Tonight's Stossel: The College Scam, with Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds


John Stossel's eponymous show on Fox Business airs tonight at 9pm ET. The topic is "The College Scam" and features an interview with Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and the University of Tennesse Law School.

Reynolds is also a longtime critic of what he considers the "higher-education bubble." I think he's definitely right that prices are inflated by the free and reduced-price money flowing into the college and university system, but to my mind there's no doubt that college is for most people not simply a good "investment" in their own future, but a powerful tool of intellectual and personal development (results will vary). In 2013, Reynolds and I, along with several others, participated in a forum entitled "Where Higher Eduction Went Wrong."

Stossel's promo for his show tonight:

Congratulations Class of 2015! You probably wasted up

to $200,000.

IS COLLEGE NECESSARY? People talk about the importance of college. Politicians encourage people to get a college education. President Obama proposed making community college "free". Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to make tuition at four-year public colleges and universities "free"! But "free" just means taxpayers pay. Why should they? Should everyone go to college? No! For a lot of students, college is a scam.

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A 5th GRADER? Do college students get their money's worth? I quiz recent graduates of expensive, top level colleges to see if they answer questions that are part of today's 5th grade curriculum.

Here's one question a lot of people get wrong:

During which war did Francis Scott Key write The Star Spangled Banner?

a. Revolutionary War

b. Civil War

c. War of 1812

d. World War I

Most people assume the answer is A. But it's actually C.

COMMENCEMENT ADDRESSES: I weigh in on the best and worst commencement addresses of 2015.

THE COLLEGE ALTERNATIVE: Peter Thiel pays people NOT to go to college, to start a business instead.

GOVERNMENT LOAN SCAM: Government's student aid has created a tuition bubble. The price goes up because government pays. Some colleges spend that money on things like rock walls, and a "Day Spa."

For more info on the program, go here.

Reason interviewed Reyolds last year on his book The New School. Take a look:

NEXT: Friday A/V Club: A Younger Ron Paul and a Younger Reason

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Most people assume the answer is A. But it’s actually C.

    Really? I didn’t even have to look at the choices to know that one.

    1. Many college grads can’t even place the Civil War in the correct century.

      1. I took one history class in college. I don’t remember much of it. It was mostly about inbred Europeans warring with one another. Meh. Don’t care.

        1. I took so much history I almost had a minor in it when I graduated! We were blessed with great profs, which incentivized me.

          Civil War South American, Medieval were my faves. I wasn’t able to take “The American Revolution”, the one I REALLY wanted, b/c is was always filled with History majors (who got preference, of course).

          1. I was just six hours short of a double major. Finance and History–the lethal combination.

            1. Then you through it all away on a law degree.

              1. I dunno, I’d rather be in Legal than in Finance at my company.

                1. Same here.

                  We stride the halls like gods.

            2. History and Poli Sci were really big for my classmates with a future in the FBI and CIA.

              See how that worked out…

              1. How can you forget the lessons of history if you never knew the lessons of history?

          2. I’ve got History degree.
            Yeah, it’s fucking useless. Love history and bore my coworkers and girlfriend about what stuff I’m reading
            In my defense – I also got a econ degree and all on a liberal arts scholarship. I can really write a good scholarship app.

            1. I got a computer science degree, which means I can afford to buy history books to read in my spare time.

              1. you have spare time?

                1. The computers do all the work, duh.

          3. My CS major required so much math I got a minor in it by default, and I’m one physics class away from a minor (didn’t take it because it’s a lab that uses applied calculus, and while I get the concepts involved in calculus, I just can’t use it like algebra).

            I didn’t take any interest in history or economics until after I graduated.

            1. I will say it’s much cheaper to get an edumacation in history AFTER college. Esp in paperback…used paperbacks….

            2. No offense but how did you get a math minor without calc or is it the application that you struggled with? I can understand the latter because math profs are notoriously divorced from the real, physical world.

              1. Discrete math and computational math that applies to computer science does not directly involve calculus.

                1. Discrete math is a totally different world. So…. logical.

                  1. Automata Theory for the win!

                2. Let me be pedantic and say technically, the discrete math used does involve calculus: lambda calculus and propositional calculus

              2. I took two semesters of calc, and just barely passed. I understood it enough to do the contrived questions on the homework and exams, but actually applying it is a struggle.

                1. I struggled with (continuous / real number based) calculus initially. Then I retook it and “got” it. I still retain the understanding of concepts, but have lost the ability to apply it now after not using it for so long.

                  The discrete maths which I find more interesting anyways, have stuck with me longer though.

                2. I can understand that if not sympathize. I found grad-level linear algebra and set theory to be far more obtuse. Calc and diffeqs can be easily related to the physical world if you have a competent prof, but as I said the latter is usually impossible to find in the math dept. I think a lot of math should be moved to physics and engineering depts.

                  1. I found grad-level linear algebra and set theory to be far more obtuse.

                    I didn’t do grad-level classes, so maybe that’s why I did well in those courses. I remember having a very enthusiastic prof for those though, and that helped. The calc prof was a dick who thought we CS people didn’t deserve to take his classes because we didn’t appreciate the abstract beauty of mathematics.

                    Either way I did learn good problem-solving skills from all those math classes, which I suppose was the point.

                    1. I didn’t realuze I was taking the grad level class until I was well into it, although I was a grad student at the time. I was universally unimpressed with all of my math profs. They were all far too wrapped up in their conpletely abstract world.

                    2. The worst though was the guy who taught Statistics and Probabilities. The guy was from India and nobody could understand him. I dropped it and waited until someone else took a turn teaching it. I got a guy from Korea, but at least his accent wasn’t terrible. Got an A.

    2. I didn’t have to look either, but really, who cares? It’s pretty much irrelevant to understanding the War of 1812.

      People like Stossel always seem to reduce education to little more than memorizing a big list of useless trivia.

      1. People like Stossel? That sounds like racism against mustaches.

        1. Francisco d’Anconia likes Stossel.

        2. People like Stossel == People who apparently never made it past the “remember” level of Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy.

          1. Well, I think that might be going to far with what he’s saying. I knew the answer to his question, but I don’t think he nor I are dismissing the intelligence of someone who didn’t know the answer to just that question. He’s just providing that as an example.

      2. When I see this discussed in other places, the discussion includes more than one question. When you look at the list of questions you see that the students have no understanding of our political system or its history. I think that is important. Yes, it won’t matter to their prospective employers. But when the politicians justify their bullshit by running fake history at people, most of them fall for it. For instance, some people are astounded or downright disbelieving when you tell them that we didn’t have a permanent nationwide income tax until early in the 20th century.

      3. People like Stossel always seem to reduce education to little more than memorizing a big list of useless trivia being acquainted with the facts.

        Protip: You can’t understand the War of 1812 without knowing some facts about the War of 1812.

    3. that’s what I was going to say. Who misses this question?!

    4. Everyone in Baltimore knows it. They also know when to yell O at the right point wehn the song is performed at sports events.

  2. To be fair, that question is trivia and knowing the answer isn’t going to help most people in their day to day lives. I’d be much more interested to see how college students fair on basic math questions. How many can even verify that their bank/credit statements add up?

    1. They might also have some familiarity with the history of socialism.

      You know what they say – those who do not remember history are condemned to go to Alaska Military School.

      1. might *need to* have

    2. To be fair, that question is trivia and knowing the answer isn’t going to help most people in their day to day lives.

      I don’t think this runs counter to what Stossel is saying. See sarcasmic above, many of us took mandatory History courses that had little to do with our majors and nothing to do with our jobs. Moreover, *our* not being able to recall a 5th grade trivia fact may be the next person’s pointless need to be exposed to high-level geometry or calculus.

      Colleges make bad choices in teaching, students make bad choices in picking schools/majors/classes and there is significant distortion due to the influx of government funds and the legal barriers to school exit/job market entry.

      1. It’s bad choices all the way down

  3. Stoss is a god!

    But isn’t he on Thursday nights?

  4. Peter Thiel pays people NOT to go to college, to start a business instead.

    I hope he advises them what they’re getting into because much like college, starting a business is not for everybody.

  5. It is mind numbing the number of dumbass parents and students that just blindly write these checks to these scammers for defective, sometimes snake-oil products.

    The colleges say “That will be another 10%, please.” and the sheeple just hand it over.

    They have no idea that college admin people have nothing but contempt for them.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.