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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Decline of College

For the last 70 years, American higher education was assumed to be the pathway to upper-mobility and a rich shared-learning experience.”
Victor Davis Hanson challenges how most colleges operate in America.  Very well written.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why hasn't the tech industry disrupted the textbook industry yet?

Here are a few of the answers:

    * A big reason for the slowness is that textbook buying decision-making is done by government bodies -- state education agencies and departments that make these decisions. (a case of government slowing down innovation).

    * Moving books to digital was not the value proposition - the real value proposition was having a lighter, handheld library on the go! Until that was possible, nobody wanted to read digital books.

    * In a Los Angeles pilot program: “at three campuses more than 300 students deleted security filters, allowing them to freely browse the Internet and prompting officials to suspend the use of IPads at these high schools.  There was a recall, and supposedly 1/3 of the IPads haven't yet been returned; rumors are that between 5-10% have been dropped and broken, and another 5-10% are irretrievably lost.

Most of these challenges would be easily overcome in a private business.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Value of an MBA

What is the value of an MBA?  This is a similar question to the value of a bachelor’s degree (especially in Sociology or Fine Arts). In general “value” might be considered as the ratio of benefits to cost.
My experience working for and managing the hiring process for big companies tells me that a year or two after graduation, managers and employers could care less what degree one has. Instead they care about: 1) how intelligent you are 2) how hard you work and 3) your common sense.

MBAs may get higher starting salaries but after a couple of years, dynamic companies care about what you are bringing to the party today rather than your “credentials”.

This is a fascinating part of the article: “She is even advising people to apply to a top school, get an acceptance and then decline to go. Put the fact (of your acceptance) on your resume and Zanetti thinks it will have nearly the same value as going to an MBA program for two years.” ‘It’s like being an Academy Award nominee instead of an Academy Award winner.” She writes. “But the difference between the two is mortgaging our future and accepting the risk of getting stuck with a monumental student loan.’

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good news, bad news on college textbooks.

The good news is that UC Davis chemistry professor Delmar Larsen has worked hard to establish free open-access e-textbooks for hisclasses.  Maybe a few members of the US college system are starting to focus on bringing down the cost of college.

The bad news is that America’s subsidized colleges have delayed the open-access movement by years because of a lack of push back by students.  Too many college students lack any immediate price signal where they perceive they are spending today’s money on a college education. The price of textbooks gets mentally lumped in with the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars of college student debt that will have to be paid back sometime in the distant future.

As a result: “New college textbook prices soared 82 percent from 2002 to 2012, at the same time that tuition and fees rose 89 percent, according to a U.S. Government Accounting Office report released in June.”

We need more radical thinking and action like that of Professor Larsen!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"The college drinking game"

Jonathan Zimmerman from NYU tells it like it is relative to college drinking and weak academic challenges at many US colleges.

College should be interesting, broadening but most importantly - hard work.  Many colleges have failed this last criteria substituting gorgeous campuses, climbing walls and resort-like dorms for more hours at the chemistry lab.

We don’t require today’s college students to read enough, write enough and study enough.  What do you expect for your $250,000 education?

Zimmerman has a few sobering statistics:
1    *      In 1961, the average full-time college student spent 25 hours a week studying; by 2003, it was down to 13 hours a week.”

2    *    “In a typical semester, half of our college students don’t take a single class that demands 20 or more pages of writing. A third don’t take a class requiring 40 or more pages of reading.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Universities are driven by need to compete in university league ranking tables!

"Despite so many fat years, universities have done little until recently to improve the courses they offer. University spending is driven by the need to compete in university league tables that tend to rank almost everything about a university except the (hard-to-measure) quality of the graduates it produces."

"In 1962 one cent of every dollar spent in America went on higher education; today this figure has tripled. Yet despite spending a greater proportion of its GDP on universities than any other country, America has only the 15th-largest proportion of young people with a university education."

"Almost a third of students these days do not take any courses that involve more than 40 pages of reading over an entire term. Moreover, students are spending measurably less time studying and more on recreation."

"A remarkable 43% of all grades at four-year universities are As, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960. Grade point averages rose from about 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wharton Puts First-Year MBA Courses Online for Free

“While you won’t get the full Wharton on-campus experience—or an internship, career services, or alumni network, for that matter—the new courses in financial accounting, marketing, and corporate finance duplicate much of what you would learn during your first year at the elite business school, says Don Huesman, managing director of the innovation group at Wharton.

“Huesman says the MOOCs are not watered-down versions of Wharton’s on-campus classes. In fact, some professors at the school are using the MOOC content in their own classes, asking students to watch the lessons beforehand so that class time can be used for discussion—a practice known as “flipping” a class.”

Times are a changing and for the better.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Valuable is Harvard's Brand?

Here is a very insightful piece about the real value of a Harvard MBA versus this degree being a proxy for ability.

Jose Ferreira (Harvard MBA grad) makes the case that rather than Coca-Cola having the most valuable brand, that the top colleges have owned it for decades. And that brand may be very much at risk.

In my book Lucky andGood: Risk, Decisions and Bets for Investors, Traders and Entrepreneurs, I make the argument that one needs to separate the “Pride-Of-Ownership Premium” from the underlying future cash flow.

In the case of an Ivy League education, there is little doubt that one pays more for a degree than at the local college. And in fact the education may be better. But how much better? If the education is only 20% better but the cost is 150% more, then the difference should be attributed to the “Pride-Of-Ownership Premium.”  

Find Lucky and Good: Risks, Decisions and Bets for Investors, Traders and Entrepreneurs at Amazon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why is the Cost of College "too damn high?"

This piece discusses the expenditures on new gym facilities with fancy climbing walls. 

In most industries, the business must balance the services they provide with their cost.  Getting that balance right is usually make or break.  But colleges for the last several decades have succeeded by spending more on fancy dormitories, sports facilities and park-like settings in order to “trap” their customers.  And their typical 18-year old customer only cares about what they have to pay today without regard to what they will be on the hook for later on.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

$6,600 or $45,000 – What would you prefer to pay?

Georgia Tech has one of the country’s best computer science programs and they are a pioneer here. The college hopes that they might have as many as 10,000 students from all over the world.

Will this be the tipping point in changing how college is delivered?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

College is not for everyone

Marty Nemko has the credentials and a history of speaking to thousands of folks about
their careers.  Here is some outstanding advice.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe on Shovel Ready

"We're talking to a country that no longer has a relationship with the shovel."

"I'd say one trillion dollars in student loans is no joke. And I'd conclude by suggesting that we are lending money that we don't have to kids that can't pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Post by my College Drop-Out Partner

Post by Robb Sexton

As an entrepreneur, inventor (hundreds of patents globally) and businessman, I have both violated and held steadfast to many of the principles that John advocates in this blog

John’s frank assessment of the new reality surrounding the Return on Investment of many college educations is particularly personal to me. I, like many other aspiring entrepreneurs, only attended college for two years.  A series of personal events and circumstances put me at the crossroads of joining the burgeoning electronics and computing revolution or finishing college. I chose the latter.

Conventional wisdom then and now should have made the decision to stay in school easy. But based on my upbringing, my experiences, the tumultuous times, and a near-death experience, I chose to put forgo the last couple of years. In my case this decision actually helped enable my success not deterred it, and that was at a time, when the job market gave more “credit” to a college degree than it does today.

Make the decision for yourself. Don’t go to college simply because you can’t figure out anything better to do. And if you choose to go the college route, by all means have or find a future vision and don’t take on “easy” debt to pay for an education that could derail that vision before it begins.

Robb Sexton
Chairman, NeWire, Inc.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

One in Four

About 58% of those that start college graduate within six years.

And of those that have recently graduated, approximately 46% are working at a job that requires a college education.

So let’s do the math.  That would mean that those that attend college and end up getting some financial gain from the education is approximately (58% times 46%) = 26.7% (let’s call it roughly one in four).  Not the best odds.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Advice for college seniors from Dr. Marty Nemko

Dr. Marty Nemko always has solid advice.  Here he discusses steps that college seniors can take to have a chance at the 46% (those college grads that are actually employed in a job that requires a college degree). 

One suggestion that I really liked was to “Play at the career center. Play around in your campus's career library and you may well learn about well-suited, under-the-radar careers you've never considered. Have a session or three with the best career counselor there. Take a career-finding and/or job-search workshop. Let visiting job recruiters interview you.”  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dr. Marty Nemko Discusses the You U

Dr. Marty Nemko always has a practical perspective on college.  In this piece he discusses a great alternative to “going back to school”.

Marty says: “There's an often superior alternative: You U. You, perhaps with a mentor, select activities that provide the practical training that may benefit you more than that piece of imitation sheepskin. It might, for example, include workshops, webinars, in-person or online courses; for example, at Udacity, Coursera or the upstart SkilledUp that aggregates 70,000 courses from more than 300 sources.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Idiocy Squared!

$380,000 of combined student debt.  But don't college educations always pay off?  Maybe not.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The UK has also gone crazy over college as well!

The US is not alone in its fixation of college as a panacea for solving the world’s problems.  AMOLRAJAN makes the case that the UK has also gone over the cliff on sending kids to college that make little or no progress at their colleges rather than developing real-world work skills or a non-college skill that is in demand.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Message for the Class of 2013

Great advice from Rob LaZebnik, a writer for “The Simpsons”.

"Dear Graduates: You're pampered, privileged and oversexed—but at least your employment prospects are dim."

“So you relaxed into college life—a well-deserved break after the exhausting race to get here. You've spent four years percolating in a warm stew of beer, gender studies and online pornography—which led to the subject of your senior thesis, "Jacobean Dramatic Tropes in Modern 'Massage Surprise' Videos."” Actually many of you have spent six years or more.

“So I advise you to ignore all the clich├ęs of the typical commencement speech and do what your generation does best: get lucky.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Johnny graduates from college

Are you excited about attending nephew Johnny’s college graduation?  He was an average high school student.  His parents were so pleased when he attended the local U rather than getting a job or entering a life of crime.  

            He has lived at home for the last six years and finally graduated with a degree in Physical Education.  He got an A in over half of his Physical Education classes (magna cum laude). Johnny never asked if any PE majors were actually getting jobs upon graduation. Guess what? Not one of his fellow grads is getting a job offer (except those drafted into the NFL or NBA).

By the way, Johnny now has $50,000 in college loans, and his parents have guaranteed most of them. The entire family is screwed (although Johnny does know the proper technique for a sit-up).

Poor Johnny – he was brainwashed from the get-go that he was a failure if he didn't attend and graduate from college. 

Maybe next time (Generation Z), we can give Johnny's younger brothers and sisters a few more practical options.  

MOOC’s (Massive, Open, Online Courses) are the wave of the future

MOOC’s (Massive, Open, Online Courses) are the wave of the future.  Here’s an interesting article from the New Yorker. 

The teachers unions in many of our universities will hate the notion.  They would prefer the cushy lecture to a dozen coeds out on the campus “park”.  Who wouldn't want to continue this pleasant job.

Let’s fundamentally change how we educate Americans post high school (I am not opposed to changing how we educate those in K-12 either.)  Let’s start by:

1    1)      Remove the subsidies for post-secondary education (government guaranteed loans, state tax revenues, and the GI bill).

      2)   Publicly encourage high school students to consider alternatives to college.

      3)  Tax, instead of subsidize silly degrees like Gender Studies, Political Science and Dance.

4    4) Celebrate innovative and leveraged ways to deliver education for a fraction of the price, like MOOCs.

      5)   Mandate that each college, major and course track and publish how their students are doing in the job market.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

That Time of Year

It's that time of year that the family comes together to celebrate that Johnny actually graduated from college (although it took six years).  The family has no concerns about Johnny's $120,000 in college loans or the fact that he graduated with a degree in Gender Studies.  Johnny is back on the street looking for a job at McDonald's and asking his parents if they still have his old bedroom available.  Was this use of six years and $120,000 in debt and the $20,000 of family savings a good investment?  Maybe not!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Dangers of College on the Jon Stewart Show

A funny (although accurate) story about the dangers of college on the Jon Stuart Show.  Dr. Marty Nemko has been saying that too many go to college in Nemko's books, blog and speeches for years. When discussing bartenders with college degrees, one commentor said: “I always assumed that they had a bartending major.” and Marty answered: "That’s called English Literature."

One of the enforcers (guys with real skills) in the enhanced indoctrination program about the dangers of college said: “If you hate going to school, college is a lot like school.”

Unfortunately the “Johnny has to go to college or I am a failure” thinking has been so deeply ingrained in our culture that few have the strength to think and act for themselves.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

College is not what it used to be

Here is one of many articles about the problems with college today found at the Thiel Fellowship.  He is the billionaire that is providing scholarships to a few bright kids to pursue a non-college alternative.

Here are a few points from this article:

"The promise that an expensive degree at a traditional university will pay off rests on some questionable assumptions; for example, that no cheaper way of attaining this educational premium will emerge."  Or that the education itself is what made the difference rather than the students underlying intelligence, curiosity and drive.

Colleges are surviving by making the experience a cushier, softer experience.  "A remarkable 43% of all grades at four-year universities are A's, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960. Grade point averages rose from about 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006."  We don't want our college students to face any discomfort at their country club schools.

And a key stat that is rarely discussed is how often students don't even graduate from college - "the chances of an American student completing a four-year degree within six years stand at only around 57%."  But the debt still has to be paid off for all those that walked away with no diploma in hand.

We need to rethink the assumption that everyone needs to attend college.  It is a good fit for some and a horrible one for many.

Digital Apprenticeships are a great alternative to college

Digital apprenticeships are a great alternative to college.  Of course this route does not enjoy many of the subsidies that traditional college offers like subsidized government loans and tax breaks for parents. 

You also won’t get the personalized attention of the San Jose StatePhilosophy professors.  Maybe that is a plus.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

San Jose State Philosophy Professors protest the wheel, the lever and Online Education

Interesting protest by San Jose philosophy professors – if they had been born a bit earlier they of course would have fought the wheel, the lever and the printing press.
Colleges continue to dislike measuring results – the argument being that their “work” is simply too important to measure.  It has to be accepted on blind faith. And if you can't measure it then we will have to rely on the intuition and experience of those that will be losing their jobs rather than on the unbiased results.  You can see where that will lead us.
And it is not just professors but also college presidents.  The article points out: “Many college presidents, too, are MOOC (massive open online courses) skeptics. In a Gallup poll released Thursday, most of the 889 presidents surveyed said they did not expect online education to solve colleges’ financial challenges or improve all students’ learning.” – well guess what if we get rid of half of our professors then we should be able to get rid of half of our college presidents as well.
This honest evaluation tells all about the priorities of too many college professors relative to the debate on using more technology to provide a better education at a lower price: “I started out very enthusiastic about the democratization of higher education through the global MOOCs, but I’ve gotten more cautious as my colleagues talk about what it might mean for jobs, at public universities,”  in other words it was all milk and honey until I figured out that it might cost me my job or at a minimum result in a cut in pay – and after all, my pay and benefits are job one.
Our college system acts like a virtual monopoly for many opportunities and many in this institution won’t give up that monopoly without kicking, screaming and whining.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are you a college grad stuck in a job that did not require your degree?

A survey out Tuesday found that 41% of college graduates from the last two years are stuck in jobs that don't require a degree.

Now this may be a first for a major US publication: "The lack of job options in their chosen fields are weighing grads down, as nearly half of the recent graduates believe they would fare better in the job market if they'd pursued a different major."  

So you have gone deep in debt (say $100,000) and now have a degree in puppetry or sociology - and you are surprised that there is no job waiting for you in your "major."

Time to save your money and get "real."   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NYU Professor Gives Valuable Advice to a college Student

Good for Professor Galloway as he explains how college fits into the real world.

"Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It's not too late xxxx...

Monday, April 15, 2013

How do you spend your time in the ghetto

Imagine a world in which the only way out of the ghetto is via basketball, baseball, soccer or science.  And then compare this to another town (somewhere in the world - although probably in China or India) where success is measured based on your math and science test scores, We know that most of these students will not make the NBA All Star game nor win a Nobel prize. But how about all the others (the mere mortals) - those that don't win the grand prize.  How would you handicap the chances of the "hopeful" but unsuccessful NBA prospect versus the biologist that didn't win a Nobel prize?

Monday, April 1, 2013

UnCollege is changing the notion that going to college is the only path to success.

22% of college grads under 25 are working jobs that do not require a degree.

You have to love their mission "To change the notion that university is the only path to success and to help people to thrive in an ever changing world in which it is virtually impossible for educational institutions to adapt." BRAVO

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mark Cuban on College

Mark Cuban's discussion of college is well worth a read.  He asks some very good questions.  His comparison of the four-year college to the newspaper business is spot on.

Here are a few points of my own: 1) Many 18 year olds are not ready for college.  If that is the case then wait a year or two until it is a good fit; 2) I can guarantee that most of those that graduate with $100,000 in student loans will feel the pressure and have far fewer options when they graduate; 3) If you collect $75,000 in student debt and don't graduate, then you are really up a creek without a paddle.

The cost of college matters.  Experiencing almost any subject for $20 a unit is a very low risk.  On the other hand "investing" $2,000 per unit ought to be amazingly useful in preparing you for the real world where you have to pay your bills and earn a living (and repay your college loans).

I am taking an excellent class at on modeling that is outstanding - and it's free.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Many students are not prepared for college!

Excellent piece about how many students are unprepared for college.  Attending college when you had trouble with high school may not be the prescription for developing marketing skills for the job market.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

San Jose State Will Ramp Up Online Offerings

At least some colleges and universities are attacking the old business model.  The problem is that most incumbents do a horrible job of replacing themselves.  It normally takes an aggressive outsider to send the old model to the grave.

This article is worth a read.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The End of the University as We Know It

Very well written piece by Nathan Harden.  

I loved the enthusiasm and agree that this is where we should be headed.  But because of all the subsidies for the existing system and parents and students that therefore don't really pay much attention to what kind of debt they are picking up I think that change will be far slower than in the music industry.