"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Spellings' Redundant Database

Letter to the Editor in USA Today:

Ronald Crutcher, president - Wheaton College, Norton, Mass.

Tracking colleges USA TODAY'S editorial supporting the creation of a national student record-tracking system missed its most mind-boggling aspect: We already have the data to address the issues for which this expensive and dangerous system would be created ("Time to grade colleges," Our view, Higher education debate, Oct. 17).

Through the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department of Education conducts nationwide studies of college students. These studies help determine how students and families pay for education, help evaluate the effectiveness of higher education institutions and programs, and help measure the benefits of higher education in later life.

These ongoing, comprehensive studies address the issues that interest Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' commission. And they do so without establishing a $100 million national database that would compromise students' privacy and create expensive burdens on institutions already awash in regulations and struggling to improve financial aid packages.

Colleges and universities are accountable to more stakeholders — students, parents, alumni, trustees, employers and government — than any other imaginable U.S. enterprise. Ultimately, a free market — students voting with their feet, alumni with contributions, employers by their hires — is what keeps us accountable.

Colleges' opposition to this student-tracking system reflects our continuing commitment to affordability and accountability. We urge the federal government to invest its $100 million in the Pell Grant program rather than another big-government, Big Brother scheme.

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