Book on College Success Sparks Debate

By Catherine Gewertz — September 09, 2009 1 min read
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There is an intriguing argument making the rounds this week about college success. Some might find this counterintuitive, but let me run it by you: When students fail in college, it is more often because they picked a school that’s too easy for them than because they picked one that’s too difficult.

That’s the basic thesis in a new book by former university and college presidents William Bowen and Michael McPherson and researcher Matthew Chingos.

The New York Times’ Economic Scene column has an interesting take on the book. Inside HigherEd takes a crack at it, with some handy links and charts, and Stanford professor Mike Kirst raises some good questions about it in his blog. Kevin Carey ties the ideas to affirmative action over at The Quick and the Ed.

And while this bit isn’t specifically about the book, it touches on some against-the-grain and just-plain-interesting ideas about college-going: former Gates Foundation biggie Tom VanderArk mulling over some ideas in a controversial book by Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame).

The college mismatch idea has come up in other research, too, including work by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.