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Pubwan education

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The education marketplace, like that for any product, has its virtues and vices. Of concern to the pub wan movement are informational virtues and vices... Transparency and information asymmetry, respectively.

To its credit, the higher education community has embraced an important technology of transparency (and also aggregation), the catalog. Like any catalog, a college catalog leaves much to be desired in terms of fungibility of information (news you can use) and even basic honesty.

Nevertheless, much of the information in college catalogs concerns unambiguous matters such as which courses require fees above tuition, and which courses are prerequisites for other courses.

The information in a college catalog is very systematic in nature. Department codes and course numbers are often held to a fixed field width and alphanumeric format. Prerequisites and are often expressible as boolean expressions, and the range of subsets of the set of courses that satisfy a degree requirement are often expressed in essentially "set theoretic" terms. It would seem that the only barrier to translating the contents of a college catalog to a relational database format is the "by any means mechanical or electronic" clause in so many copyright notices. Many colleges, of course, have online catalogs and related bureaucracies such as online registration systems.

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