Who Cares About Class Size?

Remember how America used to worry about class size? Class size was the big demon of education: large, impersonal learning environments where professors droned on at the blackboard while students passed notes and fell asleep in the back rows. There were even efforts to reduce class size.

And then we stopped trying. We stopped at the elementary and secondary level because it just did not seem to work. And, apparently, we’ve now stopped at the college level. According to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report, it’s just too expensive:

One of the ways affordable colleges are trying to keep their prices down is to pack more students into every classroom. In these hard economic times, colleges are laying off professors and admitting more tuition-paying students, so courses are getting even more crowded.

While it would, no doubt, be very difficult to find a truly rigorous look at the result of class size on higher education, at a superficial level it’s clear that huge university classes are, if not destructive, at least somewhat unpleasant.

The article emphasizes that there are still some (“dozens” according to U.S. News) comparatively inexpensive colleges that offer lots of classes that are small, with less than 20 students.

Nice if you can get them.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer