The Higher Education in United States

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The Finest Higher Education System Is American

Many academics and journalists constantly bring up the debate on whether the U.S. higher education system is sound or needs revision. America has a sort of inferiority complex about it. People claim that the professors are not up to the job, that organizations are inadequate, that students do not commit and study enough, and that the teaching paradigm is outdated. In particular, they assert that grades (and grade inflation) are bad for learning, that standardized tests as an entry requirement cause discrimination and that costs are prohibitive. In all aspects, it seems that there is something inherently wrong about American education. Yet what many people appear not to notice is the self-evident fact that the U.S. has the best higher education system in the world, by far. This paper will analyze how American schools generate rewarding meritocracy and how their flexibility, campus life and extracurricular activities are positive character building features for students. It will then discuss the economic side and why it can be seen as positive too. All the downsides are of little relevance when compared to the positive features that attracts more international students to America than any other country, especially the most talented ones. Alarmists should not be concerned about the way higher education is going because American universities, and especially research universities, are the finest in the world. An initial analysis is to be done about what happens before university even begins: standardized testing. All American high-school students have to face this kind of test at some point. Many arguments sustain that SAT and ACT are more suitable for students from high income level families, that can afford to pay expensive tutors and retake the tests many times, until the desired score is attained. However, this can also be seen as one of the fairest ways to grant admission into top universities around the country, a way that creates incentives for motivation and competition. Meritocracy is a leading word when talking about educational environments, and this is also what leads the United States to innovation and success. Students are granted significant loans if they work hard and if they are smart enough to achieve high scores on standardized tests. The same goes for the whole collegiate career, where top-tier universities’ classes will be “curved”, so that competition will arise and only the best will get high grades. The same also goes for professors, who have different pay tiers based on merit and experience and who are free to trade with one university or the other for better positions. As a result, American universities currently employ 70% of the world's Nobel prize-winners and produce 44% of the most frequently cited articles worldwide and 30% of the world's output of articles on science and engineering (How Europe fails its young). All of this does not happen in Europe, for example, where professors are civil servants (and so less motivated and more detached from helping students), and where entry to universities and the whole higher education in general is not based upon meritocracy. Italian universities, for instance, still insist that all students undergo a viva voce examination by a full professor, lasting an average of about five minutes, and which often is not fully based on merit (How Europe fails its young). A positive feature about U.S. education lays on its flexibility, on how the coursework can be shaped around students’ need. Most colleges have the idea of liberal arts, where a general breath requirement is set upon every student. This broad range of classes allows the student to explore many different areas of knowledge usually within the first two years of education, so that he will be more confident about choosing a major and a particular career afterword. Also the free choice of classes and the many electives let the student explore almost anything he...
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