I came across this graph. It shows what Americans spend on higher ed, versus what happens in other countries. Reminds me of health care. There too we spend more than any other nation. Our best medical care beats anyone else's best medical care. That's why the rich come here for treatment. Our average result, though, is not impressive.
My friend Ed Liu of Boston Teacher Residency said it well in the comments section here the other day:
Having worked in nonprofits, K-12, and higher ed, I agree with Dai 100 percent. The claim that our higher ed institutions are the envy of the world really is based on the success of top research universities and colleges -- the top 5 percent.
But if you take a broader perspective and consider whether we have a post-secondary system that succeeds at mass education -- equipping adults for middle class jobs and the demands of active citizenship -- I would argue that we don’t have a world class system.
Also, in recent years, there has been a homogenization in higher ed, even as what have traditionally been teaching institutions try to rise up in prestige by mimicking research universities and raising publishing requirements for faculty. This has led to a poor allocation of resources. Professors are working on research of not high quality (pursuit of tenure) and flooding journals with articles. This does not advance the knowledge base in deep ways.
This energy would be better used, I think, in improving teaching or partnering with societal institutions (like schools) to solve problems.