Kollege Kockup: Something Is Not Right In Higher Ed

As the U.S. economy's other vital systems continue to shut down, the college diploma system still seems to be going strong. But a closer look indicates that higher ed may be heading into its final series of convulsions.

Student loan defaults are up. Graduate performance in the job market is down. Bankrupt states are unable to keep public university employees in the style to which they've grown accustomed. Harvard's endowment got wiped out by future White House economic advisor Larry Summers.

Yet for-profit colleges are booming, and their students are pulling down ever greater sums in federal grants and guaranteed loans.

They're also defaulting on their loans at greater rates than students at other colleges. Per the most recent Trends in Student Aid report [pdf] from the College Board:

Among students who earned bachelor’s degrees at public four-year colleges and universities in 2007-08, 38% graduated with no education debt and 6% graduated with debt greater than $40,000. Among those who earned their bachelor’s degrees at for-profit institutions, only 4% had no education debt, while 24% had borrowed $40,000 or more.

This report by Anne Ryman of the Arizona Republic gives some more detail:

Tuition at for-profit schools can easily top $10,000 a year. The average loans for a student who earned a bachelor's degree totaled $32,650 in the 2007-08 school year, compared with $17,700 at public universities. At community colleges, the average for two-year degrees was $7,125.

At least nine out of 10 students who earn degrees or certificates at for-profit schools borrow money to attend, a higher ratio than four years earlier and more than at universities or community colleges.

Nationally, for-profit schools had the highest share of defaults in the United States in 2007: 11 percent. Community colleges had a nearly 10 percent rate, and private, non-profit universities had the lowest rates, at 3.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Bloomberg's Daniel Golden reports on how for-profit schools stand to gain greater access to federal education subsidies by purchasing accredited schools:

The nation’s for-profit higher education companies have tripled enrollment to 1.4 million students and revenue to $26 billion in the past decade, in part through the recruitment of low-income students and active-duty military. Now they’re taking a new tack in their quest to expand. By exploiting loopholes in government regulation and an accreditation system that wasn’t designed to evaluate for-profit takeovers, they’re acquiring struggling nonprofit and religious colleges -- and their coveted accreditation. Typically, the goal is to transform the schools into online behemoths at taxpayer expense.

For-profit education companies, including ITT Educational Services, based in Carmel, Indiana, and Laureate Education Inc., in Baltimore, have purchased at least 16 nonprofit colleges with regional accreditation since 2004, according to corporate announcements and filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric Co., and Michael Milken, the U.S. junk bond pioneer, have invested in for-profit companies that bought or formed partnerships with nonprofit, regionally accredited schools.

While Golden and Ryman both take a dim view of the stunning success of for-profit colleges since the 1990s, the rise of the for-profits is essentially a positive trend. It's a good bet that ITT will be better able to manage the moribund Daniel Webster University than was the previous management, and that San Francisco's Heald College will be healthier as part of Corinthian Colleges Inc. than it was as a struggling business school. And if the for-profits' infiltration into the accredited schools market causes the public to be more skeptical of the accreditation cartel, well, as Voltaire said to Benjamin Franklin, "Thank Jeebus H. Christ for small mercies."

But the combination of defaulting loans and rapid growth suggests two things:

* The "higher education bubble" identified last year by Joseph Cronin and Howard Horton is a real phenomenon.

* The higher education bubble is even more inflated than it was a year ago.

What does this mean for students, those woeful, debt-crushed lambkins who just need another bailout? Secretary of Education Arne Duncan makes the case for replacing the federal government's convoluted system of guaranteeing loans made by private lenders with a program of direct lending. Predictably, Sallie Mae, the massive former GSE in charge of managing more than $180 billion in student debt, objects to that change. Tellingly, both sides cite saving and creating jobs -- rather than, say, making sure credit-worthy students get supportable loans for reasonable tuitions -- among their respective goals.

The move to direct federal lending would be a marginal improvement in a diseased system. It's also an idea that dates back at least 15 years, to a time when the class of 2014 was not yet old enough for kindergarten. Like President Obama's $100 million college prep program, it's a big nothing disguised as government benevolence.

In the meantime, student borrowing has more than doubled since the beginning of the 21st century. And as the rising rate of defaults indicates, borrowers are not making twice as much as new graduates were making ten years ago. There is too much money going into this asset, not enough value coming out, and a massive taxpayer liability for the difference.

This problem won't be solved with more of the medicine that caused it. Last week's protests against tuition hikes at various state universities were wrong about the cause of and the cure for the disease (dig this CNN column by an art history Ph.D. candidate, which will actually fall short of your expectations for economic literacy among art historians), but they're right about one of the symptoms: Tuition and board have been massively inflated. And as this reason.tv video on Pell Grants demonstrates, Uncle Sam is the inflationist in chief:

The pain of deflating this bubble is being felt most acutely in the California public university system, where an impossible mandate (to provide a free, quality college education to everybody) can no longer be sustained, but where the consumers have been so completely shielded from actual costs for so long that the only real solution is for the system to collapse. But the whole country is headed in that direction, for better (if you're a student) or worse (if you're a flunky). Mish Shedlock concludes in his woolly way:

Funding schemes, loan guarantees, influence pedaling, and especially government meddling have combined to make education a great deal for recruiters, administrators, professors, and staff.

Unfortunately, there is little benefit to the students for the price they pay. Indeed, the biggest education many students will receive is to learn how compound interest combined with poor salaries will make them a debt slave for life.

And if rising tuition has priced you out of the college market entirely, fear not. This is about all you're missing:

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  • jtuf||

    My grandmother was orphaned at age 16. She had wanted to become a teacher. At the time, she could go to teacher's college tuition free, but would have to cover room and board. She couldn't afford that. The nursing college offered a tuition free education plus room and board. She became a nurse.

  • Ice||

    What does that story teach us?

  • ||

    That if you can't be a teacher, try nursing.

  • Can't it||

    just be a sweet story?

  • ||

    That there really is a free lunch.

  • Paul||

    Student loan defaults are up.

    That's because there's not enough federal money.

    Graduate performance in the job market is down.

    That's because there's not enough federal money.

    Bankrupt states are unable to keep public university employees in the style to which they've grown accustomed.

    That's because there's not enough federal money.

    Harvard's endowment got wiped out by future White House economic advisor Larry Summers.

    That's because there's not enough federal money.

    Wow, this education policy stuff is as easy as politicians make it look.

  • ||

    Sir, I applaud you and thank you for the yuks.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    +1

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    I finished my Master's degree 3 years ago, so I don't think my observations are too out of date, but the largest part of the problem facing graduates is that they didn't get a degree that let them become something.

    The best bit of advice I ever got came from my Great-Uncle who used to be a prof @ Univ. Memphis. He said "Get a degree that makes you into *something*. You can't graduate and then walk around calling yourself "Master of the Liberal Arts"! Get a degree that, when you have finished, let's you be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. A degree in a field where we have a name for the workers who have it."

    Too many of the people I met in both of the Universities I attended were after useless degrees. We *don't need* 800 History majors, people. We need mechanics.

  • Paul||

    We need mechanics.

    We're getting them, believe me.

    But in the real world, they'd be known as 'card mechanics'.

  • ||

    Or maybe, quantum mechanics.

  • ||

    Well, now i have a name for my AutoShop. "Quantum Mechanics. When the car comes off the lift, there's a 50% chance it's still broken."

  • ||

    I believe the car would be 50% fixed. Now if it had crashed into another car that your shop repaired and was thereby entangled with the first car... well that's when the fun really begins.

  • ||

    I don't think there's much future in specializing in repairing a single model of Volkwagen that hasn't been produced in over twenty years.

  • ||

    A friend of mine escaped UC Irvine with a Batchelor's in -- wait for it -- Social Ecology.

    I have never, to this day, been able to find anyone who can tell me what the point of this major is.

    He went to trade school and became a sound editor in the TV bidness.

  • Ted S.||

    "Social Ecology" is obviously the opposite of antisocial ecology.

  • Name Redacted||

    The worst one I heard was Leisure Studies. I know someone who earned her degree in Leisure Studies.

  • ||

    I did too. Soon after graduating he got a job at Yellowstone and had the time of his life for the next few years. But I am willing to agree that is an exception.

  • ||

    You can't graduate and then walk around calling yourself "Master of the Liberal Arts"!

    No, you call yourself a liberal. Duh.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    He said "Get a degree that makes you into *something*. You can't graduate and then walk around calling yourself "Master of the Liberal Arts"! Get a degree that, when you have finished, let's you be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer. A degree in a field where we have a name for the workers who have it."

    The legal field has collapsed. 45,000 people graduate law school every year, and there were only 25,000 positions opening per year prior to the economic collapse. It's even less now. If you don't go for nearly free, or don't get one of the few remaining Biglaw jobs, you're fucked.

    I never get tired of saying this, but my grandfather was a clerk in a large corporation, having nothing more than a high school diploma and the ability to read, write, and do long division. That same job now has a title 4 words long, and requires six years of completely useless, very expensive post high-school education.

    When did America stop being a place where your work counted more than your papers?

  • KWebb||

    I'd guess it all started when colleges dumbed down their curriculum to require only the ability to read, write and hit buttons on a calculator.
    The business college at my university is particularly bad at that.

  • ||

    And yet degrees continue to be worth more than the paper they're written on....

  • KWebb||

    Well, paper is really cheap.

    My point is that, in my experience, academic standards outside of engineering, math and hard sciences are really low. I'm sitting in one of the top public business schools surrounded by students who have trouble interpreting graphs and tables. Sit in a priciples of economics class sometime. It's sad.

  • ||

    Sorry, but your premise is badly flawed. The "legal field" has in no way "collapsed", as you put it. It is,in fact, booming, as it always has.

    Going to law school for free is great for everyone, but that and scoring a Biglaw job are not the only two options. This is a strawman at its worst.

    You ask the question, "When did America stop being a place where your work counted more than your papers?"

    The answer is it never has stopped being that place. You are confusing America with two economic sectors: 1) Government, and; 2) Corporate America.

    The point of a professional eduction is to be able to have a profession, NOT go to work for a large organization. This is where you have lost your way. Apply your eduction in private practice, provide quality service, undercut the rates your corporate competition and become independently wealthy.

    The underlying point here is to stop equating corporate or government employment as the only possibility. I was in corporate land for 15 years as an engineer. Am in law school now. Was only "fucked" before I figured out that professionals never should depend upon other organizations led, generally, by incompetent morons with useless business degrees.

    Get off your ass and be an entrepreneur.

  • Invisible Finger||

    The boom has a solid feel, with villagers paying cash for houses.

    Somewhere around the time people fawned over FDR's "Brain Trust".

  • Invisible Finger||

    Well I sure fucked that up.

    Anyway, there's a lot more red tape in being an entrepreneur than there used to be. Which is guess narrows the field down to law school grads.

  • Brother J||

    According to James Taranto, it was when the Supreme Court got involved.

    "What most professional jobs require is basic intellectual aptitude. And what has changed since the 1970s is that the court has developed a body of law that prevents employers from directly screening for such aptitude. The landmark case was Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971). A black coal miner claimed discrimination because his employer required a high-school diploma and an intelligence test as prerequisites for promotion to a more skilled position. The court ruled 8-0 in the miner's favor. "Good intent or absence of discriminatory intent does not redeem employment procedures or testing mechanisms that operate as 'built-in headwinds' for minority groups," Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote.

    This became known as the "disparate impact" test, and it applies only in employment law. Colleges and universities remain free to use aptitude tests, and elite institutions in particular lean heavily on exams such as the SAT in deciding whom to admit. For a prospective employee, obtaining a college degree is a very expensive way of showing that he has, in effect, passed an IQ test."

  • ||

    This nails it. When discrimination was alive, white men got jobs. Then a college degree was required, and more non-whites, non-men went to college. Then a Masters in Business was required. Now we have tons of people getting business degrees, so they can get their MBAs, and they don't know shit. Here is what you need to succeed in business: 1. buy low, 2. sell high, 3. follow the law, 4. treat people with respect and 5. have personal integrity and passion. When employers figure out that employees don't need college degrees to do much of what they are doing, they can pay less, and hire more people. (Those "non-men" are women, and some schools have a crisis of too many women. And it is the women who complain about the lack of males.) Whites have needed affirmative action for years to keep the UC system from being all Asian. But they don't mind the occasional White guy complaining that they were kept out because their spot went to a Black guy, when really there is an Asian who could clean both their clocks without sweating wondering why they didn't get in. Not a pretty picture. Let's get rid of affirmative action, but prohibit discrimination.

  • ||

    I think it was about 1980 or so. The discipline and rigor of 40s-60s higher education had turned into the "soft learning" of the children of the boomers...where everything was gonna be ok, man, and groovy.

    Ask yourself: why can't medical schools fill available slots without foreign students...and even then, some slots go unfilled? Hmmm...

  • meerdahl||

    "When did America stop being a place where your work counted more than your papers?"

    when companies started getting sued for discrimination in hiring and promotions

  • johnny||

    "Violent is the Word for Curly" is one of the all-time greats

  • ||

    "Valiant Is the Word for Carrie"

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Now that you've seen the Three Stooges perform that song, you can properly appreciate the version from the Richard Elfman film Forbidden Zone (audio NSFW).

  • Paul||

    Sallie Mae, the massive former GSE in charge of managing more than $180 billion in student debt, objects to that change. Tellingly, both sides cite saving and creating jobs -- rather than, say, making sure credit-worthy students get supportable loans for reasonable tuitions

    I have come to the slow, painful conclusion that the federal, state and local governments are now jobs programs, nothing more.

    I'm seeing that scene from Robocop where the executive responds to the criticism that his new technology didn't work (after accidentally killing people), but modified for pretty much anything government does anymore:

    "Who cares if it isn't effective! This program would have saved or created thousands of dues paying public sector union jobs!"

  • ||

    That's why I propose replacing all government spending programs with a collection of subsidies directly to individuals in the form of vouchers for services from private companies of the individuals' choice. We'd save money overall from not having to provide fake jobs. The government adds no value to the process under the best scenarios and causes value destruction under the worst. Simple transfer payments are about the only thing the government can do without screwing it up.

    The numbers add up and even provide a nice savings. Trust me.

  • ||

    Don't fuck with Dick Jones.

  • ||

    Ronnie Cox, bitches

  • ||

    I'd buy that for a dollar!!

  • ||

    This article only clouds the real debate, the economic debate. There are reasons for the plans in the health care legislation. We are all in it together, and reform is a path to new jobs, medical service, providers and even insurers – and they can’t be off-shored. It’s actually much more simple than this article or argument any of our “politicians” are making on the hill. I was glad when I came across this article about the economic debate and the benefits of the republican vs the democratic plans check it out:

    http://bit.ly/investment-vs-debt

  • ||

    Shut the FUCK UP!

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    0
  • ||

    We are all in it together

    See, that's how I knew to stop reading.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    See, that's how I knew to stop reading.

    Heh heh, +1

  • ||

    Yeah, I got caught under the credentialism line myself. I borrowed about thirty grand, then the credit crunch hit, and all credit was cut off. I was already in a bad situation, and as soon as the economy took a hit, I was left with debt and no degree.

    I bought it, and now I have to face the music. I'll remember this while paying back every penny at a ridiculous interest rate. Lesson be learned kiddies.

    This last recession is simply making it easier to pinpoint fundamental flaws in the system. We can now get rid of these errors, and be much better off because of it. God Bless recessions.

  • ||

    Now I know how they can afford all those commercials I see on TV during the Jerry Springer show.

    http://www.youtube.com/results.....erest+coll

    Yeah, I work from home now. So what?

  • ||

    It's not just the "Social Ecology" guys who are seeing wage compression or a complete lack of positions. The off-shoring of engineering jobs is putting downward pressure on those salaries as well. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. You just need to pause a second as an engineering major and realize that the opportunities are shrinking in that field. (Unless Bangalore or Shanghai @ 20K a year appeals to you) Business and IT majors are seeing similar problems.

    It seems like lawyer is your best bet coming out of school. There is definitely no shortage of laws in this fair land, and the trend on the number of laws is a nice permanent upward moving line that all investors would envy. With that it's pretty much a gurantee that larger and larger sections of the population will need legal advice. Basic competence should get you permanent middle class employment.

    Oh and if you suck as a lawyer the two standard back-ups of Judge and Politician are pretty nice gigs as well.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    The off-shoring of engineering jobs is putting downward pressure on those salaries as well. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that.

    Nope, nothing wrong with that at all. You just need to pause and realize that there's nothing left in this country you can do that doesn't have "PROSPECTS SUCK THE BIG ONE" stamped all over it.

    I'm an engineer. I'm also in a position where I get to see bids come in from companies all over the place. For most of the past decade I've watched company overhead rates climb and climb and climb, seemingly beyond the rate of inflation......and wondered how long it would keep going.

    I've also noticed that big companies across the board have more and more new "departments", whose sole purpose is satisfying government rules, regulations, and mandates. But I'm sure this isn't costing much. And besides we're safer now (think 9/11).

    So tell me again, why is it that anything we can outsource, gets outsourced? Ah doan understan (I are an eng-ineer).

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    I'm a long way from being a corporate VP type, but from listening to the grape vine I'm also convinced: upper corporate brass doesn't think this big new wave of regulations they've been hit with in recent history, is going to kill them. It just means they have to limit themselves to higher margin product lines.

    I say this based on the fact that they aren't showing any signs of fighting it. Just take it all in stride, like a nice sunny day in the park.

    Maybe, they all just need to go into working for the government. Then they can all effectively pay themselves with the taxes they pay their very own selves.

    What could go wrong?

  • TP||

    ...seemingly beyond the rate of inflation...

    Which rate of inflation would that be? I believe you've hit on the right word, but I believe you're understanding of it (or use of it), falls in line with the populist notion of it. Therein, lies the problem.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    "You just need to pause and realize that there's nothing left in this country you can do that doesn't have "PROSPECTS SUCK THE BIG ONE" stamped all over it."

    Not true. I have my bachelor's degree in Forestry and Forest Management. There are TONS of jobs for foresters out there.

    It's really hard to outsource our trees to China. Not exactly cost effective to dig them up, ship them to China, replant them, then cut them down for lumber.

    Stick to degrees working with our natural resources. All wealth is ultimately produced by people working the land, it's a very secure field that focuses on that aspect of our economy.

  • Seer||

    See now that's kind of my thinking for being a lawyer though. You can't export the legal system, I think.

  • Thom||

    Oh yes you can. I believe that even now a good amount of legal work is offshored to India.

  • Ray Pew||

    All wealth is ultimately produced by people working the land

    All wealth (wealth = goods of value) is ultimately the subjective preference of the consumers.

  • Fearsome Tycoon||

    Stick to degrees working with our natural resources.

    This only works until the government declares the place you get your resources from a "national monument."

  • j.i.am||

    If you suck as a relational database computer programmer your backup position is database administrator. The latter takes just a little bit of knowledge and the ability to stay awake at meetings. And here in opposite world, it pays more.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    I've been told repeatedly that if you want to make it in management, what you know will just slow you down.

  • Fearsome Tycoon||

    There's nothing wrong with it except for the fact that all these jobs are moving off-shore because the federal government is busily criminalizing productivity...i.e. making work for lawyers. I really should have gone into law instead of aerospace.

  • Mexican Laborer||

    Suckers!

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Yeah, you're gonna think so when we can't even afford to hire your sorry ass anymore. ha ha ha.

    Oh wait, that already happened....

  • ||

    Right now, what you want to get a degree in is Government Studies or Public Policy or some such. That's where the action is these days, and likely for the foreseeable future until it all comes crashing down -- and then everyone except the electricians and mechanics are fucked anyway.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    You mean, everyone is fucked except the Mexican Laborer?

    Can't be!

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    "Right now, what you want to get a degree in is Government Studies or Public Policy or some such."

    Not true. As I mentioned up thread a bit, I've got a BofS in Forestry, but my Master's is in PolySci.

    Now, that PolySci degree is useless....

  • Buckland||

    Actually any degree that satisfies its need for self aggrandizement by putting the word 'Science' in it's name is going to be useless.

    Actually, come to think of it, I guess everything's relative. Compared to degrees with 'Studies' in the name degrees with 'Science' are downright vital.

  • ||

    Political Science is a totally different degree from the ones I mentioned. GS or PP is a degree leading to bureaucratic or NGO jobs, which is where the money is these days. Of course, you have to make the right friends too.

  • ||

    If i was born 50 years earlier, i could be leading a happy life as a steel worker. The heat, the glow, the shaping of raw metal. I'd fucking LOVE that, and get paid well to do it too.

    Oh well. Lucky-ass chincs.

  • what||

    Too bad for you. You'll just have to continue with your day job giving hand jobs.

  • ||

    I go to Brandeis University as some of you might know. Yes the price of tuition, room, board, and food are all incredibly inflated, but where else am I going to get the training I need for my career in Molecular Neurobiology? I don't understand why everyone around me (film, theater, and poli-sci majors who enjoy liberal "activism") are spending the same money as me to learn about African dance and then go work in a cubicle for the rest of their lives.

    So is higher education still necessary? Yes, for those whom it was originally intended for, it is.

  • ||

    Oh wait, I know why: because they're not paying as much as I am thanks to the federal government, from which I got zip aid (except for work-study as if I couldn't get a job by myself).

  • rctl||

    "Yes, for those whom it was originally intended for, it is." Where the fuck have I heard that before?

  • ||

    I don't know, why don't you enlighten me?

  • rctl||

    I hate to Godwin it but that is exactly what happened to jews in Germany.

  • ||

    WTF are you talking about? What does college being necessary for certain specialized careers have to do with Nazi Germany?

  • rctl||

    "I don't understand why everyone around me (film, theater, and poli-sci majors who enjoy liberal "activism") are spending the same money as me to learn about African dance and then go work in a cubicle for the rest of their lives." You are not the judge.

  • ||

    Ummm, all I said was that I don't understand it...

  • ||

    Does it make sense to buy a degree from a top private university for tens of thousands of dollars and do absolutely nothing with it?

  • rctl||

    Heller, they are paying for prestige and if you have the money, why not?

  • Name Redacted||

    The point is that they *don't* have the money. See "loan defaults" above.

  • ||

    No, he said exactly what he meant.

    THEY are paying for the prestige.
    YOU have the money.

    He invokes Godwin's at someone who dares question someone's ability to sponge off of others.

  • rctl||

    No, she said exactly what she meant: They are paying for the prestige with their own money and why not? I also used the Godwin reference for another reason.

  • ||

    "They are paying for the prestige with their own money and why not?"

    Except they aren't. The rich kids are majoring in business, law, or pre-med, because they know that they can afford graduate school. Everyone else is studying "world culture" on the taxpayer's tab. I'd rather eliminate federal aid all together, but while it's still here, we should at least make sure people are actually using it for something. It's like giving welfare to a guy so he can finally afford that luxury cruise.

  • ||

    If they were paying for the prestige with their own money, I wouldn't have a problem (although it would still be an incredibly stupid waste of their own money), but they aren't. As long as you and the rest of the taxpayers are paying for them, you should be able to demand that they use the cash in a certain way via the government.

  • ||

    Your right heller, you belong at a tech school where you get just the skills you need to complete your job in the lab where you will be for the rest of your life.
    Higher education appears to be completely wasted on you.

  • ||

    No, I'm not training to be a lab technician. Anyone could do that straight out of high school. I did.

  • rctl||

    McGill University

  • ||

    I know someone who goes to McGill. Good school. But I wanted to stay in the States.

  • meerdahl||

    harvard: america's mcgill

    drinking age of 18, full contact lap dances at main-line strip clubs, and local ladies who have no problem going to such clubs with you

    mmmm, montreal...

  • what||

    Heller is going to do his work en plein air.

  • rctl||

    McGill is a top school. The city is fun and I know you would love french girls.

  • ||

    Are you dense? I told you where I study and work...

  • rctl||

    Hell, you said "but where else am I going to get the training I need for my career in Molecular Neurobiology?" I just gave a reply.

  • ||

    And I said "But I wanted to stay in the States."

  • rctl||

    saw it

  • ||

    Also, that was a reply to What, not you. Those indents can be tricky.

  • rctl||

    Heller, it wouldn't be normal if you weren't just a little mean.

  • ||

    This is the internet. I believe the fluffy parlor of puppy love is across the street.

  • zoltan||

    The point is that a degree in Molecular Neurobiology doesn't require the type of college like Brandeis. Hard science and computer majors should be "trade school" majors in the sense that you don't need useless general education courses.

  • ||

    No, it requires a type of college like, you know, Johns Hopkins. Brandeis? Who the fuck are they in medical science? I'm not just being a snob, having gone to Hopkins. Really, I'm not. Oh shit, yes I am. Well, you take organic chemistry at Hopkins and see what you think. Oh, you can't get in? FACE.

  • ||

    Exactly. Last time I checked ITT does not have a professional scientists that students can work for so that they can actually learn how to be a scientist. Guess who does? Brandeis, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon... See any cheap schools on that list?

  • Chad||

    Yeah, those "useless" general education courses I took, like econ, history, and formal logic.

    Heaven forbid I know any of that stuff!

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Chad...FTW?

  • ||

    Not really. Since his comments on this board indicates he slept through econ and logic, and probably only learned Zinn-tinged history.

  • ||

    He took "Marxist Economics", "Everything Straight White American Males have done is Evil History" and "You're Really Not Capable of Knowing Anything Logic".

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Those topics are useful to know, but as a former engineeirng major, going to such classes just wasted my time and money. If I could have opted out, paid less, and studied more with the time available, I might have been a better student who could have eaten Campbell's instead of Ramen. Most of my economics, history, and logic knowledge have come from trawling the internet, watching the history channel, playing logic games, remembering what of little value I was taught in HS, and reading books on my own. Overall, it's a much cheaper enriching experience.

    Moreover, I can't speak for other majors, but Engineers get a dose of relevant history that examines the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, Shuttle Disasters, plane crashes, in most of their courses anyway. Why does someone need to know about the travails of Lawerence of Arabia if he is to build a plane, car, bridge, roadway etc. Inspriation? The Hell of It? "Well-rounded" individuals are like the F-35, able to accomplish several varied tasks, but none of them exceptionally.

  • ||

    Liberal arts is a lifetime calling. I have learned much more after college than I ever did in college. You can learn liberal arts on your own. You can't really do that with engineering. I wish I had majored in engineering.

  • robc||

    My problem with education is the exact opposite. I have an engineering degree and the 6 required social science classes and the 6 required humanities classes seemed reasonable. I just want liberal arts majors to take the same amount of math and science as I took of ss/hum.

    And no "physics for poets". Physics is calculus based.

    The management majors at my school had to take calculus. It wasnt the same as the engineering calculus, but it was still calculus. Which, unsurprisingly, is used as a recruiting tool against us. Personally, I think having football players who have passed calculus is a positive for the team.

  • ||

    But if you don't use math it goes away. I took engineering calculus back in the day. And I would be lucky to solve a two variable equation today much less do a derivative. I bought the book "Road to Reality" by Roger Pemrose a couple of years ago. He goes through complex number calculus and some fairly high end math in that allegedly layman's book. And that book has killed me. It is the one book I own that I have never finished. If you don't use that stuff, don't you lose it?

  • Russ 2000||

    I'm backing robc on this. If I had to grade all my coworkers on a bell curve, the best and brightest went to 4-year universities, the large group in the middle were a mix of university and trade schoolers, and the idiots at the other end were all 4-year university students. Those so-called "waste-of-time" courses are more like "you-get-out-of-them-what-you-put-into-them" courses. I was able to apply a music appreciation course directly to my calculus course. Perhaps my music appreciation course was unusual in that the instructor actually spent one class discussing sound waves, but if I had decided not to show up that day I never would have made the connection as soon as I did (if ever).

  • Django||

    Yeah, those "useless" general education courses I took, like econ, history, and formal logic.

    Demand a refund Chad.

  • TP||

    We all know college a degree does not guarantee a decent job. But try getting one without a degree. You'll be lucky if you can get a job in the fields picking squash with the Mexicans. The cost of college tuition, and the federal subsidies to individuals to cover those costs, is just part of the vicious circle of "creeping inflation". We can keep trying to treat the symptoms, but unless we treat the disease, we are all fucked in the long run. We can argue until we are blue in the face against government programs. But the there's only one real argument that needs to be made. Do I need to say it?

  • ||

    Correct. A bachelor's degree in anything is the new high school diploma--as sort of "admissions card" to a large part of the job market. So students go off to spend three years partying while taking "gimme" courses, and it all helps the universities bottom line, because they have a monopoly on those admission cards. It doesn't seem to be a very useful system, in most cases. We need more technical schools, not more "higher" education.

  • Fluffy||

    I think one problem with comparing the debt rates of the students at for-profit colleges with the students at traditional colleges is that the students at for-profit colleges are overwhelmingly people who didn't attend college on the first go-round at age 18-22.

    If they didn't attend college in the first place, it increases the odds that they had some obstacle that prevented them from attending. One of the big obstacles is, of course, ability to pay. Now that they're attending a for-profit college, they still aren't able to pay out of pocket, so they take out loans.

    All the people who could go to college and not take out any loans went to traditional colleges the first time through, and don't need to go to a for-profit college now.

    That being said, many for-profit colleges are set up to be loan mills, so the original point at least has some merit. I just think you have to look at the subject populations.

  • robc||

    I do a lot of corporate training. One of the centers I used to do it at has completely changed over to a for-profit college. Almost everyone is on student loan. There are cranking out a crazy number of nurses, as there seems to be a shortage, that is probably a good thing. Not sure if the medical transcription and dental hygenist programs are anything but scams (oh, Im sure they train them properly for those jobs, but you know what I mean).

  • ||

    My wife is a nurse. Back in the early 1990s, she worked for a couple years in a periodontic dental practice. At the time, she was making about $15 an hour. The dental hygenists were making $45 an hour. She was an overhead expense (giving IV sedation during oral surgery) while they were revenue generators.

  • ||

    I don't know about that. Often times, people who go back to college at an older age have money in the bank when they do this, lessening their need for loans.

  • Fluffy||

    On the broader question of "Why is there a bubble in higher education?" it might help to take a 50,000 foot view and see if we can get a different perspective.

    Economies and societies tend to organize themselves in ways that provide employment for virtually everyone. Large-scale prolonged idleness is extremely unusual historically. The employment opportunities that exist will be a function of the overall level of wealth in that society - poor societies will nearly-fully employ everyone at shitty and poorly compensated jobs; wealthy societies will nearly-fully employ everyone at more pleasant and better compensated jobs.

    This is why the Luddites are always wrong. At any moment when jobs are being replaced by technology, if the level of overall wealth in the society is rising, new jobs will be invented to soak up the people displaced from the older jobs. It has happened in several waves since the late 1400's, and it has never failed.

    So we may be looking the wrong place to find the root of the Higher Education bubble. It may just be one more epiphenomena of the vast increases in agricultural and industrial productivity. Everyone says "We don't manufacture anything in America anymore" and that's just false. We manufacture more than ever before in the US. We just employ vastly fewer people doing it. We have never had a manufacturing crisis in the US; we've only had a series of manufacturing employment crises.

    And the Higher Education bubble might just be one way in which our society and economy are soaking up the excess population that would formerly have been employed in manufacturing and agriculture. They have to go somewhere, and so they're becoming community college professors and student loan administrators and government bureaucrats and non-profit fundraisers with African Sculpture degrees.

    In this analysis, the important thing about higher education isn't just that it produces a type of worker better suited to our postmodern economy. It's also that the entire higher education infrastructure itself soaks up a lot of the superfluous workers.

    They all can't become CNA's, you know. Some people don't like to touch old people.

  • ||

    That is a good point. I always go back to the old island analogy given in basic economics classes. If I am living alone on an island and you show up, we can specialize our labor and I can hunt for fire wood while you fish. And we are both better off. If another guy shows up who is an expert fisherman, he puts you out of your fishing job, but allows you to grow a garden and so forth.

    The same thing happens on a larger scale in economies. Once upon a time, farms were so inefficient it took 90% of the population to work in agriculture just to feed the population. Then as agriculture got more efficient, those workers were able to move to the cities and trade and manufacturing developed. Now, manufacturing is getting more efficient, we really don't need many people to provide more goods than we need. So what do people do? They dream up services to provide people that were not possible before manufacturing and agriculture got so efficient.

    Now, you are right that community colleges is one place to put the excess labor. There are worse places to put it. I mean we could use the labor to build an enormous army and go fight real wars of conquest or something. But, there is an opportunity cost. Seriously, isn't there a better place to put our excess wealth and labor than in community colleges?

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    I agree with Fluffy's theory, and I believe the data show that rising unemployment correlates with increased enrollment in higher ed and continuing ed. (That's certainly the bet placed by career training companies who buy up the bulk of daytime tv advertising.)

    I don't know that higher ed is a particuarly bad place to park excess wealth and labor. At least it increases the odds that boring people might be able to say something interesting at cocktail parties.

    My only beef here is that, as noted in the original post, the numbers just don't seem to be working. Education is a market, and at the moment it is so distorted by public policy that it needs a period of deflation. That will be a boon to students (who are now in the perverse position of facing an abundance of supply that is overpriced), but for the existing players in the edu establishment, it's the most terrible threat of all: They might have to start doing some actual work.

  • ||

    Like I said above, I would feel better about for profit colleges if the market wasn't so warped. For that matter I would feel better about not for profit colleges if they didn't have the right to take our tax money.

  • ||

    I like this theory. I wonder if the data backs it up.

  • Fearsome Tycoon||

    It's a nice theory, but it's wrong. The education bubble can be summed up in two words:

    Cheap money.

    It's the same thing that drove the housing bubble. It's the same thing that drives all inflationary booms. The federal government has manipulated interest rates, giving students access to more money. The cheap money sends false signals to the economy, indicating that we need to devote far more resources to higher education. As we do so, the cost of higher ed goes up, driving up the price. The government responds to the higher price by introducing more cheap money into the system, thus driving the boom.

    We think we're getting wealthier, since we all have "college degrees" now. But really, the capital itself has lost its value, and the bust is imminent.

    Seriously, just read Hayek. Or watch his rap video.

  • ||

    Just because it is for profit doesn't mean it is a good thing. Fraud schemes are for profit. If the higher education industry wasn't so heavily subsidized and the market so warped, I would be much more positive about them. If people had to spend their own money rather than the government's they would hold them to a higher standard. But, as long as young people can borrow money so they don't feel any pain now or just get it for free from the federal government, the potential for fraud is going to be huge. Sadly, I think that is what is going on in a lot of these schools. They are just sophisticated fraud schemes.

  • ||

    They have to go somewhere, and so they're becoming community college professors and student loan administrators and government bureaucrats and non-profit fundraisers with African Sculpture degrees.

    EEK!

  • ||

    Back in the day, people used to put their excess wealth and labor into monasteries and convents to have people pray for their souls. Now we put it into non profits who provide us with the ability to cleanse our guilt by creating made up crisis like global warming that we can contribute to solving.

  • Thom||

    Or, you know, provide the kinds of privately provided social services that libertarians are always insisting (rightfully, in my opinion) are better provided privately than by the government.

  • ||

    Back in the day, people used to put their excess wealth and labor into monasteries and convents to have people pray for their souls. Now we put it into non profits who provide us with the ability to cleanse our guilt by creating made up crisis like global warming that we can contribute to solving.

  • ||

    If I were young, I'd emigrate to Australia or New Zealand now. To acquire some start-up savings, teach English as a Foreign language in Japan or South Korea. The advanced students, whose parents want them to sound reasonably close to native English speakers, know enough English already that you do not have to know their language already. Engineers can emigrate to places like Singapore, where English is one of the official languages, and get started there. These places are a lot like the United States was in the 1950's.

  • ||

    I am a retired military officer, however, my wife is a medical doctor, and she is still working. When she was in medical school, there was a required physics course the almost everyone hated. Some of her fellow students asked the professor why they need to pass physics to be medical doctors. The professor answered with words to the effect that it was to keep stupid people out of medicine. He thought if you are not smart enough to pass physics, you are not smart enough to be a doctor. I think this a valid point of view. Hard courses are a good way to keep stupid people out of leadership positions. There is a lot of stuff I had to learn that I never used, but it kept some stupid people out of the officer corps.

  • ||

    I think we should immediately cut all student loans for any program that ends in "-Studies" or "-Science" and all the Humanities.
    I see no reason why taxpayer dollars should fund someone's 5 year college party so they can graduate as a Master in Medieval French Literature. If they want a hobby, they can pay for it out of pocket like everyone else.

  • ||

    Graduating from high school requires being able to follow simple rules and breathing. Too many students are getting into college and taking remedial Math and English there. We are suffering from grade and status inflation. Students feel like they don't need to learn in high school, they can learn it in college. School districts feel pressure to improve their graduation rates. That is what standardized testing is about, but that doesn't seem to be working. With each state setting their own standards, and the rules being played with on many levels, schools are not improving.

    Notice how many more school teachers have Masters degrees, yet test scores aren't going up? And Head Start doesn't show any long term effect on improving achievement, but we fund that, and non-union charter schools do demonstrate effectiveness, and we resist funding those.

  • ||

    As always, follow the money. What we are seeing is a gradual hollowing out of the "free" education sector,K-12, and a build-out of the "fee" sector, "higher" ed. This is deliberate and benefits the education establishment.

  • James||

    High school used to be expected. Now a college degree is the expected item. It's like white is the new black.. or wait, reverse that.

    Point is. go to school kiddos. Head start does not work nor do vouchers. Study hard, learn to manage your cash and stay away from short term loans if you can.

    School uniforms? I love em - but I was picked on in school! :) and, no such thing as free education.

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