(While the following is a depressing condemnation of today’s college reality, we will offer practical, innovative immediate solutions in future articles.)
This is NOT your parents’ or grandparents’ college anymore! College today is an obsolete fraud. Contrary to the outdated propaganda spouted by self-serving Academic statisticians, of the 20 million students in higher education today, about 16.5 million will fail any reasonable cost-benefit analysis of their experience. On what planet is less than a 20% success rate acceptable? It is not the students’ or parents’ failure; it is the professors’, administrators’, and the System’s failure! The facts:
- Of about 20 million Americans in college or other higher education today, one-half will never graduate (yet most will leave their “learning” experience with the primary harsh lesson being they have to repay $15,000 to $30,000 in student loans, which they cannot escape through bankruptcy or loan reductions and which will overhang their futures for decades, forcing postponement of marriages, children, house purchases, and even interfering with alternate career startup efforts);
- Of the one-half who do finish the academic obstacle course, two-thirds (about 6.5 million) will NEVER work in their major field, yet the vast majority (they &/or their families) will owe $30,000 to $100,000+ in Government-underwritten student loans.
- Whereas decades ago college graduates generally were assured job security in desirable career paths as well as college cost repayment schedules of less than 10 years, most of today’s graduates face uncertain futures with less job security than contemporaries who are “skills focused” and committed to lifelong learning. Worse, many will be enslaved to their college debts even beyond the time their own children graduate high school!
WHY? Two reasons: Skyrocketing cost of college; Increasing irrelevance of the coursework.
Skyrocketing cost of college: In the 1960s a high school graduate working minimum wage at a full-time job could earn the price of one semester college tuition at a public state-supported college in the South or West in less than three weeks. Today, it takes about 222 days to earn one semester’s tuition.
College costs have increased faster than almost any segment of society (except, perhaps, medical care). Why? Why has teaching “reading, writing, arithmetic”, the essence of undergraduate studies even today, increased more than almost any other industry (and certainly faster than the anemic increase in middle class incomes)? Because they can, and because today colleges are operated primarily for the benefit of the teachers, administrators, financiers, and contractors who are fleecing the kids.
Whereas parents, students, and budget-constrained state governments once directly bore on a pay-as-you-go basis the burden of educational costs (and were thus incentivized to be cost conscious), today much of the immediate cost is borne by the Federal Government– which has accumulated close to $1.4 Trillion in student loan debt that ultimately the Government requires those students and taxpayers to pay.
Through the incestuous intertwining of Government and Academia, a costly maze of “standards”, regulations, financing gimmicks, “academic studies”, and pure propaganda has been concocted to justify the ever-increasing costs. (Have you ever noticed how defeated or retired politicians end up “teaching” at prestigious universities and how top Government bureaucrats seem to be drawn from the cloistered world of Academia?) Just one example of the incentives for this “intertwining” of the two worlds is the fact that most universities provide paid time off for professors to volunteer to participate on civic boards or to assist in drafting government policy papers. In fact, many professors’ pay raises are at least partly based on their efforts to “help” government. Thus, is it any wonder the end result is a system whereby naive, financially illiterate students can so easily mortgage their futures in exchange for cash now and that guilt-ridden parents are stampeded into participating in what has become more and more nothing but a pure racket ! ? !
Increasing irrelevance of college courses: While society and technology look forward, Academics tend to look backwards. With the possible exception of the STEM study areas, Academics are slow to adopt technology or any efficiency-inducing practices.
Except in certain specific areas like engineering, nursing, and other mostly STEM areas, college does not teach skills immediately applicable to the working world. College is supposed to teach how to think/ analyze, how to write, and how to find and communicate usable information, calibrated to various depths of thought. BUT, according to an increasing consensus of employers, most colleges are failing in even those “soft” skills areas.
As to efficiency of teaching, consider this: the USA has about 10,000 college teachers of freshman survey level US History courses in some 5,000 institutions. Why is it not more efficient to have 5 or 10 brilliant, entertaining professors teach the course via the internet, with History Channel supplements? Why are we featherbedding 9,990 teachers that are totally unnecessary to present this basic information? Why aren’t freshman survey psychology, sociology, philosophy, astronomy, geology, biology, and a few dozen other subjects taught in such a cost-effective manner?
Is it because the colleges today are run more for the benefit of the faculty, administrators, and various “hangers on” rather than primarily for the benefit of the poor students?