The New Limits of Education Policy

The New Limits of Education Policy

Avoiding a Tragedy of the Commons

Roger Benjamin

Using a political economy framework to analyze the current problems facing US postsecondary education, The New Limits of Education Policy tackles the questions surrounding the future of higher education. The study provides an explanation of why improvement of teaching and learning is not a high priority for the stakeholders involved. Roger Benjamin explains why heightened recognition by the State of the importance of human capital in the knowledge economy will create the external conditions that will, in turn, create the need for an altered incentive system for these stakeholders. He goes on to make a case for additional positive incentives that would reward behavior that improves teaching and learning.

Chapter 4: The Future of Student Learning Assessment in Undergraduate Education

Roger Benjamin

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, education, education policy, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, education policy


INTRODUCTION Assessment is a key part of any discussion involving education policy for undergraduate education for four reasons. First, concern about costs of undergraduate education is increasing. The Higher Education Price Index (HEPI) increases at a substantially higher rate than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each year.47 College tuition rose an average of 6.5 percent for public colleges and universities and 4.4 percent for private colleges for the academic year 2009–2010 even as the CPI fell 2.1 percent.48 Why cannot higher education administrators control costs?49 A major reason is the lack of metrics against which to evaluate the costs and benefits of current resource allocations. Think of it as follows. We have a number of measures of scholarship and research productivity. And, with the use of peer review, we have what amounts to a continuous system of improvement. University leaders have a good idea about the productivity levels of the research produced across the departments in their university. However, that is not the case for the production of undergraduate education. Without measures of the contribution institutions make to student learning growth, or the absolute levels of student learning achieved, there is no reliable and valid way to evaluate the productivity of departments to the education of the college’s students. Thus, when the leaders of the institution are faced with the necessity of improving productivity by cutting costs, they find it very difficult to reallocate resources among departments and programs. They do not have a metric to benchmark student...

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