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ScissorTales: Higher costs, but lower quality?

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 16, 2012

IN higher education, the costs are certainly getting higher, but the quality may actually be lower.

In his “Subprime college educations” column last Sunday, George Will cited alarming statistics of student loan debt and examples of inflated administrative costs and salaries. And for all that, we're not even getting more for our money, whether as borrowers or taxpayers. Unfortunately, nearly a third of borrowers never graduate, so they have the debt without the benefits conferred by the status, if not the tangible skills, of a degree.

Will cited examples from California to New York, but Oklahoma also has its share of flaky college courses. The University of Oklahoma's course catalog includes such offerings as “Gateway to College Learning” and “First Steps” to help students transition from high school to college by teaching skills ranging from time management to test taking. While these are useful skills, we'd like to think any student with a high school diploma headed to a major research university had already mastered them.

Former University of Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart gained attention for taking ballroom dancing to postpone graduation and play another season. In addition to the basic and intermediate levels of that course, OU offers “Pilates Body Conditioning,” “Belly Dance” and the upper-level “Work, School, and Play.” Oklahoma State University's description of its Leisure 2112 Rock Climbing is “Theory and practice in the basics of technical rock climbing, bouldering and spelunking.”

While the skills gained may not be extremely marketable, at least students might pick up a new vocabulary word.

Wrong way

to protect rights

For years, conservatives have complained that government entities supposedly focused on civil rights issues were overly politicized. Liberals disagreed. In Oklahoma, the Legislature has voted to put the state attorney general in charge of investigating discrimination complaints and ending the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission. Some citizens worry that this will lead to lax enforcement. A group of those critics recently met to start a separate human rights group. The fact that they met at Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters indicates that concern about politicization may not have been far-fetched. The group is also jumping the gun. Attorney General Scott Pruitt will answer to the voters if he shrugs off civil rights violations; his office should be given the chance to prove its worth. At the very least, such efforts shouldn't be run out of a political party's headquarters.

Fans of identification

The Salvation Army began giving away box fans this week to help Oklahoma City residents cope with the heat that's sure to come this summer. Those eligible for a fan had to be 62 or older or have children younger than 6 months in the home or be disabled with chronic conditions such as emphysema or cardiovascular disease. Oh, they also had to provide a photo ID for all adult household members, along with proof (such as an electric bill) that they live in the city limits. The majority of those who would need a fan are low-income residents. They, and senior citizens, are among the groups that liberals say are being put upon via passage of Republican-backed laws requiring voters to show identification at the ballot box. The Salvation Army's rules for this good cause help fan the flames of rebuke to the overheated arguments against voter ID laws.

Let's don't do dues deal

Public employee unions have long depended on government to provide automatic payroll deductions for dues. So what happens when dues payment becomes voluntary? Membership plummets. The latest example comes from the Oklahoma Corrections Professional Association, which has gone from about 1,900 members to the low hundreds. The group's executive director says it's too much hassle for members to mail checks or pay dues through the Internet. Really? We bet those same individuals pay other bills that way. When Wisconsin ended automatic deductions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lost over half its membership. We hope Oklahoma lawmakers take note and end automatic deductions for all public sector unions. The failure to pay dues indicates government workers don't see much value in union membership. So why should the state keep propping up the unions?

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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