What’s a Diploma Worth?

Americans have always loved college and real estate. So why do these assets need government support?

Every schoolboy knows that education leads to worldly success and material reward. “If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him,” Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard advised. “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” To the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, learning was “not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” As Emil Faber, founder of the college in Animal House, put it, “Knowledge is good.”

Yet there’s growing evidence that faith in the value of book-learning may be as ill-conceived as faith in the value of another asset inflated by public funding: real estate. 

The overall cohort default rate on student loans has increased by more than 50 percent since 2003. The media have focused on the portion of this growth coming from students at for-profit colleges: According to the Department of Education, more than 40 percent of loans granted from 2003 to 2006 to students at such institutions will go bad over time. But students at nonprofit four-year colleges are also projected to default at rates between 10 and 20 percent. And the trend will worsen: Among 20 to 24-year-olds, college graduates are doing slightly better than non-graduates in the job market, but they still suffer an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.

But if the worth of the asset is questionable, the price has been going through the roof. In the last 25 years, college tuition and fees have increased by 440 percent, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. That’s more than four times the rate of inflation. 

Early this year, students in the University of California system responded to tuition hikes with some half-hearted campaigns of campus unrest. The bankrupt Golden State—which has shielded generations of customers from the actual costs of maintaining a tenure-rich, administration-heavy public university system, but which can no longer keep up this impossible mandate—is an especially painful case. But Alabama, Wisconsin, Illinois, and more than 30 other states have experienced similar protests against price hikes at their state school systems.

Time was that a top school was considered impervious to these kinds of market forces. As recently as 2006, the College Board estimated that the wealthiest 10 percent of private four-year colleges and universities had an endowment cushion of $454,100 per student. But these nest eggs were raided in the great credit unwind. Harvard’s endowment has lost $10 billion, about 30 percent of its value, most of that under the leadership of current White House economic advisor Larry Summers. Yale’s endowment has lost $5.6 billion.

You can begin to see why experts at Forbes and The Chronicle of Higher Education have been warning for several years about a “higher education bubble.” But do we have the crucial ingredient, excessive leverage? 

We do. Student borrowing has more than doubled since the end of the 20th century, according to the College Board, with $85 billion in loans in 2008, up from $41 billion in 1998. And as the rising rate of defaults indicates, borrowers in aggregate are not making the kind of money—i.e. twice as much as a decade ago—they would need to pay those loans back.

The government’s response to this bubble has been to get itself more deeply involved in the inflation. The administration has kicked in various types of assistance, such as a $100 million college prep program. And in March, President Barack Obama signed a bill eliminating the 45-year-old Federal Family Education Loan Program (which guaranteed student loans made by private lenders) and replacing it with a system of direct Treasury Department loans to students. The first part of these efforts is a straightforward waste of money. The second has the potential to be a marginal improvement on a system that shouldn’t exist.

So we have too much money going into an asset, not enough value coming out, a massive increase in leverage, and a large taxpayer liability for the difference. “Inflation in higher education continues apace,” says Joseph Marr Cronin, a former secretary of educational affairs in Massachusetts and the author, with New England College of Business and Finance president Howard E. Horton, of an influential 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education article on the bubble.

But while Cronin warns about the potential for an education crash, he is bullish about higher ed’s area of fastest growth: for-profit colleges, many of them with a substantial or exclusive element of online and distance learning. For-profits have seen their enrollments triple over the last decade, to 1.4 million students.

For-profits have been on an accreditation buying spree lately. In March, Nebraska’s Dana University was bought by a specially created for-profit. Last year, ITT Educational Services bought Daniel Webster College in Nashua, New Hampshire. The online for-profit Columbia Southern University bought Waldorf College of Forest City, Iowa. And San Francisco’s Heald College was acquired by Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

Accreditation buys access to your tax dollars, in the form of both subsidized loans and outright grants. That’s a danger for taxpayers, and it’s a liability for students who see tuitions ballooning as more free money flows in. A recent College Board survey found that a quarter of for-profit graduates had taken on $40,000 in debt to pay for their schooling—and the doors don’t exactly fly open when a job seeker flashes a University of Phoenix diploma.

But subsidies are distorting and inflating tuition costs across the board. At the for-profits, at least, the colleges’ no-frills approach is prompting a revolutionary shift in thinking about higher education. The traditional university of ivied walls, lecture halls, and full-dress balls is heading for a crisis. Non-traditional schools present an opportunity for millions of new scholars to consider what they want out of an education, and why. If diplomas are going to continue costing more and losing value, then at least the customers should have more choice when shopping around for them. 

Contributing Editor Tim Cavanaugh (bigtimcavanaugh@gmail.com) blogs at simpleton.com.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    The last quarter of the 20th Century in America will be remembered for the evils of government subsidized credit. Think about what we have done to our kids. Demand and ability to pay drive price. When you artificially inflate people's ability to pay via government subsidized credit, that drives the price of a good up. Worse still, it screws responsible people because they will get out bid for the item by irresponsible people.

    Thanks to government subsidized credit, we took what was a reasonably priced commodity, a college education, and turned it into a gold plated albatross of debt that we have convinced kids they must assume in order to be part of the middle or upper class.

  • yonemoto||

    "Thanks to government subsidized credit, we took what was a reasonably priced commodity, a college education, and turned it into a gold plated albatross of debt that we have convinced kids parents they must assume in order to be part of the middle or upper class."

    Fixed.

  • yonemoto||

    it's hard to say. I think the parents are convincing their kids to do it.

  • Max||

    Why does Reason need donations?

  • ||

    They're collecting the money from whoever they can to pay for your reverse-lobotomy. If the operation is successful, you will have the mental capacity to give them your thanks. If it's unsuccessful, no one, including you, will notice.

  • ||

    You can't see the difference between the state of California taking money out of your paycheck and people willingly giving Reason a donation?

  • ||

    Not until after the operation (IF, it's successful). Cross your fingers.

  • Max||

    I can see the difference. I was just wondering why this nonsense doesn't sell well enough to keep Reason going without donations. That's the way the market works, I guess. The consumer knows best.

  • Would you believe?||

    So what's your opinion on daily newspapers bleeding red ink like a stuck pig?

  • Max||

    I don't think they're asking for donations.

  • Ragin Cajun||

  • Joshua||

    even worse, some of them are asking for government handouts.

  • ||

    A donation is freely given. What's the problem?

  • ||

    My understanding is that the Reason Foundation was started up through charitable donations--it turns out people care enough about the their freedom that they're willing to make donations to people that help fight for their rights and liberties.

    This wasn't a magazine that started a charitable donation system--this was a charitable organization that started a magazine.

  • TheNino85||

    You show your troll well. There is absolutely nothing incompatible with private charity and libertarianism. It is true that non-academic libertarians do tend to focus on the profit seeking motive too much, but if you actually bothered to read any libertarian writings, rather than mindlessly attacking the straw man you've constructed in what passes for a mind for you, you'd know that private charity is *very* important in libertarian theory.

    Seriously, go read a fucking book written by an honest-to-God libertarian intellectual, rather than whatever Rachael Maddow has recently puked out, before you post here.

  • Socrates||

    Not what I would call a well-reasoned response.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Why does Reason need donations?

    Why is Pac-Man yellow?

    What is the cat's meow?

    Wheee! We could do this all day!

  • Max||

    Pull your head out of your ass, you fucking cultist twit. No, don't.

  • Max||

    ARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARF

  • cynical||

    What exactly is the difference between a donation and a subscription anyway? Either way, you're paying them to keep writing. The physical medium is practically irrelevant.

  • ||

    "The bankrupt Golden State—which has shielded generations of customers from the actual costs of maintaining a tenure-rich, administration-heavy public university system, but which can no longer keep up this impossible mandate—is an especially painful case."

    When they're letting convicted violent criminals go free rather than cut the state budget elsewhere, it is unconscionable that institutions like Berkley and UCLA can't make it on their own.

    If USC can stay diverse and make it, why can't UCLA? If Stanford can do it, why can't Berkley?

    In a system that'll give a student loan to anybody with a pulse, what's the point of keeping tuition costs down? ...and, of course, they still have the whole freakin' Cal State system to run as a charity if that's what they want.

    The answer is that it isn't about giving financially challenged kids a cheap, elite education--it's about giving over-educated bureaucrats an elite salary.

  • ||

    And before we let criminals go free, how about we cut back on the programs offered at places like UCLA? It is one thing to subsidize engineering and medical degrees. But does a bankrupt state really need to subsidize ethnic studies and other soft liberal arts bullshit?

  • ||

    I can sympathise with that point, though I suspect that cutting *-studies programs at the lower colleges makes more sense than at the system's elite schools. I still think that there are many things (public sector employee benefits, needless regulatory boards, public sector admin staff) to cut before the UC system.

  • ||

    Depends on your purpose. If you're a California legislator, and your goal is to alarm the citizens into supporting a massive tax increase, then which state functions do you think you want to cut back on first?

  • ||

    Oh absolutely, which is why any spending cuts are framed as education cuts and releasing paedophiles, rapists and murderers right now!

  • ||

    I remember when the regents at UCLA voted to cut out the architecture program and the nursing school to make way for Chicano Studies.

    I don't have the stats to back it up, but my guess is that there's a lot less in the way of the ol' political advocacy masquerading as scholarship programs at private schools.

    I'd compare it to the madrasa problem in Pakistan and elsewhere--you educate all these young men and they get out into the real world, and it turns out there just isn't that big of a market for people trained in Chicano Studies being a Muslim cleric.

  • ||

    Umm dude, are you saying that there are no architecture or nursing schools at UCLA?

  • ||

    Maybe they brought 'e, back? I don't suppose that would be too surprising.

    But they killed them once. ...for the Chicano Studies program.

    I'll try to dig up a link. I'm suddenly busy, so it might take a bit.

  • ||

    I'd be very interested to see that. UCLA does have both those programs currently.

  • ||

    Okay, it's hard to find things reference on the internet before 1994 or so, 'cause most people hadn't even heard of AOL back then, and wouldn't have known dial up from a hole in the ground...

    But I did run across this mention--just to show it wasn't a figment of my imagination...

    "* So, UCLA is going to shut down undergraduate nursing, the Graduate School of Library Science and the urban planning graduate program. Not law, medicine or dentistry. Thanks a lot, Chancellor Young."

    http://articles.latimes.com/19.....ogram-cuts

    So, anyway, maybe my memory was a bit off--I remember things...but it's not perfect... So it wasn't the school of Architecture, it was Urban Planning.

    But I was right about the rest of it.

    I actually remember the Urban Planning students banging on the doors of the regents meeting as they took the vote--it was on the local news.

    Here's another summary from the archive...

    http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/la.....les+Times+(pre-1997+Fulltext)&desc=UCLA+Plans+to+Cut,+Combine+Costly+Programs&pqatl=google

    ...generalizing about when the Chicano Studies supporters went on a hunger strike to get the program elevated. ...at Urban Planning and undergrad Nursing's expense.

  • ||

    Ken, those links were to letters to the editor and a brief abstract.

    UCLA still has an urban planning dept (graduate and concurrent undergraduate, which is quite normal for such depts)and undergrad nursing. It only offers library science at the graduate level as a major now (has an IS school instead).

    Cutting trad programs for ethnic studies is disappointing, but I don't see much evidence that particularly happens in the UC system, or because the UC system is public.

  • ||

    Although I wouldn't be shocked if there was some more politicisation.

  • ||

    Well, I'm sorry it wasn't better documented for you...quite frankly I had to dig a bit for that, and like I said, I'm kinda busy at the moment...

    The sad fact anyway is that they voted to kill Urban Planning, Nursing and others in order to elevate the Chicano Studies program...

    ...and not being able to document what happened easier and better doesn't mean it didn't happen. They voted to kill them.

    ...to elevate Chicano Studies.

    If they restarted those programs later, that doesn't mean they didn't kill them before--or that public schools aren't more prone to fund "political advocacy masquerading as scholarship" programs. ...at the expense of professional programs.

    Yeah, somebody left a comment in 1993--so at least I'm not makin' it up.

  • ||

    Not to say that we'd be missing much if the numbers of urban planners should dwindle, either.

  • Kroneborge||

    +1000000

  • Kroneborge||

    stupid threads, to be clear

    "And before we let criminals go free, how about we cut back on the programs offered at places like UCLA? It is one thing to subsidize engineering and medical degrees. But does a bankrupt state really need to subsidize ethnic studies and other soft liberal arts bullshit?"

    + 100000

  • BakedPenguin||

    My thing is - no sports or other extracurricular activities should be funded with public money.

    If they can pay for themselves, fine. If they can't, let them find donors willing to shell out the cash. Universities should be about education, not serve as minor leagues for the NBA or NFL.

  • cynical||

    Ha, next you'll be suggesting that Bob Jones University should be cutting Bible courses.

  • Socrates||

    I resemble that comment. My degree is in American Studies. I never used it one day in my working life, but I never really expected to.

  • Mo||

    What about letting out non-violent criminals, there are plenty of those behind bars. Especially those that committed non-consensual crimes.

    Also, many prison guards make as much as professors. So instead of giving under-educated power-tripping prison guards elite money, we can cut their salaries.

  • ||

    You ever factored into your analysis the benefits that the Californian economy has received from the UC system? Between them and Stanford I'd suspect it's rather high ...

    I suspect there are a lot of things more worthy of funding cuts than the UC system.

  • Jorgen||

    And I'd love to see the evidence that returns from college are going down; if you measure them by looking at the income differences between college educated and non college educated workers, they've been going up a lot for the past several decades.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    That's a rotten way to try to measure the return to society, though a decent way to measure the return to the prospective student.

    Why?

    Because there are a lot of people out there doing things in their working lives that "require" a college degree on HR's say-so, but don't actually use any of the skills taught in college, nor in any obvious ways the skills that ought to be learned by osmosis in that environment.

    To measure the gain to society you're going to have to go after the real productivity change between graduate, and non-graduates (and to be complete had-a-few-years-then-dropped-outs' too, as well as looking at the curve as a function of the length of post-baccalaureate schooling (if any)). Oh, and you have to factor in the lost productivity implicit in staying in school instead of joining the workforce. All that is not going to be easy, though I believe that it could be done. Somehow. By someone else.

  • Chad||

    I was asking about this below: I have never seen data that compared the salaries of college grads vs non-grads that controlled for other important variables, and was asking if anyone had seen it.

    It is not terribly illuminating to know that college grads earn more than the average Joe. What is important is how much (if any) more they earn than non-grads with similar backgrounds and abilities.

    The crudely-measured gap between grads and non-grads is growing, and this will continue as long as our nation continues down the "rich get richer, everyone else stagnates" path we have been on since the 80s. Obviously, most of the rich are going to be grads.

  • J_L_B||

    The middle class is at least partially to blame for its own demise. What was once a life of luxury is now a middle class lifestyle, and products that were once associated with the wealthy are now in every home, garage, and pocket of the average middle class member, young and old. Nevertheless, these choices have been made by free people, and it would be nothing short of tyranical to control the consuming choices of the populace.

  • Chad||

    J_L_B. I disagree. You are focusing far too much on material goods, which don't make people all that happy. What makes people rich is the power, influence, status and service they can buy. The middle-class is severely stressed when it comes to the things that matter.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It is not terribly illuminating to know that college grads earn more than the average Joe. What is important is how much (if any) more they earn than non-grads with similar backgrounds and abilities.


    What is important is the difference between the gap and the money paid for college.

  • Patriot Henry||

    "To measure the gain to society you're going to have to go after the real productivity change between graduate, and non-graduates (and to be complete had-a-few-years-then-dropped-outs' too, as well as looking at the curve as a function of the length of post-baccalaureate schooling (if any)). Oh, and you have to factor in the lost productivity implicit in staying in school instead of joining the workforce. All that is not going to be easy, though I believe that it could be done. Somehow. By someone else."

    That is a simpleton's way of measuring the gain and or loss to society. I am not saying you are an idiot - but you are using the method of idiots most likely because that is the predominant method used today.

    "Productivity" is only a measure of fiat currency over time with relation to the individual. There is no measurement of the value of the person. By this measure Lindsey Lohan is more productive than an amazing doctor.

    What should be examined is the impact of "education" on the individual's capacity to think intelligently. This wouldn't be able to be studied using numbers, statistics, and standardized tests, or by examining the "productivity". It is not within the realm of formal science to comprehend the impact of the "education" system.

    Examining the "educated" and the "non-educated" - the former are usually specialists sometimes with minute areas of knowledge and skill and sometimes not, and they think usually in a pre-determined program and have little or no curiosity or ability to think critically and intelligently. The "uneducated" however tend to be much more independent in thought and teach themselves to think critically and intelligently, and their curiosity often remains intact in whole or in part. Since modern "education" is a scientifically created mind control program designed to prevent independent and critical and intelligent thought - that disparity makes a great deal of sense.

    Yes, your "education" might raise your salary, might raise your lifetime earnings even after paying off the loans, but it will also likely make you into a compliant obedient sheep trapped in the rat race of the American dream.

  • Joshua||

    I keep waiting for something about Draw Mohammed day. Every time I look at the RSS feed, there's something new, but not DMD.

    What's up? Wasn't Moynihan going to post a bunch of pics?

  • ||

    Moynihan is still "tweeting" about it today.

  • half assed drawing||

    How's this?

    ##
    #####
    c ^ ^ e
    \-o-/
    ###
    ##

  • ||

    OO=======D

    This is better.

  • Ska||

    No quotes from Thornton Melon? You people disgust me.

    I guess I'll have to listen to some Oingo Boingo until this gets rectified.

  • ||

    "we have miles and MILES of fabric!"

  • ||

    The war's over, Ska. Get new parts for your head.

  • ||

    Ye gods, I miss Sam.

  • ||

    How do I look in the new commercial?

    Lou: You could lose a few pounds.

    I gotta get bigger actors.

  • Comrade Zero||

    AAAHH!!! AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!

  • James Allen||

    "The reason guys like you got a place to teach is cause guys like me donate buildings."

  • Joshua||

    More on topic - lame post. I come to
    Reason for some kind of synthesis, an editorial perspective. This was more of a sad narrative. a sad narrative of shit I already knew.

  • Lipp Chuer||

    does a bankrupt state really need to subsidize ethnic studies and other soft liberal arts bullshit?

    Yes, because these are not BS, but fledgling sciences that, with sufficient support to develop, will pull the state out of its doldrums.

  • ||

    Ethnic Studies has no clearly definable meaning. It's an anti-concept and cannot even be consistently defined much less studied.

    It's an entry level course on collectivist idiocy to prepare you to believe that different regional/physiological groups and their ancestors' group histories are somehow significant to any living individual.

    Why would you pay and participate in an institutions' effort to pacify your mind into a worthless blathering C3PO automaton that has no actual conceptual facility or ability.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Ethnic Studies has no clearly definable meaning. It's an anti-concept and cannot even be consistently defined much less studied.

    I'll define Ethnic Studies for you: White people are wrong, evil, capitalist, selfish,etc. and they should forever be shamed for the acts of generations of racists before them despite the fact they(some) helped elect a black man to the presidency.

  • ||

    You forgot to add that they should, however, continue to produce lots of wealth that can be redistributed to compensate for their past sins.

  • ||

    What college degrees and real estate sales have in common in modern America is that they are important to the folks who get them or who are denied them. Therefore, like everything else of any real or imaginary significance - sooner or later - they are subject to the control of government and allocation by command - fancy economist and poly sci talk for by politics rather than any alternative distributional theory.

  • ||

    I would extend that to professions themselves.

    "ahh your an engineer but not a LICENSED ENGINEER. sorry we cant hire you. You will need to work for 5 years as an engineer to be eligble for lisencure."

    "ahh i see you have your degree in microbiology, sorry we cant hire you here you need to be CLS certified and to get that you need to work 7 years as a microbiologist before you can get certified."

    I could go on and on.....

  • Old Mexican||

    New at Reason: Tim Cavanaugh on the Value of a Diploma

    I just dumped something with the same value as a diploma on the crapper . . .

  • BakedPenguin||

    On the crapper? Is your aim bad, or have you been getting too much fiber?

  • Old Mexican||

    As a lesson: In Mexico, where college education is at times "free", the median salary for a newly graduated engineer is about 80% that of a technical school graduate - thanks to the artificial supply created by the State.

  • ||

    ah this is true. family across the line explained that one to me.

  • nobody||

    Where the fuck is fucking Mohammed?

  • ||

    It's up, and the comments seem to be disabled. It's a bit disappointing, both the article and the turned off comments, I have to say.

  • ||

    Yeah, it's pretty weak sauce

  • Joshua||

    It was decent, but underwhelming. That's what I get for believin' the hype!

  • mr simple||

    Yeah, it's a whole lot of words to wade through to get to some disappointing pics. I mean, I get it, they're clever, but pretty ham-handed. Do they seriously think anyone who would get angry about the pics will learn a lesson from this?

  • Jeff P||

    This means the Asian kid I paid to ace my finals was a waste of money?

  • ||

    FTW!

  • yonemoto||

    hey man, circular flow.

  • Chad||

    I wish Tim would have answered the question posed in his title: What IS a diploma worth?

    I have never been able to find data concerning how much college grads earn compared to students with similar backgrounds and abilities.

    If anyone knows where such data exists, I would love to know about it.

  • cynical||

    Probably a hard study to perform, since the very fact that one group graduated college and the other did not suggests some factors at work which could also play a major role in any future success each group experiences.

    And it also doesn't take into account the fact that there is systematic discrimination against those who have not graduated college. I don't just mean in terms of jobs that require advanced expertise, but even for jobs where the coursework is utterly irrelevant. Now, you can argue that this is a valid part of the "value of a degree", but it's like saying that gender discrimination makes being male "more valuable". I can understand why employers like the added benefit of knowing that someone was able to stick it out for 4 years, but the actual education was useful for nothing but a complicated, time-consuming, expensive intelligence test.

  • Baff||

    What You've Been Waiting For at Long Last...

    What a crock. And no comments section either. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Maverick||

    The winner of the Draw Mohammed contest is . . . You! Congratulations. All of you deserve it.

  • Federal Dog||

    You are being unfair. I love connect the dots.

  • Baff||

    "And that in a free society, every day is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

    But you dassn't say mean things about him. Oh no. Comments are teh bad.

    Really, you guys have no idea how gleefully stupid you look.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That cruelly non-functional "leave a comment" link on the Mohammed posts. Good selections and good write-up, though.

    Hopefully everyone continues to keep their heads over the issue.

  • ||

    I understand that reason would want to take a classier approach to the draw Mohammed thing, but it still disappoints me. In my opinion, the cruder, the better, because it's even more desensitizing. Think of the first time some artist dipped the cross in urine. It was a huge deal. If someone does it now, no one cares.

    Sometimes the high road isn't the high road.

  • Russ 2000||

    Exactly. They call out the mainstream media for being chicken-shit, then they're too chicken-shit to actually select a drawing that a violence-minded Muslim might actually consider a drawing of Mohammed.

  • ||

    WHERE are the 190 submissions to the mohammed contest? Thy only posted 3.

  • ||

    WHERE are the 190 submissions to the mohammed contest? Thy only posted 3.

    Maybe they are going to use them on a website like this

  • ¢||

    The "Everybody Draw A 'Family Guy' Syle Joke-Free Reference To Another Thing Day" contest has utterly failed to be non-"hipster." False advertising.

  • ¢||

    +t

    Mohammed took it.

  • ||

    So about the Draw Mohammad contest...I am kind of disappointed. Why not just a realistic picture of an Arab who lived 1400 years ago.

    All this surealism and pop culture and connect the dots bullshit.

    Why not an actual representation of a historic figure. I mean isn't that what the big fucking deal is all about?

  • ||

  • Ryback's Cook||

    My submission to the Muhammad contest. Can't believe it didn't win...

    http://imgur.com/asb3x.jpg

  • Paul||

    Tim Cavanaugh notes that Americans have always loved college and real estate. So why do these assets need government support?

    Because any drop in value is a "market failure".

  • PIRS||

    Since the article on the winners does not allow comments I must ask this question here. What evidence is there for a real, historical Muhammed other than the Koran and works that came after the Koran? People have raised this issue with Jesus many times. What about Muhammed?

  • Ryback's Cook||

    Muhammad lived much more recently (dying June 8, 632 CE), and my understanding is that his existence is well attested during his lifetime, whereas all Jesus-related writings came decades after such a person would have lived.

  • PIRS||

    I am not calling you a liar but I would like to see some of these documents. I simply have not seen any. I am not Muslim but I have read many works on Islam and even bought myself several translations of the Koran and several other books written from a Muslim perspective. I never saw anything like a facimilie of an early non-Koranic source proving his existance.

  • Ryback's Cook||

    Yea, I'm reading up more on this and I'll go with ChrisO's answer.

  • ChrisO||

    One of the more interesting arguments I've read against the existence of Jesus is based on the textual chronology of the New Testament.

    Contrary to the order in which they are presented in the Bible, it was Paul's various Letters that were actually the first to be written--most likely around 40-50 CE. If you read the Letters on their own, there is apparently no specific reference to the events of Jesus's life. Instead, we have Paul experiencing a "vision" of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Some have interpreted this to mean that Paul saw Jesus as some sort of Gnostic spirit.

    Moreover, Paul was corresponding with well-established Christian communities across the Mediterranean within a decade or so after Jesus's putative death. Given the primitive state of ancient travel, communications, and literacy, it seems unlikely that Jesus's sad little band of followers would have been unable to establish such widespread faith communities so soon. One interesting theory to explain the Letters is that the "Christian" communities that Paul was corresponding with were actually long-standing Gnostic cults among his fellow Hellenized Jews. There's a whole bunch more to this theory, but I don't time to get into it all...

  • ||

    Well, this part at least is nonsense:

    Given the primitive state of ancient travel, communications, and literacy, it seems unlikely that Jesus's sad little band of followers would have been unable to establish such widespread faith communities [within a decade or so]

    You've forgotten the fact, I take it, that 50 AD was in the heyday of the early Roman Empire, with extensive and fast communication throughout the Mediterranean littoral? Extensive roads, the Pax Romana? You could go from Spain to Palestine in a week by ship, and people frequently did just to do business. One can be confident that ideas spread even faster than amphorae.

    Moreover general literacy (in Greek and Latin) was more widespread in 50 AD then it was at any time in the next 1000 years.

  • ChrisO||

    If you Google this, you'll find that there are people who actively question whether "Muhammad" actually existed.

    The historical record is no better for Muhammad than it is for Jesus. One would want to see contemporary evidence apart from the Koran and the Hadiths (both of which were complied long after the death of "Muhammad"), and it simply doesn't exist. Just as there is no credible evidence for the existence of Jesus outside of the Bible (a couple of passages in the writings of Josephus have been largely discredited as Byzantine-era insertions).

    Even if one assumes that the figures of Jesus and Muhammad were based on actual people, there is no independent corroboration for the accounts of their lives in the Bible and Hadiths.

    My take is that both figures existed as minor religious/political rebels who did not warrant contemporary mention, but whose stories were eventually distorted by followers into what became Christianity and Islam.

    Perhaps someday Che Guevara and L. Ron Hubbard will be treated similarly. You can already see the parallels.

  • PIRS||

    Interesting. Thank you.

  • ||

    A real education, ie engineering, hard sciences, mathematics, etc.., is worth every penny. A degree in (women, chicano, black, gender, etc...)-studies, on the other hand, is useful once but then gets stuck in the plumbing.

  • ||

    i thought having a microbiology degree was great until i hit the market and its a $14.00/hr job.

    I agree its worth every penny but not in 2010. I can tell from your name "theoldman" you were from a great time in america when you could mine ore without being hampered by govt regulation or you could construct massive projects and not worry about environmental assesments or you could drill for oil in the states freely.

    those days are gone.

    the only thing that makes money in this country now is law, plastic surgery, hollywood and porn.

  • ||

    I see the value of a real education in showing you how to think, how to break down problems into smaller and smaller pieces that can be solved. Also a real education shows you that what appears to be a simple solution (Got poor? Hand out welfare) does not scale to the real world. In other words, actions often have unintended consequences. Much of engineering is focused on avoiding unintended consequences. It is unfortunate that you have not been able to find work in your field but your degree in microbiology has taught you more than just biology. The discipline it took to get that degree is also important and can be applied to other areas.

    Clearly not everyone can or should be an engineer or doctor or microbiologist. You should at least enjoy what you are doing because you'll be doing it for 50 years. But the discipline of critical thinking is the key to success.

  • ||

    ...You should at least enjoy what you are doing because you'll be doing it for 50 years....

    get real, oldman.

    guy will be lucky to be doing anything for 5 years before the economy makes him and millions like him obsolete. Calendar says 2010, not 1946.

  • ||

    What kind of microbiology degree? If we're talking about a mere BS or BA, then I'm hardly surprised. You'd have hardly scratched the surface of a very complex field, and would have skills that only qualify you to wash lab glassware and run spectrometers.

    Some fields, particularly scientific fields, require at least a PhD for the big money. Engineering is a far better choice:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/colle.....ollegeprep

    Note that average starting salaries for chemical engineers are $65,000, pretty good money. Indeed, the top 10 earning degrees are all engineering, with the exception of "computer science" -- which is really a form of engineering anyway, these days.

  • ||

    B.S. only and I agree with you that in my field a Ph.D is required but required to come out at 50-60k only a year. Unless of course perhaps your at a University teaching with big $$ thrown at your department.

    I guess whats upsetting is having to spend that much on a good education to do what you love only to see my peers, who never went to college and have only a H.S. diploma, become a border patrol agent starting out at 55k.

    Its upsetting because...well damnit it is an expensive world out there. Nothing sucks more than low pay in an inflated economy!

  • ||

    Well, no, that's not quite true. What sucks more than low pay is being stuck in a job you hate. Really.

    Why despair? Get into a good PhD program and pursue it with energy and discipline. Pick the right adviser, and try to make sure there are strong connections to biotech, e.g. UCSD would be a decent choice, or Harvard or MIT if you have the chops.

    You'll be supported modestly during your studies. Afterward you can start at about $70,000 (2010 dollars), unless you do something lucrative like organic synthesis, in which case you might start at $90,000. You should move up another $10k to $20k pretty quick. But the real payoff, of course, would be part ownership of a small firm, which could easily make you a millionaire while still in your 40s.

    It's not too late. Getting into biotech now is like getting into networked computing in the 70s. You could end up being honored by a tax the Democrats in Congress design just for you.

    Best of all, since you'll actually be creating value in the lab, you'll be relatively immune to the coming firestorm, while your buddies working for the gummint are going to be laid off and lose their pensions when an angry citizenry puts the boot firmly up the Congressional Spendocrats' ass.

  • ||

    damn federal salaries subsidized by the never ending printing press LOL.

  • Turnkey||

    Engineering and the like is reasonably money wise. It is just of matter in doing something that people can enjoy / be helped by.

    As an aside, I really wish I had taken a women's studies class for giggles.

  • MNG||

    Since we've subsidized college unprecedented portions of our population have had more access to higher education and the US has become one of the most dynamic economies in the world. Sure, those things are like totally unrelated!

  • Anita Bryant||

    Get your dick out of the Prophet Mohammed's mouth you pigfucker!

  • PIRS||

    I do not claim that those two things are unrelated. However, have you considered that the relation may be in the opposite direction than you imply?

  • PIRS||

    I realized you may misunderstand my point. What I mean specifically is that without enough money it would be more difficult to subsidize higher education to the degree that we do.

    What I am saying is that the wealth came first.

  • ||

    They're negatively correlated, if anything. The greatest growth in the US economy and world importance was between 1900 and 1950, roughly -- long before college education was seriously subsidized.

    The massive increase in college subsidies really took off in the 1970s, and the record of US dynamism from 1975 to the present is not nearly as stellar as the preceding half-century.

    So I'd say history argues in the exact opposite direction as you were hoping.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    ...the US has become one of the most dynamic economies in the world.i>

    HA HA HA HA HA HA.

    Bullshit.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Fine, if no one else will say this about May 20th, I will...

    Henceforth, this date shall forever be known as Flaming Mo's Day!

  • PIRS||

    +1

  • PIRS||

    The only legitimate function of government is to rid the world of Pingback.

  • MNG||

    Jesus, that makes one long for the refinement of anon bot!

  • ||

    Just so you guys know?

    You might want to keep on the look out for a spambot.

  • Anita Bryant||

    Pingback Spam (PBUH)

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  • Some Guy||

    I would say that we should only support student loans for students in fields where we actually need people (i.e. engineering, medicine) but sadly, I know what the end result of such intentions would be.

  • ||

    Degrees in? Notice that the extra channels programing since dig tv. Old movies and ads! Come on. That is fraud! Poor mangement . And anti their own TV station!!!! Billionaire GE NBC. Billionaire abc!I like christian ministers. I like college soccer. Mls soccer. College lacrosse. I like moralist hip hop videos. I do not think ill be donating or place an ad with Tv broadcst co!Notice dress slacks are not spacious!!!! Imagine millionaires pants rip when they bend down at work. Or sigh when bending over! Rip offs with degrees!!! Notice evil logos in lacrosse and m league soccer!! Come on!! People with degrees!!!Fire the crooked. Some pay millions not to be a dork. Thanks. Rom 12:2kjvz. Rom 3:23kjvz. col 3:11kjvz.

  • rikster||

    Higher education is certainly important but who said it had to come from a college/university.

    Higher education could be 10x more effective/100x cheaper except for human snobbery and academic hazing.

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