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Higher education in the United States

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Higher education in the United States
« on: April 18, 2008, 12:46:35 PM »
Higher education in the United States

Higher education in the United States refers to a variety of institutions of higher education in the United States. Strong research and funding have helped make American colleges and universities among the world's most prestigious, which is particularly attractive to international students, professors and researchers in the pursuit of academic excellence. According to the Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, more than 30 of the highest-ranked 45 institutions are in the United States (as measured by awards and research output).[1] Public universities, private universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges all have a significant role in higher education in the United States. An even stronger pattern is shown by the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities with 103 US universities in the Top 200.

Educational attainment in the United States is similar to that of other developed countries.[citation needed]

The 2006 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau found that 19.5 percent of the population had attended college but had no degree, 7.4 percent held an associate's degree, 17.1 percent held a bachelor's degree, and 9.9 percent held a graduate or professional degree. Only a small gender gap was present: 27 percent of the overall population held a bachelor's degree or higher, with a slightly larger percentage of men (27.9 percent) than women (26.2 percent).[2]

The survey found that the area with the highest percentage of people 25 years and over with a bachelor's degree was the District of Columbia (45.9 percent), followed by the states of Massachusetts (37 percent), Maryland (35.1 percent), Colorado (34.3 percent), and Connecticut (33.7 percent). The state with the lowest percentage of people 25 years and over with a bachelor's degree was West Virginia (16.5 percent), finishing below Arkansas (18.2), Mississippi (18.8 percent), Kentucky (20 percent), and Louisiana (20.3 percent).[3]

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1995 alone, U.S. universities granted 2,142 licenses and options to license patented technology, most of them exclusive; 169 start-up companies were formed in 1995 (more than 1,100 from 1980-95), for which such exclusive patents were the key. The licensing of university-research spin-offs adds more than 150,000 jobs to the U.S. economy each year.

:: Overview
University of California Office of the President in Oakland, California

The American university system, like the primary and secondary education system, is largely decentralized, in large part because the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reserves all powers not granted to the federal government or explicitly denied to the U.S. states "for the States respectively, or to the people." Such a degree of autonomy in higher education is rare.

American universities have developed independent accreditation organizations to vouch for the quality of the degrees they offer. The accreditation agencies rate universities and colleges on criteria such as academic quality—the quality of their libraries, the publishing records of their faculty, and the degrees which their faculty hold. Nonaccredited institutions are perceived as lacking in quality and rigor, and may be termed diploma mills.

Colleges and universities in the U.S. vary in terms of goals: some may emphasize a vocational, business, engineering, or technical curriculum while others may emphasize a liberal arts curriculum. Many combine some or all of the above.
The facade of the main building of the University of Texas at Austin
The facade of the main building of the University of Texas at Austin

Two-year colleges (often but not always community colleges) usually offer the associate's degree such as an Associate of Arts (A.A.). Community colleges are often open admissions, with low tuition. Four-year colleges (which usually have a larger number of students and offer a greater range of studies than two-year colleges) offer the bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.). These are usually primarily undergraduate institutions, although some might have limited programs at the graduate level. Many students earn an associate's degree at a two-year institution before transferring to a four-year institution for another two years to earn a bachelor's degree.[4]

Four-year institutions in the U.S. which emphasize the liberal arts are liberal arts colleges. These colleges traditionally emphasize interactive instruction (although research is still a component of these institutions). They are known for being residential and for having smaller enrollment, class size, and teacher-student ratios than universities. These colleges also encourage a high level of teacher-student interaction at the center of which are classes taught by full-time faculty rather than graduate student teaching assistants (TAs), who do teach classes at Research I and other universities. Most are private, although there are public liberal arts colleges. In addition, some offer experimental curricula, such as Hampshire College, Beloit College, Pitzer College, Sarah Lawrence College, Bennington College, New College of Florida, and Reed College

:: Harvard University: Harvard Yard with freshman dorms in the background

Universities are research-oriented institutions which provide both undergraduate and graduate education. (For historical reasons, some universities—such as Boston College, Dartmouth College, and the College of William & Mary—have retained the term "college," while some institutions granting few graduate degrees, such as Wesleyan University, see the term "university." Graduate programs grant a variety of master's degrees—such as the Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Science (M.S.), Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), or Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)—in additional to doctorates such as the Ph.D. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education distinguishes among institutions on the basis of the prevalence of degrees they grant, and considers the granting of master's degrees necessary, though not sufficient, for an institution to be classified as a university.[5]

Some universities have professional schools, which are attended primarily by those who plan to be practioners instead of academics (scholars/researchers). Examples include journalism school, business school, medical schools (which usually award the M.D.), law schools (J.D.), veterinary schools (D.V.M.), or dental schools. A common practice is to refer to different units within universities as colleges or schools (what is referred to in other countries as faculties). Some departments may be divided into departments–such as an anthropology department within a college of liberal arts and sciences within a larger university.
University of Notre Dame's historic quad in Notre Dame, Indiana with the "Golden Dome" of the administration building visible
University of Notre Dame's historic quad in Notre Dame, Indiana with the "Golden Dome" of the administration building visible

Except for the United States service academies and staff colleges, the federal government does not directly regulate universities, although it can give federal grants to them. The majority of public universities are operated by the states and territories, usually as part of a state university system. Each state supports at least one state university, and several support many more. California, for example, has three public higher education systems: the 11-campus University of California, the 23-campus California State University, and the 109-campus California Community Colleges System. Public universities often have a large student body, with introductory classes numbering in the hundreds and some undergraduate classes are taught by graduate student teaching assistants (TAs). Tribal colleges operated on Indian reservations by some federally recognized tribes are also public institutions.

Many private universities also exist. Among these, some are secular while others are involved in religious education. Some are non-denominational and some affiliated with a certain sect or church, such as Roman Catholicism (with different institutions often sponsored by certain religious orders, such as the Jesuits), Lutheranism, or Mormonism. Seminaries are private institutions for those preparing to become members of the clergy. Most private schools (like all public schools) are non-profit, although some are for-profit.

::The Technology Classroom Building at Portland Community College

Tuition is charged at almost all American universities, except the five federally-sponsored service academies, in which students attend free and with a stipend in exchange for a service commitment in the U.S. armed forces after graduation. (The sole five schools non-service academy institutions that offer free tuition are Cooper Union, Curtis Institute of Music, Olin College, Webb Institute, and Yale School of Music in Yale University). Students do pay tuition at all other colleges and universities. Public universities often have much lower tuition than private universities because funds are provided by state governments (residents of the state that supports the university typically pay lower tuition than non-residents). Students often use scholarships, student loans, or grants, rather than paying all tuition out-of-pocket. Several states offer scholarships that allow students to attend free of tuition or at lesser cost; examples include HOPE in Georgia and Bright Futures in Florida.

Most universities, public and private, have endowments. A January 2007 report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers revealed that the top 765 U.S. colleges and universities had a combined $340 billion in endowment assets as of 2006. The largest endowment is that of Harvard University, at $29 billion. [6]

The majority of both liberal arts colleges and public universities may be either coeducational; the number of women's colleges and men's colleges has dwindled in past years and nearly all remaining single-sex institutions are private liberal arts colleges. There are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), both private (such as Morehouse College) and public (such as Florida A&M).

:: Admission process

Students can apply to some colleges using the Common Application. There is no limit to the number of colleges or universities to which a student may apply, though an application must be submitted for each. With a few exceptions, most undergraduate colleges and universities maintain the policy that students are to be admitted to (or rejected from) the entire college, not to a particular department or major (This is unlike college admissions in many European countries, as well as graduate admissions). Some students, rather than being rejected, are "wait-listed" for a particular college and may be admitted if another student who was admitted decides not to attend the college or university.

:: Rankings

Two well known college and university rankings guides offer annual issues which rank colleges and universities. They are the U.S. News and World Report [1] and The Washington Monthly's "College Rankings" issue.[2]

:: 2007 movement

 Criticism of college and university rankings (2007 United States)

On 19 June, 2007, during the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group, members discussed the letter to college presidents asking them not to participate in the "reputation survey" section of the U.S. News and World Report survey (this section comprises 25% of the ranking). As a result, "a majority of the approximately 80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to participate in the U.S. News reputational rankings in the future." [7] However, the decision to fill out the reputational survey or not will be left up to each individual college as: "the Annapolis Group is not a legislative body and any decision about participating in the US News rankings rests with the individual institutions." [8] The statement also said that its members "have agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search process." [9] This database will be web based and developed in conjunction with higher education organizations including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges.

On 22 June 2007, U.S. News and World Report editor Robert Morse issued a response in which he argued, "in terms of the peer assessment survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the survey has significant value because it allows us to measure the "intangibles" of a college that we can't measure through statistical data. Plus, the reputation of a school can help get that all-important first job and plays a key part in which grad school someone will be able to get into. The peer survey is by nature subjective, but the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their competitors is a commonly accepted practice. The results from the peer survey also can act to level the playing field between private and public colleges." [10]In reference to the alternative database discussed by the Annapolis Group, Morse also argued, "It's important to point out that the Annapolis Group's stated goal of presenting college data in a common format has been tried before [...] U.S. News has been supplying this exact college information for many years already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it with significantly less comparability and functionality. U.S. News first collects all these data (using an agreed-upon set of definitions from the Common Data Set). Then we post the data on our website in easily accessible, comparable tables. In other words, the Annapolis Group and the others in the NAICU initiative actually are following the lead of U.S. News." [11]

:: Finances

Richard Vedder, an Ohio University professor and member of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, has been a vocal critic of how institutions of higher education are financed. In his 2004 book, "Going Broke by Degree," Vedder says that tuition increases have rapidly outpaced inflation; that productivity in higher education has fallen or remained stagnant; and that third-party tuition payments from government or private sources have insulated students from bearing the full cost of their education, allowing costs to rise more rapidly.[12]

The rising cost of tuition has become a political issue.

:: Government coordination

Every state has an entity designed to promote coordination and collaboration between higher education institutions.

    * Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
    * Alabama Commission on Higher Education
    * Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board
    * The Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education


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