Customer Reviews: Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk
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on August 27, 2010
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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on March 24, 2008
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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on February 3, 2013
This DVD provides information that shows how the
United States education systems does not
provide a comprehensive education to all.
It is a must to view. It is worth your
money to know how your money will be spent.
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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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on February 10, 2007
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. Kay McClenney of the University of Texas at Austin adds, "Instead of recognizing that higher education has major social benefits." Government funding moved away from grants to low interest loans. Pell Grants that used to pay about 95% of tuition costs only pays about ½ today. Nationally, Merit-based aid has nearly quadrupled in the last 10 years. In 2005 nearly 8.8 billion dollars are handed out to high achieving students because colleges want them. Kay McClenney says that "we're helping the people god already helped, and we're leaving behind people who truly cannot afford to participate in the system." Market forces are what driving the "quality" of competing educational institutions. One of the years that PBS covered Arizona State University, the basketball team brought in 13.5 million dollars in revenue. 4 million went back into the basketball program; 9.5 million helps fund 17 other varsity sports. Coach Lute Olson reportedly earns over a million dollars coaching Arizona which is double the income the president of the university earns. Frank Deford, a sportswriter, says, "Athletics are a goiter on the educational system." The University of Arizona's contract with Nike is worth about a million dollars per year, 350,000 of that goes to Coach Olson. Lara Couturier of Brown University says, "Athletics is one of the areas of higher education that's already gone to far."
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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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VINE VOICEon June 19, 2011
I have worked in Higher Education for over 10 years and I can tell you that what is described in here is quite accurate. Such issues as tenure (so research is the focus of faculty instead of quality teaching), rising tuition costs due to lack of government aid, extreme debt of students (causing them to work ridiculous hours while still going to full time school), etc. I don't want to get into too much but they really hit on some of the frightening trends in the system.

Watch this carefully, it's extremely well done.
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on December 22, 2005
In response to the original reviewer: maybe you should have watched the movie before showing it to your students. It's teaching of this nature that this movie highlights. And perhaps teachers in higher education aren't that great lately is due to -- as this documentary highlights -- the fact that they're under paid, over worked, and poorly treated. I know, I'm a college instructor, too, and I coordinate a tutoring center, so I have a very clear idea of what the current state of affairs is. I think this movie brings up some very current important issues that a lot of people outside of academia -- and even some inside -- just don't even realize.
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on March 12, 2014
Had to watch this video for a school project. I would definitely recommend this book to others. It sheds light to the educational problems that America is facing.
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on May 5, 2013
I show this to my college students--sparks discussion--they recognize the problems. Then we talk about solutions, and how to change the trend.
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