Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Cost Of Higher Education

Subprime college educations is the title of George Will's latest column in The Washington Post and speaks of the value and the quality of a college education in today's world. Below is the first paragraph:

Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality. This is because "quality" is not synonymous with "value."

He then goes on to disclose:

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, believes that college has become, for many, merely a "status marker," signaling membership in the educated caste, and a place to meet spouses of similar status -- "associative mating."

I found the column insightful, perhaps because it echoes some of my own thoughts and feelings regarding college education as it has affected university graduates I have known personally. And, as always, George Will dives right into the subject, writing directly and clearly. It's a fairly short column and well worth a read.

After reading the column, some of the comments are also well worth pursuing. Such as this one submitted by tbarksdl, who wrote:

I seldom agree with George Will about anything, so when we do agree, It must be true. This column nails it about education. I long ago concluded that our educational system, from K-12 through, universities, has become the most corrupt and incompetent enterprise in the United States. (Wall Street runs a close second). The escalating costs are beyond belief, but weighed against the ultimate product, they become obscene. Not even the Defense Department could get away with this level of sheer waste.

Will accurately points out the main impetus to the rising costs: ballooning bureaucracies and the outrageous salaries paid to the bureaucrats, including college presidents and chancellors. Add to that nepotism and old boy networks linking the administrators and their political allies, and you have a system programmed for waste and abuse.

Trust me: we could fire every college president and chancellor in America and not a darned one of them would ever be missed.

Even worse than the corruption is the abysmal product these incompetent nitwits produce. What human being of normal intelligence believes our students are receiving a real education? The dumbing down of the curriculum is apparent and appalling. Higher education has become four years of partying and binge drinking. The pervasive drunkenness offers proof positive of the lack of any intellectual challenge. And the professors and administrators could care less.

The net result? Business leaders in survey after survey tell us that the average college graduate is woefully unprepared to enter the market place.

But most shocking of all: all of this takes place in plain view, with no attempt to impose accountability or oversight. You would think by now, the American taxpayer, legislators, and parents and students overburdened with those escalating costs and dismal results would have risen up in rebellion and demanded reforms. But this Frankenstein's monster just keeps lurching forward.

Can someone please tell us why?


I admit that I had little to do with the above beyond simply copying and pasting the thoughts of others into this blog entry. But I feel that it is more valuable than anything I could offer in the way of insight. And, as always, if the original authors object to the pasting I will immediately remove them.



encomium [en-KO-mee-uhm]
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I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.

--Michel de Montaigne


  1. The answer to tbarksdl's question as to why no revolt against the education bureaucracy has thus far taken place is obvious. It's easier to allow a one size fits all monstrosity to address -- however ineffectively -- all of society's ills than to create several mini-monstrosities to address individual illnesses. We've dumped all of our societal diseases at the public school system's front door, knocked on that same door and told the butler who opens it, "You solve it."

    Name the disease: drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, illegal immigration, familial stupidity (i.e."learned"), corporate greed, financial ruin, psychiatric illness, whatever. The school system, K-University, is at one and the same time handed the task of curing the disease and then roundly condemned for failing to succeed.

    And the system's top-level bureaucrats? If they dare to tell the truth, to say, "We can't solve this one," then they've just shot off their own funding-source feet, the American tax dollar, which of course amounts to cutting off their own salaries.

    Academics? What's that word mean? Passing tests, that's what. And if you don't pass the first few times, we'll establish a "continuation of a diluted continuation program." One way or another, we'll graduate you and then foist you off and onto the under-employment rolls. No one fails! Except, of course, the schools we blame for graduating academic failures.

    Just be sure that you understand and agree with the notion that we've made "progress" since way back when. "Hell, back in 1954, long before we funded all our self-approval 'research studies,' we didn't know much about how to educate our young," declare the adults-become-education-bureaucrats who were school children in 1954.

    A first courageous step toward a solution would be for the current education bureaucracy to declare itself free from the Federal Department of Education (i.e. true revolt). That department's most important mandate was to integrate the schools according to race. That department failed its mandate in miserable fashion, both because "race" is in essence a meaningless term, and because people will group themselves in neighborhoods of their own choosing.

    Second step: Begin to create slim and focused, community-based, agencies to address societal diseases that affect a student's ability to learn, but are not items listed in the curriculum.

    1. Thank you for the thought-provoking comment. I was hoping for more comments (regarding your comment) but so far I've received none, either here on the blog or via email. But be assured, Anthony that I have been contemplating your words and intend to continue to so.

      Again, thank you.