Monday, September 13, 2010

Lowering Academic Standards

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are now targeting large, often public, universities for recruiting new hires:

Recruiters made clear they preferred big state schools over elite liberal arts schools, such as the Ivies. A number of state schools were added to recruiters' lists in the last two years, including Penn State and Arizona State University (No. 5) and Ohio State University (No. 12).

So where are Harvard University and other exclusive schools? While many companies that answered The Journal's survey say they recruit and hire Ivy League graduates, far fewer ranked them as top picks.

Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor and lead researcher on a study tracking Harvard graduates' career paths, said, "We have none of the basic bread-and-butter courses that serve you well in much of industry." What's more, Ms. Goldin said, at Harvard, more than 55% of graduates went on to a doctorate degree, according to a recent survey, so they tend to stay in a first job for a short period of time—often a year or less. It's an observation recruiters in the Journal's study also made.

A Harvard spokesman said, "Harvard College graduates consistently experience success in the job market and in their chosen fields."

Monica Wilson, acting co-director of career services at Dartmouth College, said it's partly a numbers game: "How can you compare a large state school to a small liberal arts school that produces less than 750 students who go into employment each year?"

While companies didn't rate Ivy League grads best overall, several did favor them in some specific majors. Stanford University, for example, was ranked No. 11 in engineering recruits and No. 16 in business/economics; Harvard was No. 4 in business and economics.

TaxProf Blog lists the WSJ's top 25 schools along with their USNews rankings and finds a bit of a disconnect.

According to the WSJ, the top California schools, unsurprisingly, are UC-Berkeley, UCLA, and USC. The two UC's have been around a long time and no doubt can rest on some laurels, but will they be able to remain so prestigious if they continue down this path?

The University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) is at it again, attempting to slowly erode the high academic standards required for admission to this most prestigious network of public universities.

For some reason, BOARS is recommending to the Board of Regents that the school "signal" to applicants to not take the new SAT test for admission to the UC system. This comes less than two years after the Board of Regents lowered the admission requirements for UC schools by eliminating the use of the SAT II Subject Tests and just eight years after using scarce university resources to help create the new SAT in the first place...

Time and time again, BOARS has put forth proposals that would lower academic standards and undermine the value of a UC education. All the evidence shows that an applicant's performance on the SAT has a high correlation to university performance and it is imperative that during these times of fiscal constraints that UC not foolishly waste its limited resources on such misguided efforts.

Using the SAT to identify applicants with a high degree of probable success continues to be appropriate and prudent. The UC Board of Regents should reject the BOARS recommendation because abandoning the SAT as a tool for evaluating admissions would be a mistake that will increase costs and diminish the quality of a UC education. Don't squander decades of academic excellence and the SAT's proven record of success by again changing admissions standards and policies, removing student choice and sowing further confusion and anxiety in the admissions process.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head in wonder at what ideas come out of the University of California system.

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