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On College...

 I was pondering this while out doing errands on Monday. Cheap money (student loans) has vastly distorted the market in education, without improving education, but giving us some pretty spiffy buildings and administrators with fancy titles, nice paychecks, who are mostly just meddlesome tools.

It occurs to me we need to fix the market on the student side.

A credit hour is a credit hour is a credit hour, when it comes to cost.

They ought to be priced at value. Why should an hour of physics cost what an hour of Medieval French Literature costs? It's like students hit the academic car lot, and can buy a Mercedes or a used 30 year old AMC Pacer.

And they both cost 130K.

And many students choose the Pacer.  

That's pretty much fraud, since the staff and faculty put Mercedes stars on the hood of the Pacer.

Hey, if you're going to get a Bachelor's in General Studies in Medieval French Literature, let's face it, the faculty probably ought to pay you to haul that Pacer away.

I was goaded by this article wherein Mike Rowe talks about the Worst Advice In The History Of The World.

6 Comments

I have to strenuously disagree with you one this, John, for two reasons.  First, a great many people are some combination of brainwashed, ignorant, and stupid (see: various recent elections), so pricing the credit-hours by their value in the job market will largely fail to induce a "Oh, that's a high-quality degree and a worthwhile investment" mindset.  On the contrary, it will just increase the appeal of mush degrees ("Why study all night on that engineering degree when you can get easy A's in Medieval French Literature and party all night, every night?  Besides, chicks dig French, and you don't want to be a poindexter, do ya?") while pushing the already high price of STEM degrees even further through the roof, discouraging applications in those fields.

Second, such a setup would inevitably lead to the valuable degree programs effectively subsidizing useless mush degrees, pushing the price up even more over time.  Hard science and engineering classes in many schools already have additional fees to cover lab materials, which is the only pricing difference that seems justified to me.  I wouldn't want to go into a program knowing my $400K degree cost would be paying for a new rec center for the hordes of $10K program party animals to enjoy.

We need to change the perception that mush degrees are "worth" the same as STEM and the like out in the real world, since that is what is driving the crush of those worthless program's applicants:  "Easy classes, plenty of party time, and I 'll still end up with a diploma just as good as those science suckers" is a mentality that needs a reality check (read: swift kick in the nuts).  Changing the actual pricing on the degree programs just wouldn't have enough, if any, positive effect (personally, I think the net effect would be significantly negative) to be worth it.  The concept that "Any degree will do" needs to go (I'm looking at you, military), but the change has to be societal, preferably starting with how potential programs are presented and discussed in high school.
 

 Cortillaen - see, "Swift, Jonathan, 'A Modest Proposal.'"



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I would flip it. Make units in Math, Engineering, etc dirt cheap and make French Lit expensive.  
 
As I look at today's technology and are corporations' demand for qualified entry-level applicants, I have often wondered if we weren't going in the exact opposite direction. This is everybody's fault, including the students, the parents, the corporations, the stockholders with their expectations and the US Government with each of our States. We need to find a better way to train our young people for actual work. We need to look at our basic educational goals for K-8. Just maybe, we should look at the past and learn some lessons. Does everybody need college to find meaningful work? Part of the problem is in our approach. We study STEM and the application of it until it becomes obsolete. I think our primary and secondary education should have an underlying goal, "Learning how to learn". This is not something that is limited to our educational system, but is more like a part of our character. One day, my Dad saw that I was having a hard time with my homework. It was not that I couldn't do it, but rather that I didn't like doing it. He understood the distinction between them. Rather than giving me any answers to my homework, he addressed the primary issue of the idea of doing homework. He raised a question, "Ron, when you are finished with your education, will that be the end of homework for you? Let me tell you something, your homework is only done on the day you die, so we used to it. Do your homework, always do your homework! It will keep you from making most of the stupid mistakes." As I looked at your post, I thought about things like guilds and apprenticeship. This would ground our education into things that are practical and can be applied in an every day context. Yes, there will always be universities, colleges and tech schools, but where  do they get the actual hands on experience of the application of the things they think they know? Theory has a place, but only a limited place. What we really need are the people with the practical experience in their fields.
 
The Educrats attempt to elevate their own status by denigrating the blue collar trades, and anything that does not supposedly need a "college education" to enter.  That coupled with the generous benefits and lack of need inventivize too many people to shirk ALL work or employment. Even to the point of going through the motions with "job training" as long as it does not actually, you know, end up getting them stuck in an actual "JOB."

With secondary education failing to graduate an alarming percentage of students, and then sending too many of the rest on their way unable to read their diploma, or make change for burgers without a cash register to do the math, we are in sad shape.  Then, too many of those funneled into college are so ill-prepared that colleges waste a year or more with remedial stuff.

That  all precedes the debacle where worthless courses and harmful indoctrination by the leftist-dominated college faculties serve little useful purpose for too many in college.  The few, the lucky few, who actually are smart enough to take courses employers need, will do fine.  The rest, not so well, although they will still face a mountain of debt--- but expect someone else to pay it off for them  After all, not much of a job market for Latvian Lesbian Studies majors, is there?

Most education is now validated by "seat time" not actual competency.  Some schools are starting on line courses which allow students to fulfill a lot of the "seat time" which is a good step to cutting costs, although it may not produce very much improvement in the way of salable skills.

Just one of many serious problems confronting our society today, with few easy, or palatable solutions, or people willing to fight to solve them.
 
Hmmm...
Maybe we should try to split out the Gen Ed matter (grammar, logic, rhetoric, history, math, chemistry, physics) from vocational training?
And maybe some of that Gen Ed should be pushed back into "high" school?
The current approach to specialist jobs seems to be: spend six years at an expensive university to qualify for an unpaid internship where your possible future employer may train you for an actual job.
For some of those jobs, not that many decades ago?  Find a place where the trade was practiced, hang out there, watch, listen, ask questions, sweep the floors, and eventually show them what you've learned.
Which was how I worked my way up from "inquisitive little kid" to "summer technician" to "senior engineer" (taking time out along the way to get a shiny degree I could show off).  I understand it's also how Termite Terrace acquired much of its talent.