The College Puzzle Blog
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Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

College Success Should Determine Success on Wall Street

Howard Block is a former student of mine. He recently concluded a 10-yr career as an equity analyst, on the “sell”-side of Wall Street. By sell side, he would conduct research on companies and then make BUY or SELL recommendations on the stocks of those companies to professional money managers on the “buy” side.

Howard was distinguished on Wall Street as its only analyst with a doctorate in educational policy analysis – earned at Stanford University. Howard established a reputation as an original, independent, critical and creative thinker, often shedding light on issues that were not well understood by his audience – money managers, advisors, business managers and the broader public. His perspective on postsecondary education can be gleaned in a review of his testimony before Secretary Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education

While Howard’s research primarily focused on commercial enterprises like DeVry and the University of Phoenix, his conclusions were relevant for a far broader universe of institutions. For example, Howard always argued that an investment in the stocks of any education company is ultimately an investment in the academic outcomes of its students.
As intuitive as that may sound and as logical as it is, Howard felt that few managers abided by it and few investors appreciated it.

Too many managers of the commercial enterprise turn their heads (perhaps in shame) away from academic outcomes. Those managers are not yet held accountable for their failings as their business are able to grow, in spite of little or no value proposition for their students.

The growth of the companies has been driven more by marketing services than by academic services.Yet, as more and more students graduate (or not) with little hope of finding rewarding jobs – let alone jobs that can help them service tens of thousands of debt – Howard (and I) still believe that schools will come under increasing scrutiny to provide exceptional learning outcomes

Graduates of colleges, particular the commercial ones noted above, must be able to parlay favorable academic outcomes into a favorable career outcome – be it a new job, promotion, pay raise or other. For without a favorable career outcome, the broader market of Main St., not only Wall Street, would soon realize that the academic outcome may not be worth anything more than the paper on which the attendant diploma was written, which could be particularly troublesome considering the significant debt that may be assumed while pursuing the paper.

I am hopeful that Howard will share more of his insight in future postings.

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