All posts by Kevin Carey


How Taxpayers Are Helping to Finance Harvard’s Capital Campaign

Public funds for higher education are hard to find. States have slashed billions from university budgets while the federal government is struggling to keep the Pell Grant program afloat. So it came as a shock when government officials on Saturday announced plans to give $2-billion in taxpayer funds over the next five years to a single private university that mostly educates rich people and already has an endowment bigger than the gross domestic product of Bolivia.

Well, actually, government offi…


High Court Reaches Low Point

For weeks, the higher-education world has greeted each Monday morning with a combination of anticipation and dread, waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and probably end affirmative action as we know it. Instead, the court on Monday decided on a 7-to-1 vote to remand the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for reconsideration, thus all but ensuring that two or three years from now we can go through all of this drama again.

But …


California Shifts the Ground Under Higher Education

California is home to two of the most important things happening in higher education, one good, one bad. The good thing is the rapid advancement of cheap and free online courses offered by companies like Udacity and Coursera. The bad thing is the catastrophic failure of California lawmakers to provide enough money to support basic access to foundational courses at community colleges. Today the state Senate’s president pro tem, Darrell Steinberg, will announce a bill that essentially tries to use…


Obama’s Bold Plan to Reshape American Higher Education

As a rule, speechwriters put the most dramatic parts of a president’s agenda front and center, leaving the boring policy details to the supplemental notes. Last night the Obama administration did the opposite: The higher-education section of the State of the Union address was much the same as last year’s, focusing on college affordability and putting institutions on notice that the gravy train of public support for rising prices would have to end. But the significant policy initiatives were …


The Net-Price Myth

The concept of “net price”—what students actually pay for college after financial aid is subtracted from published tuition rates—has become increasingly important  in discussions of college affordability. It was prominently featured in last month’s annual College Board pricing report and accompanying news-media coverage, and has been promoted through tools like the U.S. Department of Education’s net-price calculator.

The fact that many students pay substantially less than sticker price is signif…


Ignore the Industry Spin: Latest Tuition and Student-Loan Figures Are Worrisome

The College Board today released its yearly reports on trends in college pricing and student aid. In-state tuition at public four-year universities—the number that has become the de facto national benchmark of college affordability—rose 4.8 percent from last year to the 2012-13 academic year. Numbers of that size have become so routine over the years that they barely register, especially when, as the College Board is quick to point out, the increases in the previous two years were substantiall…


Reinflating the Law-School Bubble?

One of the great mysteries of higher education is when, exactly, college prices will finally hit the Herbert Stein Unsustainable Trend Event Horizon. As a matter of simple logic, the price of higher education can’t grow faster than personal income forever—or at least, it can’t if we as a society aspire to keep college enrollment and completion at current levels, much less improve them.

A combination of government subsidies and rising market prices for credentialed workers has forestalled the day…


The Evolution of Ed Tech in Silicon Valley

Over the past few years, every new day has seemed to bring news of another higher-education technology start-up company promising to change the world. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investment in education technology jumped from $100-million in 2007 to nearly $400-million last year. On Easter weekend earlier this year, I flew to Silicon Valley to find out what was going on. The result was a long article in Washington Monthly, called “The Siege of Academe.” (You can re…


The MOOC-Led Meritocracy

girl with laptop palo alto

John Loo

This week Udacity announced that it had cancelled a scheduled math class over concerns about quality. In doing so, it added another item to the growing list of marked contrasts between MOOC’s and traditional universities. Does this kind of thing ever happen at “regular” colleges? Could it? At minimum, such an event would seem to require (a) defined standards of quality, and (b) some process whereby courses are systematically evaluated against those standards before the beginning of clas…