Education Secretary Spellings Writes Moi

Funny thing happened on the way to a school board meeting. I received a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. It’s not every day I receive a letter from a US Ed Secretary, so I thought I would share the story.
I read a column in USA Today about Sec. Spellings wanting to make more standardized information available to consumers about US colleges (Should government take a yardstick to colleges?”).

I thought Spellings ideas were spot on. I’ve gone through the college search process a couple of times with my daughters. I like the idea of establishing standarized, unbiased comparitive college data for consumers. I emailed the reporter to share my thoughts, and before I knew it, my email ended up printed in the paper’s Opinion Page. Then came Spellings’ letter. Both are reprinted below.

Consumers deserve better higher ed data
Fred Deutsch - Watertown, S.D.

I’m a father of four daughters — two have graduated from high school, both first in their class, both with very high ACT scores, and both with the academic scores to attend any college or university in the country. As you might imagine, the academic recruiting started early in our house. Since junior year in high school, each child has received glossy brochures, letters and phone calls from more than 100 colleges. As I’ve helped each daughter sort though mountains of material, I think I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the problem from a parent’s perspective, and I have to tell you, I agree 100% with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (”Should government take a yardstick to colleges?“ (Illustration by Web Bryant, USA TODAY )

There is a real problem in finding credible information that allows consumers — parents and their children — to compare one institution with another. To Patricia McGuire, the Trinity University president who believes choosing a college is more like choosing a spouse than a car, all I can say is “get real.” People should have the ability to compare apples with apples when shopping for schools. For $20,000 to $40,000 or more per year, there should be a system in place that allows me to kick the tires, look under the hood and compare gas mileage from one model to the next. I should be able to evaluate them using “meaningful” standardized data. For educators and policymakers to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

I want to know: What am I getting for my money? In a “flattening” world that’s becoming more and more competitive, I want to know that once my kids graduate, they will have the academic and practical skills to allow them to compete for a job against anyone, anywhere in the world.

I appreciate the attention USA TODAY’s article brings to the issue. If you decide to do a follow-up, interviewing more parents and students might give you and your readers a significantly different perspective, rather than the opinions of college presidents.

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