Princeton historian Anthony Grafton has an interesting review of two recent books* on education reform. His assessment of neither book is positive, but in engaging the topic of education reform, Grafton offers some interesting insights and factoids. Here’s one:

The cost of a year’s study at a college or university escalates, year upon year. Yet how good is this expensive product? Drop-out rates are frighteningly high: fewer than half of those who enter college will earn an associate’s degree within three years or a BA within six. Even those who finish, moreover, often emerge from college with staggering debts, no technical qualifications and few basic skills. In 2003, the last National Assessment of Adult Literacy revealed that: “Only 41 percent of graduate students tested . . . could be classified as ‘proficient’ in prose—reading and understanding information in short texts—down 10 percentage points since 1992. Of college graduates, only 31 percent were classified as proficient.” In these circumstances, the critics argue, radical measures are needed: measures that will both cut costs and make education more valuable.

*Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do about It (New York: Times Books, 2010) AND Mark C. Taylor, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010).