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Degrees offered over the Internet
A pilot program offering college degrees via the Internet will be launched in January by the Western Governors University, a consortium of state universities and technology businesses. The program is expected to offer an associate of arts degree and a vocational degree in electronics manufacturing, primarily through the Internet. It will involve 17 public universities in the west, with each offering classes online, by correspondence, or other distance learning methods. The degrees offered have not yet been accredited. (Source: The Seattle Times, 12/3/97.

How should states assess college performance?
The New York Times reports that states are using graduation rates and other numerical factors to evaluate public institutions and reward or penalize them, depending on their success. The problem, critics say, is that different institutions have different missions, making graduation rates a sometimes inaccurate measure of achievement. Many public systems, for example, guarantee admission to anyone with a high school diploma. Others cater to low-income students, many of whom drop out or take a long time to graduate because they have to work. Graduation rates for such institutions can be low because of factors unrelated to educational quality.

In addition, critics note that a college can easily raise its graduation rates by easing course requirements and asking professors to give higher grades. (Source: The New York Times, 11/9/97.

College cost commission under congressional pressure
After two Republican Congressmen recently said they would oppose the conclusion that tuition and fees at American universities are reasonable, the Congressionally-established National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education reversed its benign characterization of college costs. Commission members originally had concluded in a draft report that college expenses are under control, given the amount of financial aid available, and that the public tends to overstate the amount that college costs have increased.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that after the draft report was circulated on Capitol Hill, Representatives William F. Goodling of Pennsylvania and Howard P. (Buck) McKeon of California told Commission Chairman William E. Troutt they would not support it without a change showing that college costs are too high. The commission then changed its tone and urged colleges to take public concerns over rising costs more seriously.

At a subsequent meeting of the panel, Troutt said the commission takes public concerns seriously, and denied that the commission had changed its approach because of political pressure. But he added that the commission would not move ahead with the original version of the draft report, to which he said several commission members had objected.

(Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12/12/97.

Reprinted, with permission, from CASE Flash Points