If you could start an institution of higher learning from scratch, what would it look like?

Tyler Cowen:

I would start with what I expect students to know. They should be able to write very well, have a basic understanding of economics and public policy, and a decent working knowledge of statistical reasoning. I would give a degree to students who demonstrated “B-grade” competence in all of these areas; what now goes for passing C-minus work wouldn’t cut it.

Most important, the people who write and grade the students’ tests would not be their instructors. So students would have to acquire a genuine general knowledge base, not just memorize what is supposed to be on the exam.

Next, each student would have the equivalent of a GitHub certification page. If you learned three programming languages, for example, or won a prize in a science fair, that would go on your page as a credential. But it would not count as a credit toward graduation. Some students could finish their degrees in a year or two even if their pages were not adorned with many accomplishments, while others might fill their pages but get no degree.

My imaginary school would not have many assistant deans, student affairs staff or sports teams. The focus would be on paying more money to the better instructors. There would be plenty of humanities classes, primarily aimed at helping students learn how to write well, but the topics might range from Dante to hip hop. Students would have the option of living on campus but not be required to do so, much as they do at my current employer, George Mason University.