accent on Accountability
So far, the secretary has defined the commission's task in the broadest of terms, saying that it will tackle such global issues as access, affordability, accountability, and productivity. In a one-page letter to its members, she also spoke of the need to ensure that higher education keeps pace with the changing economy.
A Federal Register notice on the commission provided a few more details, saying the panel would examine how colleges can serve minority students better, promote lifelong learning, produce more mathematics and science majors, and prepare students for the global economy. The commission, the notice said, would "analyze whether the current goals of higher education are appropriate and achievable."
Richard K. Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University and a panel member, says it looks like the commission "has a good bit of latitude."
Still, if the chairman's past work is any indication, a major focus of the panel will be accountability. Mr. Miller has been promoting that concept since the late 1980s, when he chaired a Texas task force that developed a state accountability program that became a model for the No Child Left Behind Act.
As a member and later chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents from 1994 to 2004, he proposed new reporting requirements for the nine undergraduate colleges in the system and endorsed testing for all freshmen and seniors. The reporting system went statewide last year, and a test of students' analytical and verbal skills is now in the pilot stage.
And when he testified before Congress in 2003, Mr. Miller suggested that colleges test students in their first two years "to measure student learning at the undergraduate level across institutions."
"I don't have a middle name, but if I did, it would probably be accountability," Mr. Miller says.
The chairman insists he is not out to regulate colleges, but only to hold them accountable to taxpayers. He says policy makers and parents alike need better information about how colleges are performing. "I believe in giving institutions the maximum freedom to operate themselves," he says, "but we do want to see what the results are."
Still, Mr. Miller's emphasis on accountability alarms some academics, who fear that he will try to expand President Bush's signature education law to apply to colleges. "I just hope this doesn't result in No College Student Left Behind," says Michael A. Olivas, director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston.