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argue that student evaluations should be the basis for such
outcomes or job placements. And while faculty have historically
been the ones to decide what a quality education is, some now
The huge financial stakes — with $175 billion a year in
federal student aid and soaring student debt — make the debate
even more critical, Eaton added. Those financial concerns are
“putting enormous pressure on every one of us in the room
when it comes to showing higher education’s worth and
effectiveness within society,” she said.
Fortunately, said Eaton, there are plenty of tools for ensuring
educational quality. Three of them are under educators’ own
control: accreditation, institutions’ own reviews and efforts by
such groups as College Portrait of Undergraduate Education
and Liberal Education and America’s Promise.
Of course, there are other tools educators don’t control, such
as U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings. “I’ve read that
their rankings are the de facto quality standards in the United
“Higher education has to justify the investment that is made,”
said Dr. Judith S. Eaton.
The country is engaged in a significant debate about what counts as educational quality, Judith S. Eaton, PhD, president of the Council for Higher Education
Accreditation, told participants at APA’s Education Leadership
States,” said Eaton. State and federal government also review
educational quality, and in recent years, the Gates Foundation,
the Lumina Foundation and other philanthropies have financed
tools for examining quality.
Eaton urged educators to promote quality by setting
expectations and requiring accountability for meeting
them. Educators should establish goals for their program or
institution, decide what counts as quality in meeting those
goals and think about how those goals are focused on what
students learn. “It’s not enough to set goals in a vacuum,” said
Eaton, explaining that goals should be benchmarked so that
evidence of quality can be compared with similar efforts at
other institutions. Educators should then decide what evidence
is needed to show that goals have been met, how to inform the
public about what students are achieving and how to improve
quality even more.
Conference in September. And educators have the tools to
answer that question, she said.
While educators have traditionally thought of students’
intellectual development as evidence of quality, said Eaton,
others now argue that quality should be measured by student
“Higher education has to justify the investment that is
made,” said Eaton. “Because we cannot any longer take for
granted that the public will assume we’re doing a good job, we
have to tackle the issue.”