Education: a product for which people are willing to pay more to get less … go figure.

That’s something an older colleague once remarked to me.

So, true.

I often quip that if a student shows up at the Verizon Center and Lady Gaga’s concert is cancelled, they’re bummed.

If they show up for my class and see a sign that class is cancelled, they whoop and holler with glee.

And, on balance, most of them think my courses are better than the average academic offerings.

On a grander scale, many are predicting that high-priced colleges will be the next bubble to burst.  Folks have been paying an increasing amount of money to get a decreasing amount of relevant learning.  That’s not a good formula.

Government subsidies and “full fare” foreign students keep pushing tuitions up to levels required to support lavish facilities, expansive athletic programs, outdated delivery methods (think classrooms vs. online), and light teaching loads for faculty journalists.

For example, reported in the NY Post: The journal Academic Questions recently concluded that … many new graduates are finding that the degree they’ve earned is not worth the investment.

  • Now, most college grads leave school with large debts — more than $27,000 on average.
  • A college degree also no longer signifies that the recipient is either well-educated in the traditional sense or that he has acquired specific skills suited to the labor market.

That’s despite the fact that “most colleges have become trade schools —  far more expensive ones than their for-profit counterparts.”

  • By 2008, the number of bachelor’s degrees had risen to 1.5 million Americans, but few of these degrees were in the traditional liberal arts. Barely 2 percent of BAs were awarded in history and only 3.5 percent in English literature.
  • More than a third of undergraduate degrees are now earned in business, health professions and education.

The former president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe argues that it’s no wonder that students have fled the liberal arts:

  • For centuries, the liberal arts passed on what was best in Western civilization …  despite our practical bent, youth were encouraged “to pursue inquiry into serious and perennial questions.”
  • The humanities in particular were considered the “Keepers of the Culture” at a time when we believed we had a culture worth keeping and passing on.
  • Since the 1960s, however, our culture has been under attack, our history rewritten as one of unmitigated oppression and the values our Founders and subsequent generations held dear reviled.
  • Humanities courses in liberal arts colleges have replaced the canon of Western civilization with course offerings … aimed to show our benighted past and to condition us to a more tolerant future.
  • Students have fled such courses in droves to pursue technical or professional skills.

The Post concludes: Their parents — and increasingly the students themselves, through loans — are left footing the bill for degrees that neither pay off in the marketplace nor enrich the intellectual lives of those on whom they are conferred.

Good point !

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2 Responses to “Education: a product for which people are willing to pay more to get less … go figure.”

  1. Mike Says:

    Might be a good reason to go long on for profit education; despite its recent set backs.

  2. Laj Says:

    Higher Education is about IQ branding – go to a school that takes higher SAT scores leaves you branded as a high IQ guy at a time when few jobs can administer IQ tests.

    It is also about access – access to higher social status peers gives you a chance to meet with people who might actually do something tomorrow and if you make friends with them, then you can actually let some of the shine rub off on you (and who knows, you might be the status guy/gal).

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