Friday, September 25, 2015

Grove City & The College Scoreboard

First, let me confess that I like the idea of the new USED College Scorecard. It is the right sort of approach-- providing information without making judgment. I compare it to the nutritional facts panel now included with all our food. Don't give me some government rating of "Good" or "Awesome" or "Sucky." Don't decide for me how many grams of fat I should eat-- just tell me how many are in there and let me decide.

I know the feds wanted to offer their judgment on how great colleges are, because Duncan's ed department is devoted to the idea that only they are wise enough to understand and all citizens are dopes. But if we pretended for a moment that all citizens weren't dopes, and we just provided them with information so that they could make informed choices. Maybe I don't care how much calcium is in my Twinkies, but if I want to know, it's there, and if I still don't care, I'm free to ignore it.

But the Washington Post noted this week that a handful of colleges are not in the data base, and that grabbed my interest, because one of them is Grove City College of Pennsylvania.

Grove City College is right up the road from me. My brother attended there. Members of my extended family graduated from there. We send lots of our graduates there. I've had several student teachers from there.

It is an excellent school, though certainly less liberal than many. It's major (but loose) church affiliation is with the Presbyterians, and you know how wild those folks get. GCC has a great reputation as a school for engineers, a strong humanities emphasis, and also as a place for young ladies to get their MRS degree (at orientation: "Look to your left. Look to your right Your future mate may be in sight"). They are not LGBT friendly, but then, they aren't really very excited about allowing any heterosexual activity on campus, either. They are not snooty, though they may get a largish sampling of privately and even home- schooled students. Students must attens chapel sixteen times per semester. Every teacher education program has its own reputation-- when we get a GCC student teacher, we expect someone who really knows their content, but may find dealing with public school students a challenge.

GCC has made the news a few times over the years. Back in the eighties, they were in court to be excused from filing federal paperwork about Title IX because they didn't directly take federal funds, an argument that GCC essentially won-- but then soon after new laws were passed to plug the hole that GCC had walked through. Today, GCC does not participate in federal programs such as the Pell grants or Stafford loans, which keeps them free of the federal requirements;they fill the financial gaps with their own loan program-- the school was founded by a close friend of the founder of Sun Oil. (They also ended up in the news when a student turned out to be paying his way through school by shooting gay porn videos- he was suspended, not expelled).

Folks who don't know the school assume that Grove City wanted to be free to discriminate against women. But ironically, when the school opened in the late 1800's, they became one of the first colleges in America to take both men and women, and they have maintained a 1-to-1 male-female ratio. I've known many women who attended the school, and while GCC tends to attract many (but not exclusively) women with a traditional bent, I've never heard any complain about being ill-used, mistreated, ignored or underserved by the school.

Mostly, I think GCC has a big libertarian streak that makes them allergic to paying people just to file a bunch of federal paperwork, and access to the kind of money that makes it possible for them to tell the feds to shove off.

GCC doesn't do any of that federal reportage, including reporting on Title IV. GCC has never been noted for having a very high non-white population, but neither does my entire region. GCC is a very white college, but they are also the college that employs Ej Brown, the creator of the mugshots series, a group of photos challenging views of black men.

That lack of Title IV reportage lies at the center of the USED's omission of GCC (and the other skipped schools). The GCC president says that the feds told him they were working from the Title IV list.

So were the feds trying to nail conservative colleges? It seems more likely that they were deliberately overlooking colleges that don't play ball with the federal government. That's arguably six of one, half dozen of the other, but there seems no reason to believe that a liberal school that didn't do Title Iv paperwork wouldn't also be omitted.

For that matter, if you were going to target conservative colleges, Grove City hardly belongs at the top of your. Further up the road is Geneva College, small but hugely conservative, or we could just go to Liberty University, a place that makes GCC look like UCLA. Both Geneva and Liberty have report cards.

Grove City College, like many "authentic" conservatives, is a little more complicated than the kind of cartoon conservatives that liberals sometime imagine. It has provided a good college home for many of my students who wanted college without a distracting emphasis on getting drunk and laid (and it is notoriously safe-- like "people don't lock their dorm room" safe-- so parents love it), and it provided them a good education as well, and it didn't turn them into tin-hatted Bible-hammering lunatics but did, in many cases, instill a sense of responsibility for making useful contributions to the world. It's too strict and conservative for my tastes, but it doesn't scare me in the same way that some homophobic, xenophobic, otherphobic, thinkingophobic alleged places of education do. It deserves better than to be left out of this lovely government created marketing tool.

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