Higher Ed at a Crossroads: What Role Does the Media Play In the Crisis?

Join me at the National Press Club on Thursday, where I’ll debate editors from other outlets that rank colleges.

The National Press Club Events Committee will present “Higher Ed at a Crossroads: What role does the media play in the crisis?” on Thursday, September 5. Doors will open at 8:30 a.m., when a light breakfast will be served. The panel will start at 9 a.m. You can register for this exciting and informative event here.

The worst admissions scandal in the history of higher education has resulted in dozens of indictments and embarrassment for many of the nation’s most prestigious institutions. The perceived value of an elite education has skyrocketed to the point that parents will spend millions on gifts and contributions to ensure a place for their children. Many, it seems, are even willing to break the law to get their university-bound children into high-ranking schools.

This has taken place while the costs of higher education have been increasing several times faster than wages in recent years, making it less and less available to the average American. Analysts and the media have asked who is to blame for the latest scandal: parents, coaches, admissions officials, or even the government? But the media itself may deserve inspection, as well.

Annual college guides compiled and published by national media outlets themselves have bolstered the image of higher education “brands.” This panel, however, will ask whether these ratings have perverted the purpose and goals of higher education with their influential reports: how do these rankings work and how do they differ from each other needs of their students and the nation as a whole?

For the last 15 years, the Washington Monthly has addressed this issue by releasing its annual College Guide and Rankings, rating colleges and universities on their contributions to social mobility, research, and public service. Unlike U.S. News & World Report, which rewards institutions for prestige, wealth, and exclusivity, we call attention to colleges that serve the best interest of the country as a whole, including by enrolling and graduating students of modest means.

That’s why I’m so excited to join Thursday’s panel to discuss how the media should evaluate institutions of higher learning. Alongside me will be Kaitlin Mulhere, reporter/special projects editor for MONEY, and Kaitlin Pitsker, associate editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Jamaal Abdul-Alim, education editor for The Conversation, will moderate.

I hope you can enjoy us! Register here.

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Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. He was an editor at the magazine from 1986 to 1988.