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Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk


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Editorial Reviews

In this revealing documentary, veteran correspondent John Merrow takes you behind the ivy-covered walls of our colleges and universities to see if they are delivering on their promise.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: September 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ALM40S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,547 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Craig Brandon on August 27, 2010
Verified Purchase
When I was doing the research for my book "The Five-Year Party" this video really helped me put my ideas in order and showed how universal were the problems I was encountering in the classroom.

The scene in the economics classroom at Western Kentucky University is the best example I have seen about what really goes on in the classroom. The students don't even bother buying the textbook and half of them fail, but then the professor takes out his magic "grading curve" formula and most of them pass! Clearly this is fraudulent behavior to certify that students have learned something they have not learned. But, as is made clear, it's all done in the name of "retention." They need to do this so kids don't flunk out. The next scene, in which the president of the college condones this behavior is pretty devastating.

Every parent sending a kid to college and every young person considering a career in higher education should watch this video many times, as I have done. The inescapable conclusion is that higher education, at least at the lower levels, is corrupt and does not do what it says it does. Paying a higher and higher cost for less and less education needs to be exposed and these two hours do exactly that!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amy Owen on March 24, 2008
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Extremely enlightening for faculty, students, and parents! A different view of what a degree means today and perhaps what it does not mean. It gave me insight as a soon-to-be faculty member about how students may think about their courses and as a parent of a college student regarding what to look for in a university and finding the right match of college to student for a better education. It is a very eye opening look at college life and how students view the college experience. Bold face-to-face interviews with students and faculty gave me ideas about how to engage students in the classroom and hopefully encourage learning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. Schwartz VINE VOICE on September 21, 2010
This is a useful introduction to the problems of higher education. Focusing on a range of institutions, from Amherst College to a community college, it portrays the general issues by focusing on those schools, selected faculty and selected students. The overall impression is one of heartbreak and frustration. A fine Latina student wants to attend NYU and is admitted, but receives insufficient financial aid. A highly-motivated African-American student attempts to put herself through school by studying full time and working full time. Other students attend a top public institution (the University of Arizona), but spend their time guzzling beer and sleepwalking through their classes. Meanwhile, National Merit Scholarship finalists get full rides with money left over and receive a top private school-quality education through the Arizona honors program (with its honors dorm). College and University presidents wring their hands, explaining their plight. A USNews official admits that their rankings have nothing to say concerning what students actually learn at the schools which they have ranked.

These are familiar issues to educators, with familiar causes. The solutions, of course, are the sticking point. This program does a good job of depicting the problems, but it ends with the depiction. It doesn't face the hard decisions; it simply shows the human impact of the current situation.

Well worth watching.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Shaun King.com on February 10, 2007
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What follows in this review are quotations and statistics copied almost verbatim from viewing this documentary. I include what I think are the most important historical, statistical, and insightful critiques of the state of current higher education from this DVD....

Every fall, more than 14 million freshman undergrads at 4200 colleges begin higher education. Drinking has always been a problem on campus but in 2005, 39% of students admit to binge drinking. In 2005, 68% of today's college students are working at least 15 hours per week 20 % are trying to hold down full-time jobs while taking a full-time academic work load. 44% of today's college faculties are part-time teachers. On average almost ½ of students at 4-year colleges leave before graduating. 60 years ago public, governmental support for higher education was stronger. FDR signed into law the GI Bill it was a "mass movement" towards higher education. Higher education became the "highway to the middle class." In 1972 the federal government opened to the poor giving low income students grants that did not have to be paid back, these were called Pell Grants. These Pell Grants had about 3 or 4 billion dollars in it and covered about 95 % of tuition at an average 4-year university. "All that began to change when the research indicated that having a college degree added a million dollars to your lifetime earnings." Richard Hersh, former president of Trinity College, adds, "In the last 25 to 30 years since that Reagan Administration, since the 80s, we've decided that it's a private good, that because you benefit from going to college economically your salaries go up." And so we've said well let the individual pay for it then.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By stoic VINE VOICE on August 12, 2009
Declining by Degrees is a sobering look at the current state of higher education. The film examines four very-different institutions: the University of Arizona, Amherst College, Western Kentucky University, and the Community College of Denver. As a college professor, I could relate to many aspects of this documentary.

The two-hour film focuses on three topics. The first hour concerns student life and its relation to the decline in academic standards on U.S. campuses. The next 30 minutes focus on financial issues pertaining to higher education. The final 30 minutes focus on the role of athletics on campus. I thought that the first hour was excellent, but that the last hour was somewhat disappointing. Most viewers won't find the financial issues particularly engaging; Declining by Degrees has little new to say about athletics.

Declining by Degrees is also very short on solutions. Those involved in the video maintain that the only way to save higher education is by spending more tax dollars. Given that the Government has already committed to providing many services for which it currently lacks funds, this seems both unimaginative and unrealistic.

Still, Declining by Degrees is worth watching for its discussion of higher education's many problems.
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