Zach Wenner, Jonny Dorsey, and Fagan Harris: Selective Service (Washington Monthly)

November/ December 2013

Colleges and universities love talking about service. Their mission statements, fund-raising letters, and soaring commencement speeches all pivot around phrases like “promoting public welfare,” practicing “skills of citizenship and community,” and solving “local, national, and global challenges.” But how do we know whether or not these institutions actually make good on those grandiose promises?

The short answer is we don’t. Colleges make plenty of information available about their “inputs” (the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, say, or average class sizes) but little about their “outcomes” (for example, what their students go on to do with their lives). Nor does the federal government provide the public with such information (the higher education lobby makes sure of that). That’s a disservice to students and institutions, to the taxpayers who support them, and to society writ large.

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