It's great that President Obama wants to make higher education more accessible and affordable, but what we should really be doing is making it better, writes Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post. Consider this: Since 1985, higher education costs are up an astounding 538% (in the same time period, the consumer price index increased just 121%), according to a study from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The same study also found some troubling trends at colleges and universities: "an increasing lack of academic rigor, grade inflation, high administrative costs, and a lack of intellectual diversity," Parker writes.
A separate study found that graduates have trouble with stunningly simple cognitive tasks (think: comparing and contrasting two editorials). That's probably because colleges are increasingly doing away with a focus on core curricula like US government, economics, history, and classes that promote critical thinking and the arts and sciences—or eschewing specific academic requirements completely—while offering courses like one at Middlebury College that studies ... Mad Men. "American students are paying too much for too little—and this, too, should concern Obama as he examines ways to make college more affordable," Parker concludes. Click for her full column. (Read more higher education stories.)