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Barnds enters national discussion of college costs

February  15, 2013

After President Obama addressed the cost of college in his State of the Union address Tuesday, the ongoing national discussion of the topic of affordability became even livelier.

"Access to a great education cannot and should not be defined only through the language of dollars."

  Kent Barnds

"Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we have made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the soaring cost of higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it's our job to make sure they do," Obama said.  

"Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new "College Scorecard" that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck."  

The Department of Education launched its interactive College Scorecard Web site Wednesday. Each Scorecard includes five key pieces of data about a college: costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment.  

W. Kent Barnds, Augustana's vice president of enrollment, communication and planning, has been talking, writing and blogging about the value of a college education for a long time. By value, he means more than dollars.  

In an article in Inside Higher Ed, he points out that the scorecard does not include information about learning outcomes, long-term student success or student satisfaction, factors that many in higher education say are equally valuable and are areas where institutions that value general education would likely perform well.  

"It takes a very narrow focus on the whole idea of how one chooses a college and what one should consider," said Barnds. "The criteria the scorecards rank colleges on, it dismisses some of the reasons students go to college in the first place, some of the reasons we exist."

Commenting in the Chicago Tribune, he criticized the "one-size-fits-all" approach. "Access to a great education cannot and should not be defined only through the language of dollars," Barnds said. "There is much more to consider when measuring the worth of a college education and degree."

"A college graduate's success should not be measured solely on how cheaply he or she can acquire that first job out of college. We are surprised that a country built on the intelligence and pioneering spirit of our forefathers would neglect — at least at this moment in our history — the importance of fostering the value of real learning: creativity, critical and ethical thinking, problem-solving, ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit. These aspects of higher learning are what made us Americans, and the experiences that allow us to exercise, practice and gain these qualities cannot always be acquired on the cheap."

Barnds also recently has been cited by:

The Chronicle of Higher Education (One College Spills 'The Things Other Colleges Don't Tell You'

University Business (A College Experience You Can Count On)

Huffington Post (Does Lowering Cost Mean Lower Standards for Higher Education?)

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833