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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another look at the value of college

Here is a more nuanced piece about the myths of college. It still does not address
the difference between correlations and causation. But it does get into the problems with averages when looking at the stats associated with the higher earnings of college grads versus non-grads.

"Averages hide a lot of things. In this case, lots and lots of things. For example, one-quarter of workers with only some college or with associate's degrees make more than do half of those with bachelor's degrees."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Student Loans: The Next Bubble?

Good question: Are college student loans the next bubble? We would of course they are the current bubble for many. Especially those that are $200k in debt, have a degree in Sociology or History and still end up working at the five and dime.

One of the better points from the article: " Nobody earns a generic "college degree." Degrees are earned from different schools, with different reputations, and in different majors with much different payoffs. What counts most, says Georgetown's Anthony Carnevale, are the courses you take and your major."

Move over Ethnomusicology - try getting a job with a degree in Puppetry

A great post by Alex Tabarrok

"A few years ago, Joe Therrien, a graduate of the NYC Teaching Fellows program, was working as a full-time drama teacher at a public elementary school in New York City. Frustrated by huge class sizes, sparse resources and a disorganized bureaucracy, he set off to the University of Connecticut to get an MFA in his passion—puppetry. Three years and $35,000 in student loans later, he emerged with degree in hand, and because puppeteers aren’t exactly in high demand…he’s working at his old school as a full-time “substitute”…[earning less than he did before]."

"What astounds me is not that someone could amass $35,000 in student loans pursuing a dream of puppetry, everyone has their dreams and I do not fault Joe for his. What astounds me is that Richard Kim, the executive editor of The Nation and the author of this article, thinks that the failure of a puppeteer to find a job he loves is a good way to illustrate the “national nightmare” of the job market." Well said Alex.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How do we produce more entrepeneurs?

Good piece from the New York Times about how we might produce more entrepreneurs and job creators in America.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Johnny takes a different approach to college

I am trying to get families and young people to rethink the automatic track to college. Instead of Johnny mechanically leaving for a four year college this Fall to study Sociology, how about this for an alternative?

He combines learning with work. Johnny takes a combination of junior college classes, free on-line classes at the Khan Academy and reads like heck on a variety of subjects. And most importantly he reaches out to meet and learn from entrepreneurs, inventors, and business people - not just his college professors and classmates.

He then works hard at getting real world work experience with fast-moving entrepreneurial companies that would love to bring in Johnny’s energy, smarts, work ethic (and affordable price) into their organization. Johnny might work for free (as an intern) or offer to do some project work as an independent contractor or fixed prices that are too hard for the company to turn down. It would be great if Johnny made some money early in the process but it might be six months or so before he starts earning $20 an hour with the freedom to work flexible hours. Early on, the experience and the contacts are far more critical that the money Johnny earns. But it is important that Johnny start to develop the ability to communicate his value, negotiate pay, ask for a raise and be searching for opportunities where he will both learn and earn.

All the while Johnny is fervently networking, looking for other opportunities, learning, asking questions and developing a reputation for getting things done well and a great attitude.

But back to Johnny’s “education”. It clearly matters what kind of things Johnny initially has an interest in, and where he perceives a good fit for his services and personality as compared to the real job market. But consider that Johnny has only had a chance to experience a very small part of the world, so he shouldn’t narrow it down too early in life.

But let’s say he is interested in designing new technical devices. What subjects might he study over his first three years out of high school? If I was in the Folsom, California area, here are a few subjects that I might consider at Folsom Lake College (junior college): Chemistry – 5 units, Micro Economics 3 units, Physics – 4 units, Statistics – 3 units, Financial Accounting – 4 units, Mechanics of Solids and Fluids – 4 units. General Microbiology – 4 units, Environmental Biology – 3 units, Financing a Small Business – 1 unit, Business Law – 3 units, Introduction to Public Speaking – 3 units, Introduction to Logic Design – 4 units, Linux Operating System – 1 unit, Imaging for the Web – 1 unit, Engineering Graphics – 3 units. All for only $35 per unit as a resident (plus books) or $244 a unit if one is from out-of-state.

If Johnny is far away from the action (i.e. Elko, Nevada) where he can only communicate via phone, internet, email and text with the entrepreneurial world, then he should consider moving to where the opportunities are (Silicon Valley, New York City, Houston, Los Angeles).

But Johnny is simultaneously exploring a range of free online classes at sites like the Khan Academy. At the Khan Academy he digs into several technical subjects that might include: Photosynthesis, Types of Immune Responses, Visualizing Taylor Series Approximations, First Order Homogeneous Differential Equations, Representing Structures of Organic Molecules, Introduction to Torque, Newton’s Third Law of Motion, Compound Probability of Independent Events. And of course how can he pass up the free online class in Artificial Intelligence being offered at Stanford?

Without a doubt he has to learn the personal computer inside and out. This is 101 for entrepreneurs. He needs to know several operating systems, Excel (including macros), Visual Basic, and network creation, maintenance and security.

But today that is not nearly enough. One must also learn to develop and code applications for the IPhone and the Droid phones.

And Johnny is reading like crazy on a variety of business/entrepreneurial subjects. Here are some of the blogs that he might start his reading list with:

What an exciting time for Johnny. Johnny’s grandfather may have had no other options than working in the coal mine or the assembly line. Hopefully he will make the most of it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A college professor questions the value of college

A college professor questions the real value of a college education. The college establishment has helped the work world select and promote based on college degrees. If they could simply use the original entrance exams they would achieve the same filtering process for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars less. Education is critical but not all education is created equal. Time to rethink our blanket acceptance of our college model.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stanford offers free classes in Computer Science

Another example along with the Khan Academy of the ability to get college level classes online for free.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Disconnect about what the different expectations are for college

Quite a balanced piece (in other words I partially agree with it) as a follow up to Theil's fellowship program to encourage entrepreneurs to drop out of college and start a business.

A good point is the major disconnect between what the educational elite expect to produce out of this vast expenditure on college and what parents are expecting. Parents expect their son/daughter to go on to economic independence as a result of the investment. On the other hand, high school grads generally head off to college because they can not figure out anything better to do and their parents would be embarrassed if Johnny was not attending college.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The views of a 19 year old college drop out

Nice piece about college by a 19 year old that has dropped out. Very worth the read. He is one
of the recent Thiel fellows that requires him to get on with his life without being a full-time student.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting youth to pursue entrepreneurial ideas!

"The way I was thinking about it when I was a 17-year-old senior applying to college was I don't know what I'm going to do with my life. I'm just going to go to college. When I was a 21-year-old senior in college, it was I don't know what I'm going to do. I'll go to law school. And there was a way in which education and the university system was sort of a substitute for thinking about what I would do with my life."

A great concept by Peter Thiel about encouraging our youth to pursue new business ideas. He is giving a “scholarship” of $100,000 to 24 current college students that are 20 years old or younger that want to drop out of college and pursue their big ideas.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

85% of the college class of 2011 are moving back home with their parents

Arianna Huffington has some interesting thoughts for those graduating from college in the class of 2011. She does not differentiate between those graduating with degrees in Petroleum Engineering and those graduating with degrees in Gender Studies. After all not all college degrees are created equally - but she does not mention this.

It clearly matters what one spends for a college education and very importantly what one studies. If you study a fun subject for which no one needs your skills then you will be deep in debt, and back living with your parents along with 85% of your classmates.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marty Nemko has great advice about college

Mary Nemko has the credentials and always writes some of the most objective advice on considering a college education. Always worth a read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Obama didn't tell graduating seniors on Monday

Obama spoke to 155 graduating seniors at Booker T Washington high school in Memphis on Monday, May 16.

"We live in a new world" he told new graduates of a high school in Memphis, Tennessee, warning that when they leave college in four years, they'll be competing for jobs not just against Americans but with the youths in Beijing and Mumbai.

"You're competing against young people in Beijing and Mumbai. That's some tough competition," he said. "Those kids are hungry. They're working hard. And you'll need to be prepared for it."

What Obama didn’t tell the seniors is that: “Since my administration is making it easier for illegal aliens to cross the border and then stay and work, that you will also be competing against these undocumented workers for a job as well.”

One attendee said: “It was just overflowing and exciting, as if Jesus just stepped in the room.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

If you are a sheep - go to college!

Perhaps college is not as good an investment as it used to be. We are producing more college grads than ever before. But more of them have degrees in Psychology and History and have big college debts and not the slightest chance of ever paying off those debts.

Is it time to rethink the entire college value proposition? As this article points out:
“Muller, 26, graduated from Kean University in Union, N.J., yesterday with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She is the first person in her family to graduate from college. Like many graduates, she's now faced with the larger worry of living back at home while also paying down vast amounts of debt. All along, money’s been a chronic source of anxiety. In order to finish, Muller took out more than $70,000 in student loans and has another $10,000 in credit card debt.” OK Muller is screwed. She believed the hype and drank the lemonade without any questions. This is the result.

”A study conducted by Twentysomething Inc., a consultant firm specializing in young adults, reports that 85 percent of this year’s graduating class will be forced to move back home. Meanwhile, 2011 graduates also face historic amounts of student loan debt -- or an average of $27,200 for graduates that borrowed money in order to finish school.”

If you are simply a sheep then you will be sheared.

Advice for entrepeneurs

Some very good advice form Jon Bischke for those those young at heart entrepreneurs on how to get started.

Why not learn by doing rather than learn in a 19th century model in college?

If it fails you can always go back to college.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mike Rowe talks about need for skilled labor in America

"Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it's getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They're retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them."

Excellent testimony by Mike Rowe the producer of the "Dirty Jobs" television series. Well worth the read. As a country we need more skilled laborers and fewer college grads in Philosophy. And if you want to make a good living, don't look down on these critical functions.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

All the right questions about college

This mans asks all the right questions about the "college for everyone concept". Very well worth the time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How law schools lure in students with scholarships that disappear

An interesting article about how law schools lure in students with promised scholarships that the schools know they will frequently not have to deliver on. Since these law schools grade on the curve, many of the scholarship recipients that had assumed they could achieve a B average (a requirement of keeping the scholarship) are losing their full-tuition rides.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Home Schooling

“We thought about home-schooling our kids and then we realized public school was free. And college cost like $50,000 a year. So we are going to wait until they are college age and then home school them.” Brian Kiley on the Late Show with David Letterman April 29, 2011.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Perhaps we can match Tunisia's college education stats

An excellent American Thinker article about Obama’s mindless fixation on the college completion goal.

Of course Obama never differentiates between the number of Political Science majors (Obama's major) we are producing versus the number of engineering majors that graduate. Currently only 2.5% of all college graduates are US citizens in engineering. Another 2.5% are foreign students graduating with engineering degrees.

“Consider the dire warning that the U.S. has fallen to 9th place in the college graduate listings (in the world). The Administration takes it on face value that 9th place is bad, and 1st place is good.” “Of the eight nations above us, only Norway has a higher standard of living as measured by per capita income.”

Tunisia offers free college education, which has resulted in one of the highest college graduation rates of 57%. “Unfortunately unemployment rates among Tunisian college graduates is 45%.”

Replace the lecture format in many college classes

This article by Dr. Marty Nemko is the kind of thinking that should allow us
to provide many college classes for a fraction of the cost.

He suggests: "StarProfs Classes would enable every student at any college -- from the best- to the worst-funded -- to receive, in a single course: -- exposure to 15 of the nation’s finest instructors."

Marty Nemko asks what these people have in common

What do these people have in common relative to their college?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A give and take about the value of college.

Here is a lively give and take on the benefits, cost and value of college today. I received this link from a Facebook friend in Minnesota. He graduated from Harvard in the Liberal Arts, went on to become an MD and sees far more value in today’s college study of the humanities that I do. But he knows that I am an advocate of change to our college system and we debate and discuss the subject regularly.

This Minnesota Public Radio blog includes opinions on both sides of the ledger but I will summarize the major arguments for the “College for everyone at any cost and any major” mainstream:

College increases critical thinking skills. A regular assumption of the college advocates is that college is the best way to increase our citizens’ critical thinking skills. And yet a recent study casts doubts on how much improvement in critical thinking skills actually occurs in college today.

We would expect the curious, the intelligent, the well-read, the personable on average to do better financially than those with fewer of these qualities. One post stated: “The opening of one's mind to new ideas and experiences certainly is less likely to happen if one doesn't choose to further one's education.” Absolutely, but there are plenty of ways to further one's education at a lower cost (frequently for free) than spending $50,000 a year attending college.

The prevailing thought is that if one does not attend college, and instead, works, travels, joins the military or starts a business that they are forever scarred intellectually. And the data rarely studies high school grads with equal SAT scores and IQs versus comparable individuals that take other paths.

One post went as far as to state: “A well-educated, well-informed populace is the best insurance against falling into tyranny. “ Is that so? Obviously we are not advocating an illiterate citizenry, but where is the evidence to support the view that a few more grads in Ethnomusicology are saving the world from tyranny?

College is a good investment at almost any cost. A blogger said: “For at least the last 25 years we've been told that a 4 year college education is worth nearly any cost.” The societal thinking is that a college educated workforce (even if they spend $200k over six years and studied Gender Studies or English) will make America more competitive. But I have yet to see any studies that show that recent 26 year old graduates in History consistently earning more than their high school buddies that got a technical certificate in welding. Likewise, I have seen no studies or empirical evidence that 40 year old Medieval German majors have created more jobs for other Americans than their neighbors who are entrepreneurs in the trades.

And we know one thing for sure: the cost curve for college has gone up much faster than inflation for decades. And we see increasing levels of college debt (greater than credit card debt) as well as more government debt, increasing college loan default rates and higher unemployment rates for recent grads. Much of this inflation is due to the fact that since more high school grads than ever are going to college this increase in demand, absent other mitigating factor, tends to push up prices (Econ 101). And since more of the cost of college is subsidized (via programs like government college loans) this reduces the push back on costs because the 18 year old college student perceives a lower cost than the total real cost and the student will not have to pay the piper for several years to come.

My prior blog pointed to a study entitled: “Going to an Elite College Won't Get You More Money; Being Good Enough to Get Accepted at One Will.” Yet most still believe that spending for an elite and usually more expensive college education is a great investment (by the student, his family and the taxpayer).

As one blogger put it: “Ah, if only I knew then what I know now... there is no way I would pay as much as I did for three degrees again. I would work my way through school even if it took me ten years. I would experiment with actual jobs (intern, volunteer, etc.) before starting in on a degree path.”

Another post noted: “It doesn't seem worth it when you realize you're not able to afford a house because of your monthly student loan payments.”

It does not matter what one majors in - any degree will do. And this is where some point to the old data that shows college grads on average earn $1 million more over their lifetimes than non-college grads. But the data never delineates how Petroleum Engineers did over their lifetimes versus Greek Mythology majors. As my Minnesota friend exemplifies, some of those Liberal Arts majors went on to Medical or Law School and did very well. But how do you think those average Joes that went to the State U, took six years to graduate in Journalism, and are now $80,000 in debt are faring in today’s economy? You might find a few examples that are thriving but my observations indicate this is rare.

One post asked: “Is college a trade school offering just a ROI? It didn't used to be. We used to want 'liberal arts' education to learn how to question, think, and become a responsible citizen.” Well that is never what I wanted for those that I am footing the bill (via my tax dollars or parental support). It is not that I don’t want educated, thinking and responsible voters; it is my doubt that our current college system is the best way to achieve this goal or that it now actually achieves this goal very often if at all.

It is important to do what you love - money is not everything. One post opined: “It depends on how one measures ‘worth the cost.’ I reject the premise that the sole criterion is whether it's a good financial investment. How much is wisdom worth on the free market?”

The “college for everyone” advocates start by bragging about the higher earnings for college grads and when this argument fails they fall back to “money doesn’t matter”. But earning enough to live independently has got to improve one’s sense of well-being and accomplishment. If one is starving then you had better really love the field you are in. More importantly, I have seen no studies (and I am always looking) or empirical evidence that recent English grads that are still unemployed or back working at an entry level position at Home Depot have greater life satisfaction than journeyman diesel mechanics.

It is time to question our assumptions about college. One post stated : “It seemed like everyone in my class was expected to go to college. If they did not pursue it they were looked at as people who would be unsuccessful in life.” is exactly the norm that we are questioning. Most of the discussion about college is anecdotal (both pro and con), from “it was a waste of time” to “I became so enlightened that it allowed me to enjoy the spirituality of my minimum wage job”. The debate is essential because if we continue the trend of primarily producing college grads that are deeply in debt and have no in-demand job skills then it will challenge America’s way of life and prosperity.

If critical thinking is the end result of non-practical post-secondary education, how do we know how much critical thinking we are getting for the dollar spent? It is hard for me to conceive of a critical thinker today that does not understand basic statistics and the inferences one can draw from different size samples. And it is hard to envisage a critical thinker that can not differentiate between the concept of correlation and causation. And I know few critical thinkers that do not understand the basics of college logic classes. And yet, I see little evidence that these skills are being learned broadly in college today, let alone at an affordable cost.

Is college the only way to expand one’s intellect? Obviously not. It may be great fun, and may expand one’s horizons in unique ways but in this era of instant information available on the internet, the Khan Academy and their free online schooling, Wikipedia, the many books available free via GoogleBooks, inexpensive computer-assisted learning materials (like Rosetta Stone for learning a foreign language), is the college model the best way to economically learn today?

This post summarizes much of our thinking about college: “Over the last 15 years, tuition costs have grown without added value or other valid justification. And only now are people asking the question. It's too late for a generation of students, but hopefully 11th grade math and economics classes will put this question front and center in their curriculum. Selling the blind faith that it's always worth it is a disservice to students everywhere.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peter Thiel on College

Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.

"I can say that with confidence because it’s about Peter Thiel. And Thiel – the PayPal co-founder, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist – not only has a special talent for making money, he has a special talent for making people furious."

"Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. 'Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”"

"Like any good bubble, this belief– while rooted in truth– gets pushed to unhealthy levels. Thiel talks about consumption masquerading as investment during the housing bubble, as people would take out speculative interest-only loans to get a bigger house with a pool and tell themselves they were being frugal and saving for retirement. Similarly, the idea that attending Harvard is all about learning? Yeah. No one pays a quarter of a million dollars just to read Chaucer. The implicit promise is that you work hard to get there, and then you are set for life. It can lead to an unhealthy sense of entitlement. “It’s what you’ve been told all your life, and it’s how schools rationalize a quarter of a million dollars in debt,” Thiel says."

By the way - a the full price of a Harvard Education today is much more than a quarter million dollars.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Marty Nemko with a great perspective on college

Parents, high school students and politicians should be paying attention to Marty Nemko. A former academic that thinks outside the box and is not afraid to establish the status quo relative to college.

A few of his recent comments:

"Perhaps even more surprising, even high school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive sufficient benefit (see below) to justify the often six-figure cost and four to eight years it takes to graduate --and only 40 percent of each year's two million freshmen graduate in four years; 45 percent never graduate at all!"

"At a typical university, only 30% of the typical student's class hours will have been in a class with fewer than 30 students taught by a professor. That's not to say that professor-taught classes are so worthwhile. The more prestigious the institution, the more likely that faculty is hired and promoted much more on how much research they do than how well they teach. And indeed, contrary to colleges' self-serving claims, researchers are not the best qualified or motivated to teach the basics to undergraduates."

"Yet the government requires virtually no accountability or transparency from colleges. That, despite a college education, next to a home, being the largest purchase most people ever make and one that may have even greater impact than a home on the person's life."

Thanks for speaking out Marty!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What should our college goal be?

Outstanding piece. The goal should not be the number of kids we send to college. The goal should be the number that graduate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We get what we measure.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A tech-driven world needs tech-educated workers

A tech-driven world needs tech-educated workers. So it is great if the individual studies engineering or science in college. But a History degree is not going to do the trick and the media rarely distinguishes between students studying useful subjects in college (that are in demand in the work world) and those studying “fun, interesting, but non-useful” subjects.

The goal is not “a post-secondary” education. The goal is a set of skills whether obtained in high school, college, a trade school or online that will allow the individual to compete in today’s job market or better yet start her own business that will hire others.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Even The Optometrist Asks Where I Am Going To College

Even the Optometrist Asks, ‘Where are You Going to College?

An interesting discussion by Michael Campbell a high school student waiting to figure out what college he will be accepted at.

But the important discussion is really what is Michael going to major in and how is he going to get a great education for a reasonable price.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

For each student who defaults on a loan, at least two more fall behind on payments

A new report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy has some interesting findings.

The study, based on data from five of the nation’s largest student-loan agencies, found that only 37 percent of student borrowers who started repaying their loans in 2005 were able to fully pay them back on time during the subsequent five year period.

For each student who defaults on a loan, at least two more fall behind in payments on their student debt. And these numbers are from a period (those starting to pay back their loans in 2005) when the economy was thriving. Do you think the results look better during the last couple of years of our recession?

What all these studies fail to consider is what the default rates are based on the amount borrowed and the major studied. Do you think the default rates might be higher for an English major that has borrowed $100,000 than a Petroleum Engineering major that only borrowed $20,000?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

James Alucher's Thoughts about College

Some contrarian thoughts about college from James Alucher, a writer, blogger, trader, and venture capitalist in his blog “Living Life is better than Dying in College”.

He says: “Colleges have made use of the myth that you can’t get a job unless you have a college education. So young people feel a rush to get that college out of the way so they can get a job and ‘begin’ their adult lives. I think kids should begin their adult lives at 18 by experiencing what else the world has to offer.”

“I saw what people were doing in college. I know now how much I learned in college and how much I learned in other experiences in life and which is more relevant to me now at the age of 43. And, btw, it was much cheaper when I went to school than it is now. So when did I develop this theory? Almost immediately when I realized college had nothing to do with any successes or failures that I had in life (and I had A LOT of failure despite college). And also, it took me 8 years to pay back my student loan debt. Now it takes kids 30 years to pay down that debt. It’s not fair to the youth of our country.”

Good to see someone that is willing to question the status quo and our herd mentality.

Friday, February 18, 2011


There are no right or wrong answers here. But to the extent you think these through as a parent and then actively communicate your philosophy with your high school student your son or daughter will know what to expect. Here are a few questions for you start with.

- How do you feel about your daughter going to college?
- What are the advantages of college? This is a critical one; spend some time really thinking and researching it. If you attended college a generation ago, do not assume that your daughter will have the same experience. Do not assume that college is as a sure thing as it might have been a few decades ago.
- What are the disadvantages of attending college other than the cost and investment of time?
- Would you be embarrassed if your daughter did not attend college? Your friends are bragging about Susie heading off to Princeton and all you can talk about is Mary starting as a waitress at Mel’s Diner.
- Do you think college is a great investment at any cost?
- Some parents insist that their son work for a year before going to college. What do you see as the pros and cons of this requirement?
- If your daughter goes to college, how much are you willing to help financially and if so what conditions do you plan to put on this support?
- How do you feel about your son going into the military after high school? If he heads to the military rather than going to college are you willing to provide the same amount of Post High School subsidies? If so you are rare. Most parents will subsidize college, or even just hanging around the house but rarely will they subsidize military service, going to work or starting a new business.
- If your son attends college, what do you consider a full load?
- How do you feel about your daughter starting a business after high school? If she starts a business rather than attending college are you willing to provide the same amount of Post High School subsidies?
- How do you feel about your daughter working at a non-profit (for no pay or benefits) immediately after high school? If she does this are you willing to subsidize her to some degree and if she subsequently attends college will you provide the same amount of college subsidies that you would have provided if she had attended college immediately after high school?
- Are you willing or able to provide any subsidies at all after high school? If not is it clear to your son? If you are not going to provide any subsidies it makes sense to communicate this early rather than at the high school graduation ceremonies.
- If your son starts at an entry level job at the local utility are you willing to provide the same amount of Post High School subsidies? If not are you willing to provide any subsidies?
- How do you feel about your son living with you after high school? Do you feel the same about it when he is 19 years old as when he is 35?
- If your daughter attends college, how many years are you willing to subsidize? Consider that only about 53% of students that start college have graduated within six years.
- If your son attends college are you willing to support him studying virtually any subject? Some college subjects (like Accounting and Engineering) usually result in related jobs after college where other degrees (like Psychology and Theatre) are rarely generating good paying jobs after college.
- Are you willing to subsidize an impractical education (Gender Studies, Sociology, Art Appreciation) to the same extent that you are willing to subsidize a more practical field?
- Are you willing to subsidize your daughter attending graduate school right after she completes her undergraduate degree? Even if the only reason is that she has studied a subject (like Ethnomusicology in her undergraduate studies) that has no demand and it is either going to work at McDonalds or attending Grad school. How much are you willing to subsidize graduate school?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

“23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang

This book was recommended by a friend that generally has views that are quite left of mine. Nevertheless it is an interesting read. I disagree with most of Chang’s conclusions but concur with much of his take on investments in education. Chang believes in Capitalism but is down on “free-market capitalism”. He generally advocates bigger government and governments that direct more of the productive capacity of the government. That having been said, his views on education are very much in the minority and contrary to other big-government advocates.

When has a politician stood up and said: “We are investing too much in education, especially silly studies in Greek History, Music and Modern Art at our colleges and universities.”? Never. Instead, speech after speech is along the lines of Obama’s latest State of the Union address: “Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within the reach of every American.”…” if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they are born until the last job they take — we will reach the goal that I set two years ago: By the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

But Chang disagrees with this notion: “There is remarkably little evidence showing the more education leads to greater national prosperity. Much of the knowledge gained in education is actually not relevant for productivity enhancement, even though it enables people to lead a more fulfilling and independent life. Also, the view that the rise of the knowledge economy has critically increased the importance of education is misleading.” And I would question how effective it really is at helping people live more fulfilling lives, especially for the amount spent.

“With increasing de-industrialization and mechanization, the knowledge requirements may even have fallen for most jobs in the rich countries.”

Chang points out that it is taken for granted that: “More educated people are more productive - as evidenced by the higher salaries they get. So it is a matter of mathematical logic that an economy with more educated people will be more productive.”

Chang notes that: “In 1960, Taiwan had a literacy rate of only 54%, while Philippine’s was 72%. Despite its lower education level, Taiwan has since then notched up one of the best economic growth performances in human history. In 1960, the Philippines had almost double the per capita income of Taiwan ($200 vs $122), but today Taiwan’s per capita income is around ten times that of the Philippines ($18,000 vs. $1,800)” This is where I think Chang draws conclusions from limited observations. Obviously there are so many factors that determine the economic performance of a country and education is just one of them. The Philippines was a US territory until the end of World War II. Since independence in 1946, the country has not had a very stable democracy and had to deal with Ferdinand Marcos’s corrupt dictatorship from 1972- 1986. After the return to democracy in 1986, progress was hampered by national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, a persistent communist insurgency and an Islamic separatist movement.

Chang cites Lant Pritchett, a Harvard economist who worked at the World Bank for a long time. “Pritchett analyzed the data from dozens of rich and developing countries during the 1960-87 period and conducted an extensive review of similar studies in order to establish whether education positively influenced growth. His conclusion is that there is very little evidence to support the view that increased education leads to higher economics growth.” In Pritchett’s paper he says: “possibly education does raise productivity, and there is demand for this more productive educated labor, but demand for educated labor comes from individually remunerative but socially wasteful or counterproductive activities - a bloated bureaucracy, for example, or overmanned state enterprises in countries where the government is the employer of last resort - so that while individuals' wages go up with education, output stagnates, or even falls.”

Chang asks: “Why is there so little evidence to support what seems to be such an obvious proposition that more education should make a country richer? It is because, to put it simply, education is not as important in raising the productivity of an economy as we believe. To begin with, not all education is even meant to raise productivity. There are many subjects that have no impact, even indirectly, on most workers’sproductivity - literature, history, philosophy and music, for example”

“To begin with, with the continuous rise in manufacturing productivity, a greater proportion of the workforce in rich countries now require much less education - stacking shelves in supermarkets, frying burgers in fast food restaurants and cleaning offices. Insofar as the proportion of people in such professions increases, we may actually do with an increasingly less, not more, educated work labor force, if we are only interested in the productivity effects of education. Moreover, with economic development, a higher proportion of knowledge becomes embodied in machines.”

“A large part of this is due to the simple fact that mechanization is the most important way to increase productivity.”

“Now, it may be argued that, even though economic development may not necessarily require the average worker to be more educated, it needs more educated people at the higher end. After all, as I have pointed out above, the ability to generate more productive knowledge than others is what makes a country richer than others. Thus seen, it may be argued, it is the quality of universities, rather than that of primary schools, that determines a nation’s prosperity.” Perhaps this is the case in the fields of science and engineering, but doubling our expenditures in literature, music and history is unlikely to increase our productivity. So we need to consider very specifically what kind of college investments that government should subsidize if we care about increasing our wealth.

Chang states: “Let us take the striking example of Switzerland. The country is one of the top few richest and most industrialized countries in the world, but it has, surprisingly, the lowest - actually by far the lowest - university enrollment rate in the rich world; until the early 1990s, only around one-third of the average for other rich countries. Until as late as 1996, the Swiss university enrolment rate was still less than half the OECD average (16 percent vs. 34 per cent).”

“Higher education, of course, imparts certain productivity-related knowledge to its recipients, but another important function of it is to establish each individual’s ranking in the hierarchy of employability. In many lines of work, what counts is general intelligence, discipline and the ability to organize oneself, rather than specialist knowledge, much of which you can, and have to, actually pick up on-the-job.” But how well does our US college system really develop discipline and organization skills? With degree deflation and a move to treat the college student like a “customer”, there has been a trend for faculty to go along to get along - in other words, don’t make the tests and the assisgnments too difficult because then the college student will not give the professor good evaluations that are required to keep one’s job. And the more pleasant we make the resort-like setting and create an environment where everyone passes, how much of a real ranking system have we created? Does graduating from a cushy college where virtually everyone graduates really demonstrate much self-discipline?

Chang notes: “By hiring you as a university graduate, your employer is then hiring you for those general qualities, not for your specialist knowledge, which is often irrelevant to the job you will be performing.” As Caroline Bird said: “It may well be that college attracts large numbers of those who are predisposed to change and learn – and that they would score high on all the test whether they go to college or not. If this is so, if college selects rather than creates ability, the diploma has become what Christopher Jencks of Harvard calls “a hell of an expensive aptitude test.”

Chang goes further: “Once the proportion of people going to university goes over a critical threshold, people have to go to university in order to get a decent job. When, say 50% of the population goes to university, not going to university is implicitly declaring that you are in the bottom half of the ability distribution, which is not the greatest way to start your job search. So, people go to university, fully knowing that they will ‘waste time’ studying things that they will never need for their work.” Actually I don’t know that our 18 year olds really know what they are going to learn in college. They simply know that everyone says they need to go, that their parents and society are subsidizing that path but no other one and they haven’t really considered any alternatives. Finally why would an 18 year old want to start a tough job rather than lazing around a beautiful campus in search of beautiful coeds?

And because of our discrimination laws, company hiring practices need to show relevance to the job being filled. So employers generally don’t use SAT and GMAT scores in hiring because they can’t show definitively the connection between higher test scores on these tests and the requirement for their work. If the employer uses test scores that have not been shown not to not discriminate based on cultural and racial backgrounds (I do not know how to express this accurately without a double negative), they can put themselves at risk of lawsuits. But the college degree is now accepted as a valid delineator for whom one hires. So employers indirectly achieve the same SAT score aptitude test but at a very expensive price.

But beyond basic IQ and technical know-how, how many employers really look at the self-discipline demonstrated in college. Things like, how much the individual paid for the experience himself, how much the graduate worked during college, how many units per semester did she take, how many classes did the candidate drop, are all factors that are generally ignored by those hiring recent college grads.

Chang states that: “Given that Switzerland was until the mid 1990s able to maintain one of the highest national productivities in the world with a university enrollment of 10-15 per cent, we could say that enrolment rates much higher than that are really unnecessary.”

“In the case of rich countries, their obsession with higher education has to be tamed. This obsession has led to unhealthy degree inflation and the consequent over-investment of huge scale in higher education in many countries.”

In summary we think:

1. There are a myriad of factors that determine a country’s economic success. Just a few of the non-education factors are the type of economy, government debt, birth rates, political stability, innovation, investments made in the past, access to natural resources, and cultural work ethic. The right investment in education (by government and the individual) can clearly help the individual. But the wrong kind of education investments will do little to make a country more competitive.
2. There are different lag times for different factors. For example a huge hurricane or earthquake or a terrorist attack can put the economy behind almost instantly but additional expenditures in pre-school education will probably not pay off for 20+ years.
3. College diplomas are now a sorting system for employment opportunities and it is a very expensive and sometimes ineffective way to sort.
4. It matters what education we invest in. College education that leads to more productivity in a country will have a bigger payback on broad-based prosperity than those investments that are for the general interest and the “enlightenment” of students.
5. Greater expenditures on education do not necessarily lead to an increase in practical know-how or greater prosperity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is it any wonder that 70% of American high school grads go immediately onto college?

It’s where the money is. Not the money 10 years later but where virtually all the money is for an 18 year old.

Most parents subsidize their children attending college (cars, tuition, room and board). But how many parents subsidize their kids starting a business right after high school, starting a job, or joining the military?

For some high school students, college is the right fit. But for many of the 47% that attend college and have not graduated within six years it is not. And for many of the roughly half of today’s college graduates that walk away with a degree in subjects like Ethnomusicology, Sociology, English, History, Theatre, Art Appreciation or Dance, and are finding no job offers, it may not be the right path either.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Campus visit or Major visit?

We think that most high school students and their families usually get the sequence backwards. First they select a college and then they select a major. But selecting a college first assumes that which college you attend is the most important factor. Many an advisor declares that the college major is one of the most important choices made by the student. They are wrong; your major is the most important decision.

If one’s goal is to gain financial independence via a college education (granted this is not the mission of every 18 year old), then what one studies makes all the difference. Today’s graduates in Petroleum Engineering are getting multiple job offers at high starting salaries. On the other hand those that are graduating with degrees in Theatre, Medieval German and Gender Studies rarely find any job offers at all.

If you want to pursue a degree in Petroleum Engineering there are fewer colleges to choose from (see On the other hand it is hard to find a college that does not have a Business degree (the most common of degrees in America today).

How does one conduct a Major visit? How does one check out different majors and the opportunities in these majors to determine if a major is a good fit for your skills and interests?

Unfortunately most high school guidance counselors can’t help much; most of them can’t tell you how the opportunities vary between a chemical engineer and a petroleum engineer.

You might actually need to visit a campus or two. But not to check out the resort like setting but to speak to the professors in the field you are interested in. Talk to some of the students in your major, and perhaps sit in on a class. Then meet with the Student Placement office and see what you can learn about who is hiring the graduates and if you can get the contact details so you can talk to the folks with the jobs directly. This action is valuable on a number of dimensions because some of these same campus reps might have ideas for you about scholarships and internships once you arrive at college.

One clue about the right major is investigating how those majors are faring in getting internships during their summers. If the internships are primarily with no pay that is a sign of a poor demand for grads in that area. If the internships are primarily for pay, then it is a sign that employers are recruiting college grads in a field where recent grads are in high demand.

Keep in mind that the most common major for college freshmen is Undecided. If you are unsure, why not attend your community college for a year or two or work for a year while you try to narrow down your career direction?

And a majority of college students change their majors during college. But there are changes and there are changes. Going from Computer Science to Math in your freshman year is a minor deviation. Switching from Mechanical Engineering to Civil Engineering in one’s sophomore year is also not a big deal. But if you decide in your senior year that instead of wanting to be an elementary teacher you want to change to pre-med, you just added a couple of years duration to your college experience (even before you start medical school). And if you have studied at a typical private Liberal Arts college they might not even have the science curriculum that you need to get ready for Med School.

There are a number of online career assessment tools at Quintessential Careers. But keep in mind that these assessments tend to focus on what you might be good at. They rarely reflect whether there are in fact many jobs in the field. You might be an outstanding musician but are you really good enough to earn a living as one?

So think major first and college second when planning out your college path.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

When it comes to education we get what we measure

One of the goals I consistently hear is that we need to increase the number of college graduates produced by the United States. The most agressive of these is that the goal should be that 100% of Americans ought to be college graduates.

Today the US has more college grads (as a percentage of those over 25) than ever before - roughly 27%. In 1940, this number was about 5%. Oddly enough, as the percentage has gone up, the US has fallen from the World’s most competitive and powerful economy to one that is struggling.

As we continuously set and measure the wrong goals (for example, the percentage of high school students who go on to college), we also become more efficient at producing the wrong results. We have succesfully achieved higher college graduation numbers, but we've ineffectively instilled the knowledge and learning needed to make America more competitive.

Likewise, if we simply track the high school dropout rate, and the only goal is to reduce the number of high school dropouts, a likely unintended consequence is that schools simply dumb down the curriculum enough to allow more to graduate from high school and then declare victory. Today , nearly one third of US high school students either drop out or fail to finish high school in four years. Clearly it is far more expensive to educate kids who don’t want to learn than to educate those that do.

Testing based on the "No Child Left Behind" act is designed to reward high performing schools and penalize poor schools - but the entire emphasis has been on English and Math. English and Math are extremely important, but equally important - yet ignored and not measured - are science test scores. Since we have not acknowleged the importance of measuring science results, we have consequently invested inadequately (resources and time) in the subject. One or two US students of every 100 scored well enough to be considered advanced in science according to a recent report by the National Assessment of Education Progress in Science. This portends a bleak future for America’s ability to stay competitive in the world technology markets.

“Highlights of national (math and science test results) show that 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level, demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter.” The longer our students stay in our public school system, the farther behind they fall in science.

In President Obama’s last state of the union address, he called for a “Sputnik movement” fed by investments in research and education. Who among our growing universe of Americans who have never passed a science or math test will conduct this research? We didn’t send a man to the moon on the backs of college graduates in Sociology and Gender Studies.

There is much talk about rewarding the top teachers and dropping the rest. This sounds like a good start. But absent a system for measuring the factors that will make America competitive, we risk simply getting more efficient at teaching the wrong subjects. And of course, if our public employee unions insist on pay for seniority rather than pay for results, and if we fail to challenge and change that position, it may not make much of a difference what we measure.

Perhaps we need a radically different education system, one run by private enterprise and non-profits but requiring transparency in standardized test score results (including Science) for all to see and compare. Among competing private schools, some might rely on different combinations of online education, computer-assisted learning, frequent testing, and grandmotherly encouragement. And the government’s role in education would be restricted to providing financial support via vouchers and formulating and auditing a uniform testing system that measures learning results for English, Math and Science. Then the government would leave the management and execution of education to the private sector. We would see much more learning taking place at a far lower price.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The longer our students stay in our public system the poorer they do in science.

Just one or two US students out of every 100 scored well enough to be considered advanced in science according to a recent report by the National Assessment of Education Progress in Science. This gives a bleak forecast for America’s ability to stay competitive in the world technology markets.

“Highlights of the national results show that 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level, demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter.” The longer our students stay in our public system the poorer they do in science.

And of course the study points to the shortage of science and math teachers. There are no shortage of History teachers. This is not to diminish the role of History teachers but when we pay them as much as science and math teachers, the few science, math and engineering grads we have graduating from college these days will generally accept much better paying jobs outside of teaching. And even if they want to be a teacher, the school districts, with their teacher unions won’t hire a recent science teacher when they are laying off an experienced History teacher. With union seniority rules, the school districts will instead ask the History teacher to do their best at teaching Chemistry. What a mess.

Is it any wonder that only about 2.5% of college graduates today are US students in Engineering?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You don’t have a job. Why don’t you just work at McDonalds?

Mike Palascak on the Letterman Show: “I live at home with my parents. Yeh - it’s temporary, probably. A lot of people my age they feel bad living at home or they feel bad asking their parents for money. I don’t.” “My mom was really worried I wouldn’t get a job after college. Michael, you don’t have a job. Why don’t you just work at McDonalds? Because I don’t want to lose my eligibility for the Monopoly game. ”

Monday, January 10, 2011

First things first

Too many high school students get it backwards when it comes to selecting a college. First they select a college and then (sometimes years later) they select a major.

This is bass ackwards.

What if you select Western Governors University and then decide to major in Chemical Engineering? It is a great school and very cost-effective but guess what? They don’t have any engineering programs. It is a great school if you want to teach.

What if you start at Colgate University (a prestigious Liberal Arts college) and then determine that studying Mechanical Engineering would be a good fit for your skills. But Colgate has no such major.

Granted, not every 17-18 year high school student knows what career they will pursue. So if the student is unsure of what to study, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to attend either a community college to finish the general curriculum classes or to attend a college or university that has a very broad range of course offerings? Or better yet, how about taking a year off and working while you find the right educational fit.

The only reason one should pick a college first is if you are simply filling time or believe the fallacy that any college degree is as valuable as any other college degree.

For many Law School is a losing proposition

This is an excellent article in the NY times yesterday about the payback for Law School. The tragedy is not just that so many of these students are investing so much in a field that is such a long shot but for many of these students they are doubling up on a poor undergraduate college investment where they studied subjects like Art History, Sociology, or Psychology.

It is not uncommon for a recent college graduate in Medieval German with no options for related work to fall back on attending graduate school, where she can postpone the immediate obligation to pay off the prior college debt. So on top of $50,000 of undergrad debt, the recent grad keeps digging a little deeper into debt and three years later owes another $150,000 for Law School loans. Now she has an undergraduate Law Degree to completment her Gender Studies degree and absolutely no ability to pay off the loans.

We really do need some truth in advertising on this subject.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The fastest growing university in America

What is the fastest growing university in the US? Probably one that you have never heard of: Western Governors University (WGU). They have about 23,000 full time students, up from 14,000 in June, 2009.

It is a non-profit, accredited, strictly online institution that is providing far better value in college education than the college establishment. They use technology to reduce college costs, while most colleges and universities have typically used technology as an excuse to increase costs and tuition.

You won’t find interesting (but impractical) majors where graduates rarely get a related job (like Sociology, Ethnomusicology, Modern Dance, Psychology). WGU sticks to their knitting with a few areas of study (Education, Business, Health Care and IT) which allows graduates to find jobs.

The cost is only $5,800 per 12 month period; for that a student can take as many classes as she can handle and finish. Once one completes the work and passes the exams, he can move on to the next course. On average, students complete their degrees in just 30 months at a total cost of less than $15,000 for a four-year degree.

The average student age is 36 and most of them have families and a full time job. It clearly takes more discipline to complete this kind of a program and so they have fewer students right out of high school.

Each student meets (online) with a mentor at least every other week, to confer about the course work, and also discuss how the material applies to the real world. Even the exams are taken from home via a clever online testing methodology.

WGU mentors don't get tenure that guarantees them a job, nor are they encouraged to publish academic papers or conduct research. And lo and behold they don’t have unaffordable public pensions and benefits packages that are out of line with the private sector. But the faculty by and large can work from their homes as well.

One Teacher’s College Graduate said: “I would have never been able to attend a university and follow my dreams if it wasn’t for WGU. I work full time and have three kids; online schooling was my only option if I wanted to stay involved in my childrens' lives.”

This is the kind of revolution we need from our college and university system. We need to drastically reduce the cost (not just slow down increases) and we need to remove subsidies for the study of fun, esoteric but impractical subjects like Greek, Art History, Gender Studies, and Recreation Management. My congratulations go to WGU.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

With the best of intentions South Korea has educated itself into a corner

A fascinating blog by Mark Harris.

"On 60 Minutes a few weekends ago, it was mentioned that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would like 80% of American youth to attend and graduate from college. It is a nice thought in many ways. As a teacher and professor, intellectually I am all for it (if the university experience is a serious one, which these days, I don’t know).

But students’ expectations in attending college are not just intellectual; they are careerist (probably far more so). As it happens, I am now living and teaching in a country, South Korea, that meets the Gates’ standards. Right now, about 75-80% of Korean high school students enter a university. The 20% of Korean youth who do not attend university are mainly poor rural youth. Given the Koreans’ diligence, it is not surprising that the vast majority of university attendees also graduate, many with majors in scientific and engineering disciplines (“soft” degrees like marketing are not as popular here). This is a dedicated country.

But you know what? They can’t find jobs. It was reported in the Korean media a few weeks ago that according to the latest government figures, only half of recent Korean university graduates have found full-time work. Even the country’s best university, Seoul National, only has a 70% placement rate.

Now, Korea is experiencing an economic downturn, but not as bad as America’s. This employment issue has more to do with levels of training and subsequent levels of expectation. When a Korean student emerges from 20 years of intense study with a university degree, he or she reasonably expects a “good” job — which is to say, a well-paying professional or managerial job with good forward prospects. But here’s the problem. There does not exist, nor will there ever exist, a society in which 80% of the available jobs are professional, managerial, comfortable, and well-paid. No way. Korea has a number of other jobs, but some are low-paid service work, and many others — in factories, farming, fishing — are scorned as 3-D jobs (difficult, dirty, and dangerous). Educated Koreans don’t want them. So the country is importing labor in droves — from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, even Uzbekistan. In the countryside, rural Korean men are having such a difficult time finding prospective wives to share their agricultural lifestyle that fully 40% of rural marriages are to poor women from those other Asian countries, who are brought in by match-makers and marriage brokers.

Since young Koreans almost invariably live at home until marriage, whether they are working or not, it is routine for the young unemployed to do so. Their parents, who have a lot invested in their children’s successful outcomes, discourage them from taking low-level, part-time, or contract work, even just to get a start in life. As is usually the case, the only way they can see of improving their lot is not by lowering their expectations, but by improving their qualifications: by scoring well on English tests, getting additional certificates, and so on. But everyone else is doing this, too, so the competitive field remains the same. What will happen to these youths? The more years they don’t work, the less chance there is that they ever will. They become tainted, and possibly a permanently disenfranchised minority.

This country, in short, has, with the best of intentions, educated itself into a corner."

This blog raises several points. 1) We don't want everyone studying the same thing, even if it is a tough subject like electrical engineering. 2) The college subjects that pay off in one decade may be different than the next decade. 3) It is a weakness if one can not find a job related to one's major and is then not willing to bite the bullet and go find unrelated work. 4) Education is like other commodities and driven by supply and demand principles; if everyone majors in civil engineering we will likely end up with too many civil engineers and their pay will suffer. 5) An educated work force can create opportunities for laborers and immigrants. 6) The goal of 80% of American Youth graduating from college might be too high.

Why Did 17 Million Students Go to College?

Richard Vader in his excellent article "Why Did 17 Million Students Go to College?" in the Chronicle for Higher Education, he states that new information has "reinforced my feeling that diminishing returns have set in to investment in higher education, with increasing evidence suggesting that we are in one respect 'overinvesting' in the field."

"As more and more try to attend colleges, either college degrees will be watered down (something already happening I suspect) or drop-out rates will rise."

Richard's critics argue (with no supporting data) that history has always favored those with a college education. The "invest in college at any cost" advocates consistently confuse a causal relationship (i.e. college contributes to higher wages) versus the correlation of college and higher wages (i.e. smarter people go to college and intelligence is a predictor or success). The critics also hate the notion that college needs to pay for itself by relying on vocational education (i.e. education that leads to a good-paying job as opposed to education that merely enlightens).

One of the critical comments on the author's blog stated: "I imagine that at the CHE Vedder is seen as some kind of 'provocative in-house critic' or some such nonsense." "I honestly wonder why the Chronicle keeps Vedder around." So this is how some in the establishment react to any questioning of the "any college investment is a good investment" argument.

Another critic said "Since we know that education has no consequence other than individual financial profit, it's obvious that we don't want to administer it to those who won't profit from it. Waste of time, really. Surely there's a nice neat test that will let us weed out the weak sisters for life as gammas? Those parking lot attendants don't need to think (or vote, or make life choices)." But what evidence do we have that a $200,000 college education in Sociology really makes the grad a better voter or citizen? Please help me see the evidence of this enlightenment.

Another response said: "It should be apparent that college should be about more than vocational training for professional and higher paying jobs." Another said college "gives you tools and skills for a maximum appreciation of life in all its domains." Well this is not apparent to me in the slightest (although I grant that the college establishment disagrees with me on this one). The challenge with all of this added enlightenment is how do you measure progress on the enlightment curve? How well has the college grad improved his critical thinking skills and persepctives that will make him a better citizen? This enlightenment category is never measured, never proven and few outside the education establishment want to pay for someone else's daughter to obtain it.

In general, the college establishment wants to use the evidence of greater financial rewards for college grads when it supports them and use the enlightenment argument when the financial investment argument does not work. I come from a perspective that beleives that the investment in college needs to stand on its own. Let's remove all the subsidies for college that total somewhere between $7,000 to $10,000 per college student per year. If a family wants to pay for Johnny to get enlightened then let them pay for it. If Johnny wants to study a less fun but more in demand subject then let Johnny and his family pay for it and reap the beneifts as well.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100 institutions are charging $50k per year or more

"The ranks of the most expensive colleges have grown again: 100 institutions are charging $50,000 or more for tuition, fees, room, and board in 2010-11, according to a Chronicle analysis of data released last week by the College Board."