More on the Costs of Higher Education

Tuition goes up as state funding goes down.

Apropos of James Joyner’s post on tuition costs, I had read a post over at HuffPo yesterday called Rich Colleges, Poor Professors.  The piece highlights the low pay of adjuncts at American universities and is ultimately a call for unionization.

Setting aside one’s views on unionization, I would note that basic fact of large numbers of part time faculty is a real issue and underscores that the increases in tuition that we have been seeing in higher education is not flowing into the pockets of the faculty.

The piece cites a Chronicle of Higher Education piece that notes that 70% of college faculty are non-tenure track.  While there is no breakdown of part-time v. full-time in the story, the bottom line is that non-tenure track faculty are cheaper than tenure-track faculty.  The trend has been to shift more and more in this direction and a major reason is cost.  According to the Chronicle, the breakdown at 2-year v. 4-year schools is as follows:

Community colleges have traditionally relied heavily on nontenure-track faculty, with 85 percent of their instructors in 2010 not eligible for tenure, according to the most recent federal data available. But the trend has been increasingly evident at four-year institutions, where nearly 64 percent of the instructional faculty isn’t eligible for tenure.

Yes, school have been building nicer dorms and dining facilities and investing in technology and so forth on their campuses as a means of recruitment, and this drives up costs.  However, a major driver of tuition increases has been the fact that public schools have been losing state funds for years.   When those funds go away, they have to be replaced somewhere.  One way, as noted above, is more part-time and non-tenure track faculty (i.e., by cutting labor costs).  Another way is to simply raise tuition (which is really the main way to address the problem).

To put some numbers on just recent cuts, see the following from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

States are spending $2,353 or 28 percent less per student on higher education, nationwide, in the current 2013 fiscal year than they did in 2008, when the recession hit.

[…]

Deep state funding cuts have major implications for public colleges and universities.  States (and to a lesser extent localities) provide 53 percent of the revenue that can be used to support instruction at these schools.  When this funding is cut, colleges and universities generally must either cut spending, raise tuition to cover the gap, or both.

CPBB_Per_Student_Spending_Cuts.jpg

Also, as states cut, tuition goes up:

Here’s the long-term trend in tuition’s role in funding higher education:

Whether it is state funding for state schools, cutting Pell Grants, or high interest rates on student loans, we have to come to grips with the very real difficulties that many students have in paying for college and as well as deciding what it really means that we have “public” colleges and universities.  Note:  many “public” schools receive less than 20% of their budgets from the states in which they reside.  As one column on this subject notes, this raises long-term questions about not just student costs, but governance of these institutions:

The longer-term issues that are being addressed in some states and at some public institutions. If these public institutions are no longer state supported who owns them? Who should govern them? Who should they serve? Should states be contracting for quite specified outcomes? The defunding of public higher education by the states inevitably inaugurates a new conversation about who controls them and whose interests are to be served. The states will play a diminished role in finding answers to these questions if public higher education is to survive and thrive.

I am not asking anyone to cry a river over the plight of faculty or university administrators.  I am not saying that every dollar spent at every institution is spent wisely.  I am saying, however, that if we think that part of the purpose of higher education is to function as a gateway for young people to pass into a better life, we need to reevaluate how we pay for it.  We are, as James’ post notes, in a situation where the current funding structure is more likely to replicate existing economic divisions rather than allowing for the capable to gain what they need to improve their standing.  Even beyond the question of whether higher education can be a mechanism for upper mobility, we need to be concerned as to whether it is sufficiently affordable for individuals to remain at the same level as the families from which they come.

The whole idea of public higher education is to subsidize the ability of young people to obtain a degree.  If we cannot, or will not, pay enough to make that affordable, we might as well stop the fiction of “public” higher ed and just let only those who can afford it go to school (with the commensurate results).  Creating a huge class of people with massive student loans is not a sustainable model.

More reading:

FILED UNDER: Education, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I find it kind of interesting that your graphs show something of a disconnect between state funding cuts and tuition hikes. For instance MO cut 29.7% (#20) and raised it’s tuition only 5.2% (#47). Makes me go “Huh. What’s up with that?”

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    All other things being equal if state funding goes down must tuition increase for state institutions? Of course. I don’t think that tells the whole story.

    Based on the most recent financial statement of the University of Illinois, its problems aren’t that its revenues aren’t increasing. It’s that its expenses are increasing much faster and about two-thirds of those expenses are wages and benefits. The year-on-year increase in expenses was a multiple of the non-healthcare or education rate of inflation.

    And the increase is substantially higher than the increase in incomes in the state. Clearly, something’s got to give.

  3. Trumwill Mobile says:

    Something I dont understand… If state support is so marginal, why are state schools so much less expensive than private school?

  4. john personna says:

    University funding was on an unsustainable path before 2008, and then the recession, and austerity at the state level, hit it like a hammer.

    Prior to 2008 it was all about the principle-agent problem, with distinct group ideas of what education should be producing an unfortunate composite.

  5. @Dave Schuler:

    I don’t think that tells the whole story.

    Nor was I suggesting that it does.

    I do think, however, that most people are not aware of how little states provide for higher ed and, more specifically, the degree to which tuition costs are linked to that funding.

  6. @Trumwill Mobile: It is a good question, to which I do not have ready answer. Part of it, no doubt, has to do with initial capital costs. Public schools have access to public bonds to fund construction as well.

    I suspect that in terms of operating budget it is also linked to things like faculty salaries and faculty:student ratios.

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Trumwill Mobile: A variety of reasons.

    Some of it is economies of scale: a state flagship’s 100 and 200 level courses will frequently be held in large lecture halls with one professor and a small number of graduate students handling the load, whereas part of the prestige associated with private schools is access to faculty and low faculty:student ratios. The marginal cost of making 20,000 meals versus 22,000 meals 3x/day is lower than the marginal cost of making 4,000 meals versus 2,000 meals.

    Some of it is marketing. Price is a signaling mechanism for status in our culture. The more expensive it is, the more exclusive it is, and the better it must be. Most people don’t aspire to go to Eastern Connecticut State University. They do aspire to go to Yale.

    And part of it is that state school’s still have mandated missions, even if those mandates are unfunded. I’m currently looking to career switch to full time higher ed teaching, and have been focusing my search on community colleges for a number of reasons. A college that I interviewed at on Tuesday told me that their Chancellor recently lowered the goal of 50% of sections taught by adjuncts (or faculty overloads) up to 60%. An instructor costs the CC about $75K (including the cost of healthcare, retirement benefits, etc.) to teach 30 credits per year, plus all of the administrative responsibilities, but the adjunct/overload/summer rate is about $1650 per 3-credit course.

    The CC still has to stick to its mission to provide open access education to everyone with a GED or HS diploma, to work with the Texas Workforce Commission on developing and implementing certificates and training programs that meet the high demand career projections for the CC’s service area, to act as a bridge between high school and four-year colleges, etc. It just has to do it with less money, and so it does things like making departments run with two full-time faculty instead of three when one retires, even as the number of sections offered increases.

  8. Moderate Mom says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The disconnect runs in the other direction too. North Carolina cut funding by 14.6%, yet raised tuition by 31.3%. Why such a steep increase in tuition, when decreased funding by the state, as a percentage, is less than half of the increase?

  9. wr says:

    @Moderate Mom: “The disconnect runs in the other direction too. North Carolina cut funding by 14.6%, yet raised tuition by 31.3%. Why such a steep increase in tuition, when decreased funding by the state, as a percentage, is less than half of the increase? ”

    Possibly because we’re talking about percentages of different numbers? Isn’t it possible that 14 percent of state funding equals 31 percent of tuition?

  10. john personna says:

    New at Time Magazine’s Curious Capitalist:

    Money Talking: Is College Worth It?

    Strong recommendations for JCs.

  11. For the love of god, why is Figure 3 not a scatter plot? If you’re gonna argue there’s a correlation between two variables, why don’t you at least show us the correlation instead of two completely uncorrelated lists of data and leave it to use to figure out if there’s any real relationship there.

  12. Dave Schuler says:

    Let’s consider a devil’s advocate position for a moment. Why shouldn’t students be shouldering a larger proportion of the costs of attending a college or university? In Illinois tuitions accounted for less than a quarter of the total costs of University of Illinois (link above).

    Socializing a cost makes sense when the society benefits from doing so. It makes less sense when the individual who’s being subsidized benefits but not the society as a whole. In stark terms why should somebody who doesn’t have a college education pay for the college education of a stranger?

    When there was a close relationship between employment and higher education, that was one argument in favor. The relationship isn’t as close as it used to be.

    Note that I’m not staking out a position here. It’s just something to think about.

  13. Septimius says:

    In a completely, totally, absolutely, utterly unrelated story, “salaries of presidents of U.S. public universities rose almost 5 percent in the last fiscal year, even as tuition rose and student debt soared, with the median pay package topping $400,000, according to a report released on Sunday.”

    But, back to the topic at hand, I’d love to see the relevant data showing the decreases in tuition during the years when state funding increased. That would be proof that state funding is the “major driver” of tuition costs as this post contends.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @ Trumwill…
    I think that private institutions spend far more on amenities, in an attempt to recruit students, than state schools can.
    Those amenitites translate into higher tuition and fees.

  15. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Citizens have two intertwined goals: personal development and economic development.

    If the citizen believes that any post-secondary education has equal benefits for the student and society as a whole, then yes, creating a “joint purchase” deal makes sense. There is no need to discriminate.

    Of course, if you believe money is tight, and that spending should be concentrated for ROI, you look at it differently.

  16. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But you are, Steven. I guess I was mostly reacting to this remark of yours from James’s post:

    However, perhaps the most significant driver of the problem at state schools is ongoing, and significant, decreased in state funding for ostensibly state schools. When schools get less, often quite a bit less, than 20% of their funding from the state, they have to get the money from somewhere, and that somewhere is tuition and fees.

    When I looked at a concrete example, Illinois, the numbers don’t add up. By far the larger problem is that costs are increasing.

  17. john personna says:

    @Septimius:

    A good example of the principal-agent problem I mentioned above. State Universities spend a lot of time competing with each other for ranking … which is pretty much wasted effort from the broader societal perspective.

    Actually from a societal perspective you want a broad set of choices, and not a bunch of state schools trying to be the same, to cluster “at the top.”

  18. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Septimius: Not to justify salaries one way or the other, but the article you cited doesn’t adequately explain the data set the Chronicle uses. The original article is paywalled, but I have a subscription so, here’s how the population was derived:

    These data show the compensation received in the 2012 fiscal year by 212 chief executives at 191 public universities and systems in the United States…Our analysis included public research universities and affiliated systems with enrollments of at least 10,000, and universities with smaller enrollments that are state flagships.”

    So this isn’t all public universities, it is state flagships, universities classified as research schools, and includes system presidents (which, in my opinion, skews the data). So the Presidents of the University of California System, University of Texas System, University of Illinois System, etc., are included, in addition to the Presidents fo UCLA, Berkeley, UT Austin, etc., 40 System heads are included, in all, with a median salary of roughly $453,000, which skews the data set.

    Additionally, as your article notes, the median salary for private institution presidents over the same period was $398,000. Again, separate from whether these salaries as a whole are fair or not, a competitive research university is competing against the entire population of research universities for talent, not just other publics.

  19. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Sometimes it’s advantageous to look further than school ranking.

    I wanted my daughter to go to William and Mary. She could have gotten in, too, she’s tremendously smart and her high school grades were stellar. But she chose a less-competitive school…and got a full ride scholarship, which she wouldn’t have gotten from W & M. Now she’s a PhD candidate in a hard science who has no student loan debt (grad school was paid for, too).

    OK, I admit I’m bragging a bit, too, but it still makes sense for kids coming out of high school to explore different options. I figure unless it’s one of the Ivies, it doesn’t really matter all that much where you went, anyway.

  20. Console says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Why shouldn’t students be shouldering a larger proportion of the costs of attending a college or university?

    Because sorting human capital by ability to pay is irrational and arbitrary. The same logic that applies to primary school applies to university. A society where only those that can afford it are the only ones that learn to read and write is a society that will pale in comparison to a universally educated one.

  21. Anon says:

    Rather than comparing the number of non-tenure-track instructors vs. tenure-track instructors, I think it would be interesting to see tenure-track hours taught vs. non-tenure track hours taught.

  22. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    I wanted my daughter to go to William and Mary. She could have gotten in, too, she’s tremendously smart and her high school grades were stellar. But she chose a less-competitive school…and got a full ride scholarship, which she wouldn’t have gotten from W & M.

    Congratulations! Still, this is the dark side of the rankings pursuit. There was another article recently which pointed out, net-net, this meant that average students at the “less competitive school” were subsidizing your daughter.

    To the extent that the “average student” comes from less privileged backgrounds, this becomes a transfer from the poor to the rich.

  23. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I just looked at the Chronicle’s private school data set to see what was in it. It includes 494 colleges of all levels (those classified as bachelors, masters, and doctoral institutions). Since the public university data set is only including flagships and research institutions (the private data set ‘doctoral’ classification being roughly synonymous with the public data set ‘research’ classification), I stripped down the private college data set to be limited to only those classified as doctoral.

    The data set includes 98 doctoral private universities, so the median is average between 48th and 49th place.

    48th is Joel Seligman of Univ. of Rochester. Total Comp of $769,414.
    49th is Rev. John I. Jenkins of Notre Dame. Total Comp of $738,399.

    So the median comp. for private research university presidents is 753,906.50. This is roughly 1.875 times the median salary for a comperable public research university president or system head. Additionally the private data set is from 2010, the public data set is from 2012, so it includes two additional years of salary inflation, which likely understates the multiplier.

    [I realize that using paywalled data sucks. Likely Stephen Taylor or Matt Bernius can verify that I am not misrepresenting the data sets.]

  24. john personna says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Wasn’t there a time when University President was a status position, for someone who had made their wealth in another area, and now sought recognition and service?

    The fallacy in peer-comparisons is that they only consider [the in-group and] they can never measure the excluded set – people who would have done “it” at a University or as a CEO as well, for less. Indeed when you get a high compensation value network in place, it will absolutely ratchet itself upward, continuing without those missing players.

  25. Trumwill Mobile says:

    @Console: I don’t think the logic of primary ed does actually apply ti university ed. There is a point of diminishing returns.

  26. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    There was another article recently which pointed out, net-net, this meant that average students at the “less competitive school” were subsidizing your daughter.

    Well, in her case it was an endowed scholarship rather than one drawn from university funding.

    At the same time, I don’t have a problem with schools competing to draw brighter students. I’d just like to see students from all areas have the opportunity, and I fear those in less-privileged areas are often passed over even though they could have succeeded.

  27. Console says:

    @Trumwill Mobile:

    Well yes, there is a point where we have to sort more and more by aptitude, but either way, that’s way more rational than using “ability to pay” as an additional qualifier.

  28. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @john personna: As I noted, I was presenting data, not an opinion. If you’re somehow able to measure your counterfactual group of people willing to run a multi-billion dollar complex organization for a fraction of the cost of the current crop, please, by all means, provide that data, or at least explain the model and the assumptions behind it.

    As to my opinion, an organization as large and complex as the University of Texas System or The Ohio State University should have someone with experience in some form of public administration at the helm. Not someone who wants to buy themselves a cushy status symbol after a career as a robber baron. Let that guy buy a statium or the naming rights to a School of Management.

    Additionally, when people like that do get ‘status’ jobs in public institutions, that is generally a sign of political corruption or cronyism. Credentialism may not be the best way to select job candidates, but it is certainly a better methodology than giving it to the guy who dumped a few million dollars into Governor Rick Perry’s PAC.

  29. john personna says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Let me get this straight, I say “they only consider [the in-group and] they can never measure the excluded set .”

    And you say I should measure the immeasurable to make the argument?

    That would be kind of self-defeating.

  30. john personna says:

    More broadly I think you make the extreme economists’ position that worth can and always should reduce to salary. I think we’ve drifted that way in the US, but that it is not healthy. Absolutely money is one form of compensation, but in a healthy society it is not the only one.

    I mean, if Michael Dell bailed from University of Texas at Austin, or wherever, and proved himself a shrewd businessman, why wouldn’t and why shouldn’t that school beg him to take their Presidency for $1/yr?

    Probably every state school has a billionaire ex-student who would make a great President.

  31. michael reynolds says:

    When I (briefly) attended university it was not seen as vocational training. At some point we all apparently decided that the sole purpose of education was to supply the job market. But now we’re told higher education no longer supplies the market and it is therefore essentially useless, or at least not a positive thing in and of itself for society writ large.

    No. The mistake is believing that education is just training for work. Education does a great deal more than that. It supplies educated, informed voters — vital in a democratic society. It perpetuates central stories – history – that are vital to our sense of belonging to a society. It trains minds to learn, and given that the job market seems to be shifting, that’s more important than ever. It feeds art, vital to civilization.

    The error was assuming – and an assumption is all it is – that college is nothing but a mechanism for feeding employees to business. We are not merely drones marching in lockstep from birth to employment. We will not be able to maintain a civilization if we treat human beings that way, and see ourselves that way. It’s one of the reasons I detect so much panic when I talk about “robot socialism.” People who see themselves solely in terms of their careers are going to panic when they notice that things are changing. People with a wider perspective will find ways to adapt.

  32. @michael reynolds: You hit on an important part of the discussion.

    I will note that the training v. education part of the debate continues.

  33. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I was watching some old, old, movie when the words “he’s a college man” were said, and had meaning.

    You may not have realized at your point in time that you were in the midst of a transition. College had been a rare signal of either academic merit or family wealth. Both academic merit and family wealth signaled future success.

    As I said in the [other] thread, in the 60’s no one expected college degrees to be a gateway to bad, hourly, jobs. “He’s a college man,” after all.

    IOW, you many have been aware of how much college attendance was about future income … but it was. Until it stopped working.

  34. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You might argue that the Barista with a History Degree will have higher life satisfaction than the Barista without one … but what we are seeing now is the Barista with the degree saying “what the f*ck just happened?”

  35. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @john personna: @john personna: I guess you must have missed “at least explain the model and the assumptions behind it.” In other words, if the thing you want to describe is immeasurable, but you want other people to regards your thoughts as providing a meritous argument rather than just the opinion of some fool on the internet, you’ve at least got to provide some way to provide frame the argument, and a theoretical model with well-described assumptions is probably the best way to go about it.

    I look at financial projections on a daily basis. No one expects them to be accurate, since the future hasn’t happened yet, but I do have to opine on their resonablenss, based on the perceived validity of their underlying assumptions.

  36. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @john personna: Holy crap, bro, do you not understand that I was just attempting to further describe a paywalled data set that a linked Reuters article was misrepresenting? Seriously, what is your damage, Heather?

  37. john personna says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    I totally understood, and I think digested, your comparison.

    I just noted that your comparison, like the CEO comparisons, was never going to capture the whole picture.

    And I certainly laid out the logic of the missing data.

  38. john personna says:
  39. michael reynolds says:

    We need to decouple education from pointless credentialing. We need to put more of it online, which will drop prices while widening reach and elevating the best teachers. We need to understand that there’s a deep disconnect between a college teaching about four year-old software and a company HR department demanding four years of experience with a software that’s only a year old. We need to stop imagining that a college can adapt its curriculum to rapidly changing needs. Businesses need to do more in-house training.

    And we need to teach kids that education is a good thing in and of itself, entirely without regard to employment or grades or credential. Do you need to know what the Magna Carta is to get a job at Apple? No. No more than Steve Jobs needed the famous calligraphy class. Trying to understand the value of education with numbers alone is like trying to understand Van Gogh with algebra.

  40. Trumwill Mobile says:

    @Console: I generally support merit-based scholarships (witg an income component). My ears just perked up with the comparison between primary and college ed.

  41. Dave Schuler says:

    @Console:

    I don’t find that analogy that convincing. Every state recognizes a right to K-12 education at no charge; no state recognizes a comparable right to higher education. Indeed, I don’t think that any country in the world recognizes such a right.

    Additionally, every state dictates the curriculum of K-12 education along pretty constrained lines. Not so with higher education. The students have a much greater degree to chart their own paths at the university level. It seems to me its reasonable for that latitude to come at a price and for the price to be paid by the student.

    Finally, there’s an argument to be made that higher education is a sorting mechanism. To the extent that’s the case saying you can’t sort by what’s necessarily a sorting mechanism makes little sense.

  42. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “At some point we all apparently decided that the sole purpose of education was to supply the job market”

    No, we haven’t. There’s an overlapping set of engineers who believe that education can only be valued as a percentage of returned salary and thus that only STEM degrees have any worth and right wingers who hate the idea of an educated populace, and they all agree on this — quite loudly on the internet.

    But there are others who don’t believe that humans should be interchangeable widgets programmed to fit into whichever industry the country has a temporary need for.

  43. wr says:

    @john personna: “You might argue that the Barista with a History Degree will have higher life satisfaction than the Barista without one … but what we are seeing now is the Barista with the degree saying “what the f*ck just happened?” ”

    And your solution, time and again, is that the barista shouldn’t have that degree… or that he should have gotten a STEM degree.

    The other option is to attempt to end the corruption in our society that has encouraged the transfer of our nation’s wealth to a tiny fraction of the populace and obliterated both industries and social safety net.

    If we didn’t decide it was more important to cut taxes on billionaires, we could go back to funding education, and the history major would have a place to teach and research and improve our knowledge base.

    That seems ot me a better choice than saying ‘history degree is worthless, go learn to code.”

  44. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    A good round-up here of free university programs: wikipedia free education

    (They make it work of course by having similar government college funding per capita, but higher funding per student. Reducing the denominator.)

  45. john personna says:

    @wr:

    I’m not really making the argument you put in my mouth.

    And besides, I think it is more honest to keep focus on that barista, and the kids at Occupy, who very clearly did ask “what happened?”

    Someone, perhaps not you, but someone sold them a future that didn’t work out.

  46. john personna says:

    @wr:

    BTW, really note that our per-capita funding of higher education has not moved that much in 25 years.

    That’s a big deal.

  47. @michael reynolds:

    At some point we all apparently decided that the sole purpose of education was to supply the job market.

    Man, you’re right on with that. I think that would be shocking to anyone who attended college prior to….I dunno….the 1970s.

    I wish this part was true, though:

    We need to put more of it online, which will drop prices while widening reach and elevating the best teachers.

    All the schools I’ve looked at recently are actually charging a premium for online classes. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “Since this will be more convenient for you and we have this whole campus you’re not going to use….you get twice the price!”

  48. john personna says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Man, you’re right on with that. I think that would be shocking to anyone who attended college prior to….I dunno….the 1970s.

    I think you mean it is shocking to people came through in a very special gap, say 1960 to 1980.

    Before the GI Bill university was for those seeking skills (for the workforce) and those already rich[*]. The GI Bill cohort definitely were there to get good jobs. Their kids, the Baby Boomers without direct Great Depression experience, came at it differently. They thought a Great Society could give everyone high education and that implicitly high education would give a privileged life.

    If that generation had ended up serving coffee, not as a poet’s choice, but as the best they could do … you would have seen the same shock we see now, in this generation.

    [* – actually prior to 1940 you also had people who chose a life of scholarship and penury.]

  49. Dave Schuler says:

    @john personna:

    Thanks. In many if not most of the countries on the list students must qualify for higher education. In other words, they do their sorting prior to the university level.

  50. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Right, and for those who don’t take the college path they have apprenticeships and etc.

  51. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Speaking of sorting prior, in that Time Curious Capitalist audio up top, they note with sadness that much student debt is carried by students who did not complete a degree.

    And so in the worst case we do our sorting part way through a college degree.

  52. @wr:

    The problem is you’re assuming “has a liberal arts degree” is equivalent to “is an educated person”. Which isn’t true in either direction. I’ve met a lot of people with four year degrees who are incredibly uneducated because college has become a lot more about completing a checklist as quick as possible so you can move on than it is about actually educating people. And conversely, I’ve met a lot of very educated people who never went to college, because they’ve done a lot of reading on your own.

    If your actual interest is education for education’s sake, there’s far cheaper ways to learn stuff, particularly nowadays with things like the internet and Amazon.com available. The only difference is you don’t get that “Edujmacated is you!” paper at the end. But unless you need that paper to get a job, why should that matter?

  53. @Stormy Dragon:

    Kinda going off my own remarks: part of the problem with colleges and universities is they’re too tied to degree programs. Instead of expecting people to take four years out of their lives to do nothing but study, followed by never taking a class again, why not sell course individually as something you can do in your spare time solely for your own personal fullfillment?

  54. john personna says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I haven’t been keeping close track. I think I’ve started 4-6 MOOCs and completed 2-3. That is surprising to me. I thought I was a big A-Type personality on this kind of thing, and that once in a course I’d have to complete it. I’m doubly surprised though that I’ve dropped some, and am pleased with that. Even the drops have value. If you go part way into a MOOC you learn more about it, in a guided way, and you may discover (for instance) that functional computer languages (SCALA) are not that interesting to you. You gave the topic a shot, and now you know more about why you don’t like it. Conversely you can find courses you enjoy and that bring positive feedbacks all the way through.

    (When I got to writing a paper for Dan Ariely it was such a pain. I hadn’t had a written college assignment in 30 years. But I pushed through. I later discovered that of the >100,000 who signed into the course, only 6,000 made it past the written assignment bottleneck.)

  55. Mikey says:

    @john personna: When you mentioned a few weeks ago you had signed up for the Scala course on Coursera, I was inspired to sign up for a Python course there.

    I have to thank you, because it is really a lot of fun. The course is well-taught, and I am doing fine even though my programming background is minimal (a Java course I took in 2006 that I didn’t particularly enjoy).

    It could have turned out differently, of course, but so far I’ve enjoyed it and have recommended Coursera to friends and co-workers. And I’d recommend everyone here take a look at it, too, if you haven’t already.

  56. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Excellent, I’m glad you are enjoying it.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Yeah, but courses can be put online from anyone, anywhere. That inevitably drives down prices, just as digital music and books have driven down prices, despite the best efforts of established business — music, publishing, etc…

  58. @john personna: A MOOC? What’s a MOOC? You can’t call me a MOOC.

    (Has anyone seen Mean Streets?)

    Seriously, though……I might have to try one of those MOOCs. Know any good ones about chemistry?

  59. @michael reynolds: This is almost certainly true if the goal is to simply share classes. However, if one wants them to be part of broader degree program, it actually get complicated, not so much from the course perspective, but from the perspective of the bureaucracy needed to advise, track, and process students at numerous locations.

    And to James’ point: our online classes are actually more expensive than our on-campus classes, IIRC. (And we have been delivering classes online for ~14 years)

  60. Stan says:

    @Dave Schuler: “I don’t think that any country in the world recognizes such a right.”

    Doesn’t Finland? I thought education in Finland was funded by the government up to and including graduate school. See

    http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/finlanddiary/

  61. michael reynolds says:

    The idea of a university as a place you go to for four years in order to walk away with a credential is an obsolete idea being kept alive by HR departments in private industry. If companies actually started hiring on the basis of competence they might find they do better than by relying on this b.s. one-off qualification.

    Of course I do have a personal axe to grind on this. I have zero diplomas, zero degrees and have taken zero creative writing courses. Who knows more about writing kidlit series? No one. But I couldn’t begin to get a job as a teacher. If I knew a tenth as much, but had a BA, I could teach. Brilliant system.

  62. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I assume you’re delivering online classes to a captive audience — your enrolled students. Move past the idea of enrollment and all that entails and you could just throw your own lectures up online and charge 5 bucks or whatever. (I’m oversimplifying.)

  63. john personna says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    Coursera has nine chemistry courses on their books. I’m kind of amazed that they have “Analytical Chemistry / Instrumental Analysis.” I took that one in a classroom way back when, and it seemed pretty tied to labs.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As I say in the other thread, Sebastian Thrun discovered he had to charge $7K for his online Masters. Of course, that’s for the full degree and not just for the semester.

    It will be interesting to see where the second entrant to this category sets their price.

    (All of these players have start-up costs. They longer they can spin the same material, the more students who see the same video, who take the same quiz, the lower the per-student cost.)

  64. john personna says:

    Georgia Tech expects to hire only eight or so new instructors even as it takes its master’s program from 300 students to as many as 10,000 within three years, said Zvi Galil, the dean of computing at Georgia Tech.

  65. @Steven L. Taylor:

    our online classes are actually more expensive than our on-campus classes, IIRC.

    Do you have any ideas as to why that is? I doubt it has anything to do with recouping costs. It always seemed like a way of discouraging online classes and herding students to the classroom.

    Reminds me of how publishers wanted to keep eBook prices high so as not to compete with their print books. What’s your take?
    @michael reynolds:

    If companies actually started hiring on the basis of competence they might find they do better than by relying on this b.s. one-off qualification.

    We may get there eventually. In my industry, a CCNA is way more valuable than a 4 year degree. But then again, if you get a 4 year degree and a CCNA, you can write your own ticket.

  66. Trumwill says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): It might be an in-state, out-of-state issue. I’ve been looking at going back to school online (but at the online arm of a traditional school, not Phoenix). Troy is one of the schools higher up on my list.

    If I recall, Troy has a flat-rate whether you’re in-state or out-of-state, if you’re an online student. I assume that Stephen is referring to in-state tuition. Which it might make sense to be cheaper because they’re in-state. Granted, if someone in Birmingham wants in, they’re paying more than if they moved to Troy, but I’d guess it’s cost-simplification.

    Different schools handle it differently. The Dakota schools, which have varying degrees of impressive online programs, charge in-state tuition regardless of where you live if you’re an online student. The University of North Dakota is another one high on my list.

    Other states charge out-of-staters the same tuition that they would if you moved there. So schools like Texas Tech and North Carolina State dropped off my list for that reason.

    Wyoming recently made the decision to switch from charging in-state tuition to out-of-state tuition. Prior to their decision to do that, I had actually settled on going to UWyo.

    When there’s little or no chance that a potential student is going to pay the full out-of-state freight, there’s not much incentive for them to charge out-of-state prices. NCSU and TTU can probably afford it, but I think Wyoming is seriously shooting itself in the foot. But outside that, I don’t think they want to financially incentivize people getting the degree online instead of attending the school. Generally speaking.

  67. KariQ says:

    I was born just after the baby boom generation. It was a great time to go to school. We had relatively new facilities that were well maintained, teachers who were treated with respect by the community, and a culture that valued education. All of it funded by the WW II and “silent” generation.

    I am increasingly thankful for that. They though education was important. I wish our grandparents could collectively take us by the ears and make us fund education for our children and grandchildren the way they so unstintingly funded ours.

  68. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds: just throw your own lectures up online

    You hit the heart of the matter. “Online” courses by and large have been attempts to do the classroom virtually. And just like watching a movie of a stage play, it is a poor experience. But we are now starting to see real innovation in using the new medium for a whole new experience. Just like they did with movies.

    Don’t expect real innovation from the universities or most professors. They have vested interests in the live, schedule performances. But sooner or later, we’ll have the nickelodeon and eventually that will grow in sophistication to where it moves back into the theaters.

    In truth, I expect we’ll see the most innovation come from Africa, either an educated local or a Westerner who innovates to get learning out past the school yard where the need is. But either way, the new way of transferring knowledge will make its way back into our system. Informally at first as the education monopoly controls the credentials with the threat of government violence. But there will be competencies that people develop sans credentials that will be of value to others and thus create jobs.

  69. Trumwill says:

    @john personna: Also, throw this log onto the fire.

  70. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    You’re right.

    When I go into schools to do presentations, I use a Keynote (Apple’s far superior version of PowerPoint) with, I think, about 60 slides, music, animations, maps, and six or eight short videos. Runs about 28 minutes. It usually takes about a day to put together, with my son doing the tech end of things for a couple hundred bucks. When I watch online lectures it’s bad video of some dude standing at a podium mumbling through his notes.

    If I can do it, I don’t see why professors and their grad students can’t do it. I’ve never lost an audience yet, and I’m talking to middle school kids, not necessarily known for their attention spans.

    This is all off-the-rack technology. Keynote, a laptop, an iPhone camera. Not rocket science.

  71. @KariQ:

    I am increasingly thankful for that. They though education was important. I wish our grandparents could collectively take us by the ears and make us fund education for our children and grandchildren the way they so unstintingly funded ours.

    Funding isn’t the problem, as we continually spend more and more on education. The question is why, in education as in so many other areas, we continually seem to be getting less and less value back for what we do spend.

  72. Pharoah Narim says:

    @Michael Reynolds: As the saying goes: Those that can–do. Those that can’t–teach.

  73. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    If you wanted to teach creative writing you could find a college or private high school that would hire you based on your experience. Have you looked?

  74. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Runs about 28 minutes. It usually takes about a day to put together, with my son doing the tech end of things for a couple hundred bucks.

    I think you answered your own question there. A middle school teacher will have 6-7 40 min+ classes a day and can’t afford a couple hundred bucks to help prep each of them.

    That isn’t to say that more innovative approaches shouldn’t be taken. However, thinking that you coming in once to that group and not losing them over a half hour whiz bang presentation that they don’t have to show competence on afterward is somehow comparable to teaching for competency day in and day out to those kids is ridiculous.

  75. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    Oh, no, I don’t actually want to teach. I was just using that as an example. Teaching would be actual work.

    And my point of comparison was online college lectures. I’m very well aware that I have an unfair advantage in middle schools.

  76. Trumwill says:

    Michael reminds me of the case of my father. He has a master’s degree in economics and worked his way up from a budget analyst to a deputy financial administrator of a government installation with a budget in the 9 figure range.

    After he earned his pension, he looked into being a high school math teacher.

    He couldn’t, though, because he was considered unqualified. Wrong degree.

  77. Mikey says:

    @john personna: It’s really cool. I did Pong. Yeah, I know it’s the “original” videogame and there aren’t any fancy graphics and whatever, but I WROTE IT and it acts just like Pong should. I’m not sure I’d be any prouder if I’d written the next Call of Duty game, or something like that.

    I’m not new to online learning, though–I did my Master’s online. That was no cakewalk. I had to do just as much reading and just as much analysis and writing as anyone in a “traditional” course of study. The only major difference I found, based on comparison of the Master’s program with my undergrad experience, was class discussions are asynchronous. They took place on discussion boards, so there was usually a wait for a response to a question or comment.

    But if that’s the only real difference…why can’t we deliver more learning that way? And why should it be just as expensive as a “traditional” course of study (believe me, mine was)?

  78. Grewgills says:

    @Trumwill:
    Did he look at private high schools or high schools, charter high schools, or high schools that are short of math and science teachers?

  79. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    The main component I see being lost in delivering coursework online at any level is the interaction. That is no big loss in the cattle call courses where a prof is lecturing at over 100 students, but in smaller courses that are typical after the first year or at private universities where class sizes tend towards 30 or less I think a lot of that attention and ability to ask for and receive help in understanding concepts covered would go largely missing in a virtual class. I also think lab courses would be hurt by losing physical attendance.

  80. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    I just finished Dan Ariely’s Irrational Behavior at Coursera. (I got a 92%!)

    Anyway, you might like to watch Dan’s summing-up video on his experience making and teaching the course:

    Reflections on Coursera

    These MOOCs vary, but this one has the highest production values I’ve seen (though yes, the summing up is a “guy on a couch” video 😉

  81. john personna says:

    This one relates to Michael’s themes in several ways:

    Why Universities Need to Redefine Education to Include Adult Learners

  82. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    What he said mirrors pretty closely discussions I have had with fellow faculty, the optimal experience being students coming in to the lecture period for discussion etc after having viewed the lecture at home. That model or even the typical Coursera model with the discussion occurring via message boards can work very well for very self motivated students which would include the bulk of the nontraditional students and a minority of traditional students.
    The purpose of the course also matters. As he mentioned they are working out how to weigh the workload for the Coursera students and that load would fall short of the typical load he would assign for his traditional classes. If this were to be for some sort of certification or degree program the performance expectations should be the same. It seems too that with this model the assessments tend towards multiple choice tests which I find less effective than other methods of assessment, but that seems to be a minority opinion, so I don’t know that that separates it out from the bulk of traditional universities. I know some of my students wish that I used more multiple choice. They don’t entirely appreciate it when I point out that when they have a patient emergency that it is not likely that 5 ready made choices will pop up in front of them, so recall memory is more important than recognition memory.
    All that said I do like the format for adult and other motivated learners and, with only a few reservations, hope it proliferates to a degree that brings other competing models down in price.

  83. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Coursera’s early strategy seems to be to catch as many profs and partners as possible, and to see what sticks to the wall. Ariely’s course had us read four or five research papers per week, which made it more serious than the other MOOCs I’ve seen. Dan mentioned that he saw more and less serious paths within his course, and the readings were probably a big divider.

    For what it’s worth, on traditional students, I think the dangerous idea is that the MOOC authors can be at a more highly accredited Uni than the student. No reason a local JC could not “offer” Dan’s course, with discussion in their classroom.

    As the second linked article says, we are seeing more diverse learning paths, and it will probably be less winner take all than revolutionaries or conservatives expect. (Some conservatives do still expect to take all, once the noise dies down. Unlikely.)

    Apologies for phone input errors.

  84. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    BTW Coursera has a peer grading mechanism for non-multiple choice. Shrug. Probably compares well to a bored TA.

  85. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    I do like the mixed approach so there isn’t as much ‘wasted’ time in weekly meetings and that period can be put to better more interactive use. Traditional students tend to need more motivating and sometimes hand holding through the process to keep them on track. A motivated learner will learn in any of these environments. I would like to see free or near free (small fees to cover admin and accrediting) options for motivated learners to not just further their education for their own edification, but to get the paper that can get them a better job or better pay at their current job.

  86. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    Perhaps a discussion for another time, and as “massive” techniques are developed and proven, would be how we split student populations to different paths.

    If you are teaching medicine you might be the last man standing in the old “in at pre-school, out at post-grad” pipeline.

    Where we are seeing breakdown (#occupy) is with those who the pipeline did not serve (even if from their professors’ perspective it did – they got the kid out the door with a degree).

  87. JKB says:

    @Grewgills:

    Discounting a new way of transferring knowledge because to the “school helplessness” in “traditional” student induced by the current failing system is not a good argument.

    Yes, the transition will be difficult. Millions have been damaged by the current education cartel. We may not be able to save them or all of them.

    But that is no reason not to save those not yet to damaged

    ===============
    The detrimental effects of the spoon-feeding lecture has long been known. Earliest I’ve seen quoted research is from a book published in 1886.

    Here is a quote from a book on teaching how to study published 1909

    In spite of the fact that schools exist for the sake of education, there is many a school whose pupils show a peculiar “school helplessness”; that is, they are capable of less initiative in connection with their school tasks than they commonly exhibit in the accomplishment of other tasks.

    Just because we’ve been stuck in damaging system for over 100 years and now those who at least found a way to survive that system might not be prepared to be self-motivated, is not reason to not embrace new ways, using new technology. Just because those who did best in the old system, university graduates through professors, resist the change is no reason not to embrace new ways to transfer knowledge. We may find it a superior way for those who dropped out of the old system for various reasons.

    It is common to think that those who do not thrive in college as being less intellectual when really all it proves is they don’t thrive in the system imposed by the education cartel. In the past, such students had an easier time achieving success and wealth without the education cartel’s stamp of approval, that has changed not because those people are less capable but because government regulation has shored up the education cartel’s credentialing as a requirement. It is the same as licensing hair dressers, to limit competition and drive up profits for cartel members.

  88. Grewgills says:

    @JKB:
    You seem to be responding to something that I did not write.
    I did not discount any system of learning. What I did do was to point out that from my experience the MOOC approach would likely much better serve more self motivated learners such as the typical non traditional student.
    As for the current ‘cartel’ failing that very much depends on your measures. It is FAR more inclusive than it once was and that very inclusiveness makes it appear less effective than it once was. It is not the best system for everyone and most people I have met that work in education support any system that can bring in and educate more people. What I don’t support is tearing down one system before another more effective system is put in place which from what I have read from you seems to be your preferred approach.

    In the past, such students had an easier time achieving success and wealth without the education cartel’s stamp of approval, that has changed not because those people are less capable but because government regulation has shored up the education cartel’s credentialing as a requirement.

    In which mythical past is this?

  89. Grewgills says:

    @john personna:
    There are always going to be breakdowns in any pipeline and assuming costs aren’t prohibitive, then the more pipelines that can serve more people the better.

  90. john personna says:

    I think we are at a point where every high school should teach “How to Pass an Online Course” before graduation. That brings every high school graduate into the “non-traditional” tent, on at least some subjects.

    Recommended for most anyone:

    Financial Markets, by Robert Shiller(!) at Coursera in February 2014.

    After that … a big battle is brewing in certification. It would be pretty foolish to call that fight in a general way, for all disciplines, before it happens.

    That said though, there have always been fields where you can demonstrate competence simply by demonstrating competence. A would-be reporter files a story, etc. What you don’t want to do is just self-certify your confidence, and without demonstration, demand that people treat you as seriously as an “externally certified” graduate.

  91. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    By “pipleline” I was trying to use a visual metaphor for our current system, one with pretty much one path, and few choices. You get in the pipe with pre-school or kindergarten, and the only choice is where you get off.

    High school students are prepped to go to college or consider themselves drop-outs.

    Bloomberg’s “be a plumber” is in the news. It sounds like a muddled message, but the same thing can be said better. Or again, see those really intelligent Nordic systems with free university … but for fewer people, and with apprentice and certificate paths as an alternative.

  92. Grewgills says:

    I am curious how the MOOCs control for cheating. If the tests aren’t taken at a testing center of some sort where IDs are presented and students are monitored how do the testers know that the person taking the test is the one getting credit?

  93. john personna says:

    @Grewgills:

    They basically make it difficult, but not impossible, to cheat. It’s hard enough that you’d probably need to get your buddy to take the whole class for you.

    They intersperse lectures with “what did he just say?” questions. They dynamically generate quizzes and tests, reordering and selecting from a large set of wrong answers. They might even choose from a larger set of questions and right answers. With 10,000 students the “hey, his test is different than mine” complaint seems kind of silly.

    I think that’s fine at a course level. If you were offering a real degree and wanted to maintain your own brand value, you’d probably want to send people to testing centers for mid-terms or finals.

  94. JKB says:

    @Grewgills: In which mythical past is this?

    That would be the world of Sam Walton, Henry Ford, Nicolai Tesla, etc. All those who shaped our world with useful products but didn’t pass through the university machine. The world for even the early Baby Boomers who could continue on to very successful lives without a college degree but now couldn’t get the jobs they held because those jobs now require a college degree.

    Many jobs these day require a “college degree” yet the employers really can’t articulate a skills-based rationale for the requirement. Yet, government regulations often require the holding of certain degrees. To be fair to the government they often also have a convoluted array of prior experience that might qualify.

    I’m afraid the myth is that a college degree is required for most jobs. Some can articulate a need for skills endemic with a STEM degree but few can explain the requirement for a BA. Especially since more than on professor has argued the liberal arts programs are not to transfer skills to the student.

    No need to tear down the old system but neither should we let it stand in the way of innovation.

  95. KariQ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Funding isn’t the problem, as we continually spend more and more on education. The question is why, in education as in so many other areas, we continually seem to be getting less and less value back for what we do spend.

    I would say, rather, that funding isn’t the only problem. As the article above points out, we have been cutting funding to public universities and increasing tuition costs at the same time. We are underfunding our public universities, and more money for them is the answer to that problem.

    (I also think that much of the “public schools are failing” is, at best, an exaggeration. Some schools are, but the vast majority of k-12 public schools students are getting as good an education as we did, or better. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

  96. john personna says:

    @JKB:

    Read the biography of Jordi Muñoz

  97. Grewgills says:

    @JKB:
    and where did the richest man in the world graduate college?

  98. jukeboxgrad says:

    console:

    Because sorting human capital by ability to pay is irrational and arbitrary. The same logic that applies to primary school applies to university. A society where only those that can afford it are the only ones that learn to read and write is a society that will pale in comparison to a universally educated one.

    Yes. When any human capital is wasted we all become poorer, because that wasted capital would have boosted the economy.

    And an enormous amount of human capital is being wasted (link):

    … only 44 percent of low-income high school seniors with high standardized test scores enroll in a four-year college, according to a Century Foundation report — compared with about 50 percent of high-income seniors who have average test scores.

    “The extent of wasted human capital,” wrote the report’s authors, Anthony P. Carnevale and Jeff Strohl, “is phenomenal.”

    This comparison understates the problem, too, because SAT scores are hardly a pure measure of merit. Well-off students often receive SAT coaching and take the test more than once, Mr. Marx notes, and top colleges reward them for doing both. Colleges also reward students for overseas travel and elaborate community service projects. “Colleges don’t recognize, in the same way, if you work at the neighborhood 7-Eleven to support your family,” he adds.

    I added emphasis because I think those words are easy to miss.

    The important underlying fact is that plenty of smart people are born poor. The ultimate result of our current policies is that we will be uncompetitive against societies that do a better job of making sure that everyone smart is fully educated, even when those people are born poor.

  99. john personna says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    I called for an electrician, and a kid came out. I talked to him as he did the small jobs. He was as smart as anyone I’ve met in a career of software and engineering. He was happy, and bills a really good rate. He chose that path because his dad was also an electrician and taught him the business.

    A kid like that will do really well, no wasted human capital, without college.

    Indeed college boys will call him up and pay him his rate.

    (Human Capital in economic terms is a bit of a just-so story though. It is part of the “education produces economic growth” argument. Economists love uniform ideas of “education” and uniform ideas of “growth,” right?)

  100. jukeboxgrad says:

    A kid like that will do really well, no wasted human capital, without college.

    I won’t argue with that. A lot of people who go to college don’t belong there and would be better off on a different path. That applies to both rich and poor.

    He chose that path because his dad was also an electrician and taught him the business.

    A nice illustration of how a poor kid born without that particular advantage could easily end up stuck.

  101. john personna says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    A good example of why we need to create and respect an apprenticship system in the US (as well as putting more social value on 2-year degerees.)

    BTW, a very related example just popped up at Marginal Revolution. It turns out that:

    For jazz players, there is a negative relationship between earnings and having a BFA or a MFA.

    That is, jazz players who took the “traditional student” path in the “pipeline” are less successful than those who did not.

    [That is pretty f*cking sad, talk about kids sold a bill of goods!]

  102. jukeboxgrad says:

    A good example of why we need to create and respect an apprenticship system in the US (as well as putting more social value on 2-year degerees.)

    I agree. I’m pretty sure you know that Germany handles this much better than we do.

  103. john personna says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    You know, I’ve made a point in these threads that while “per capita” investment in higher education has fallen a bit, it is not that out of line with the past. Academics calling for more funding use the other measure, “per student” and perhaps even fault “STEMs” for doing the math.

    Note that those BFAs and MFAs earning less, and carrying debt, broaden the social cost for higher education at the same time.

    There was an argument (perhaps still being made) that “it’s OK kid, we can get you a loan.” When in fact that loan was a disservice both to the kid and to the taxpayer.

  104. wr says:

    @john personna: “There was an argument (perhaps still being made) that “it’s OK kid, we can get you a loan.” When in fact that loan was a disservice both to the kid and to the taxpayer. ”

    And the preferred solution here seems to be to eliminate education.

    I say go back to funding colleges to eliminate the debts.

  105. john personna says:

    @wr:

    You keep making up arguments. Where is your academic rigor?

    Our “something’s got to change” white paper of the week is ”Voice of the Graduate” from McKinsey & Company.

    – Nearly half of graduates from four-year colleges say they are in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

    – Half of all graduates express regrets, saying they would pick a different major or school if they had to do it all over again.

    – The types of jobs for which demand is growing are different now than they were 20 years ago, and they increasingly require specialized skills that graduates are not acquiring to a sufficient degree.

  106. john personna says:

    More data here, offered without commentary (for the moment):

    Breaking down the higher ed wage premium

  107. john personna says:

    @wr:

    Note also that the debt is not the real problem. You keep suggesting that without debts these kids, half of whom work in fields not requiring a degree, would be fine.

    No.

    Your mission failed. Your promise failed these kids. And eliminating their debt goes only halfway to making that right.

  108. wr says:

    @john personna: “Note also that the debt is not the real problem. You keep suggesting that without debts these kids, half of whom work in fields not requiring a degree, would be fine.

    No”

    No? You mean a “kid” graduating college with a liberal arts degree would not be fine if he wasn’t saddled with debt? Why not? I mean, sure, the job market stinks in general right now, but that’s fixable and completely unrelated to college. Meanwhile they are educated. They’ve read the foundational works of Western civilization. They can understand Keats and Hopkins. They know how Vermeer used light and Michelangelo used marble. They’ve got some realization of the social context of pop culture, and they know what happened in 1066.

    All of which, of course, is completely useless in the utopia of training engineers to do nothing but work.

    You want to turn out workers.

    Universities are designed to turn out citizens.

    So forgive me if I refuse to sign on with your vision of the future. I believe it was a pet idea of the Soviets, but a free nation needs an educated populace, not an army of trained robots.

  109. wr says:

    @john personna: Oh, well, now I see. I’ll change my views about the merit of a liberal arts education now that I see you’re quoting McKinsey and Company, an international managment consultant firm. Because I firmly believe they have the best interests of students in mind.

    Meanwhile, pardon me if I wonder how many of the giant corporations that are looking to cash in on the corporitization of education McKinsey is advising…

  110. john personna says:

    You would be excused, if 5 or 10 years ago, someone warned you that certain degrees would lose their market value over time, and you disbelieved them. After all, it was a prediction, about the future. You might have said “hey, those degrees worked back in my day.”

    That was then. Now half of all recent grads self-report that they are working in jobs that don’t require a degree. Half of all recent grads self-report “regret” about their choice of study.

    At this point it is pretty emotional and unproductive to blame those who warned you.

    After all, we called it … and to deny that you have to ignore not just “prediction” now, but the self reports of the graduates themselves.

  111. john personna says:

    BTW, it was really low of you to reject the data just because McKinsey knew about it. That’s something Republicans do, right? If Elizabeth Warren believes it, it must be false?

    As it happens it would have been trivial for you to search up other, similar polls, like the one mentioned here:

    Regrets About College

    It reports a new survey data from the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers.

    The biggest regret was choice of major, with more than a third (37 percent) saying they wish they had chosen differently.

    In general, only about two in five grads (39 percent) said they had thought about job opportunities when they decided what to major in. Perhaps that explains why the replacement majors most frequently cited by graduates who would have chosen differently were professional majors, like communications, education, nursing or social work.

    Maybe you can shoot the messenger some more?

    Will that make you feel better?

  112. Johh D'Geek says:

    @wr: You’re confusing “Education” with “College”. The former can be obtained free or cheap in the modern era, which was not true historically*. I have several video courses from The Teaching Company — actual college courses for no credit. Very inexpensive (though not “free”). If you want a Liberal Arts Education in the modern era, you do not have to go to the local university to get it.

    For those still following, this is quite a bit more complicated than has been made out. Take a look at the University of South Africa (UNISA) — one of the oldest (IIRC the oldest) and most respected distance learning institutions in the world. Be warned, however that you’ll need to understand “accrediation” (they are, by the SA gov’t) and “research degrees” (as opposed to “taught degrees”).

    I’ve been investigating the Online world for a while now, and one phenomenon stands out to me: Regionally Accredited (“RA”) universities are always about the same price; the exceptions are the “big name” universities (c.f. Columbia Video Network; about 5k per course last I checked). Nationally Accredited universiteis (“NA”) are significantly cheaper — but almost always around the same price. Unaccredited (but not “degree mills”) are even cheaper still — but around the same price.

    Correlation doesn’t indicate cause — but it does advise one to take a closer look. I’m reasonably certain that Accreditation is a significant factor in university costs, though why I couldnt’ tell you.

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  114. Grewgills says:

    @Johh D’Geek:
    Accreditation does eat up a lot of faculty and admin hours, but not so many as to be a primary cause of tuition increases