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Peak Education

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Peak Education -- the term has been out there for a few years now.  It is of course a play on Peak Oil, but there are some important similarities.  I'm starting this thread as a spin-off from the Law School thread.

 

The theory:

http://patrickdeneen.blogspot.com/2008/09/peak-education.html

 

 

Here's a link to a recent article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110118/ap_on_re_us/us_college_learning

 

 

I agree with the theory, because what I experienced in college was so ridiculous.  Clearly, many if not most of the people shouldn't have been there and should have been stamping widgets instead.  Most *didn't* rack up massive student loan debt because they were from families of 1 or 2 kids and benefited from inheritances.  Meanwhile, many of the individuals who *did* belong there *did* pile on student debt.

 

The other thing that drove me nuts about college was that the whole thing was about resume padding, not actually learning or doing anything.  In fact, actually becoming an educated person and a critical thinker, if you weren't one already, was to your disadvantage.

 

None of this would be possible, of course, without the giveaway student loan programs that we have.  But reforming student loans is a political non-starter, so I don't know what the future holds. 

 

 

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As long as high school continues to be just as or more lame, the college game will continue. I think a back to the basics, moderate cost, intense academic experience might be a successful model. It won't draw everybody. There are plenty of folks who think they can/should buy four years of partying and a piece of paper for the old model to go away, but as job situation stays tight, schools that can show that their students are actually better will do well.

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Clearly all but a few schools are reforming themselves as luxury summer camps -- rebuilding themselves quite literally as advertisements for a product that doesn't really exist and can't exist when tons of non-college material is attending college.  I remember in the mid-90's, a campus tour often started with a walk through the school's newest computer lab and there wasn't a fixation on dorms and "lifestyle".  Simply having dorms wired for the internet was a huge deal up until around 2002.  Now that everyone's parents buy them a computer, the whole emphasis seems to be fitness centers, new dorms, and chain restaurants on campus. 

 

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As much as I hate to agree, there are nuggets of truth in these articles. I'm less concerned about the effects of energy shortages on campus cosmopolitanism: it doesnt take that much fuel to move a student to campus and back once or twice a year, but what it will mean is that nontraditional students will take even more online classes, or be limited to taking classes at the very closest campus. I'm always shocked when students in my classes drive an hour or more each day each way to get to campus. When gas hits $5-6/gal in a few years, those students will likely make alternate plans.

 

I added up my salary, benefits, office privileges etc a few years ago, and came to the conclusion that I was personally consuming about 20% of the tuition collected from my students. This semester, it might be closer to 40%, as I'm only teaching 55 students. I would venture that most of the growth in campus expenditures comes not from paying faculty, but from support services, sports and campus activities that, to be frank, don't contribute a whole lot to the academic mission of a university. That said, there are skills that people need that aren't/can't easily be learned in a classroom.  See David Brooks' article on Amy Chua in the NYT yesterday:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/opinion/18brooks.html?sq=brooks%20chua&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1295456415-4ZR+aH4Yqe5DpxJL+deeng

 

I would venture, though, that the grousing about campus amenities has more to do with 'kids these days' than much else. Sure, college enrollment has expanded to include many first generation students who some might think 'don't belong' at a university. Fine. But when it comes down to human comfort versus gradients in academic quality that cannot be easily parsed, most students and their parents will choose comfort, if they can afford it. Ohio universities are already among the most expensive public institutions in the US, and upcoming budget cuts from the state will only mean higher tuition.

 

One major contributing factor to the rapid expansion of higher education in the past 20 years also has to do with the expectations politicians place on universities. No longer are they just schools, now they are expected to reform the economy and incubate businesses. Politicians don't have answers, so they burden universities with the task of managing the economy. [/rambling rant]

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Guys, the bubble will never burst. Everyone said it would in 2009, then, 2010, and now 2011. There is no such thing as "peak college". We're wrong. College is not just an investment. It's about "playing the field," "gaining life experience," and "getting your foot in the door." At 18, we'll buy into anything. We have no idea how expensive it is in terms of time and money until after graduation. The system is pure gold and much more sustainable than the housing bubble. The target audience is the issue. High school kids get dumber by the year, so they'll sign up for anything. College tuition can go up forever because universities are not selling a commodity or hard asset. They're selling a dream. High schools kids are highly impressionable and they're being pushed by all their family members, teachers, and counselors to go to college. Basically, if you have the grades, they tell you to go. There is not a single person at the high school who studies ROI. If there were such a person, they'd tell all the students to major in finance, accounting, healthcare administration, or nursing.

 

College is the most rock-solid business model in America. The younger your audience, the easier it is to make the sale. And it's not just American kids who sign up. These schools are selling hard overseas too. Colleges in-source, hence why this is one of the last growth industries. They've done a magnificent job selling the American university experience to kids all over the world. It's almost mythical in a way. The bigger, older universities sell themselves through beauty and social experience. Then there is this issue at a lot of schools:

 

$80,000 For Beer Pong? Report Shows College Students Learn Little During First Two Years (Besides Party Skills)

By: Kayla Webley

 

Turns out, students spend more time learning how to master a beer pong than they do completing homework for Psych 101.

 

Nearly 50 percent of undergraduates show almost no gain in learning in the first two years of college, according to a report based on the book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. The lack of learning is due in large part to the way students spend their time, the study reports. In an average 168-hour week, college students spend just 7 percent of their time studying, while much more of their time is devoted to socializing (50%) and sleeping (24%).

 

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/01/18/what-do-college-students-learn-in-the-first-two-years-not-a-whole-lot/#ixzz1BVpz4TgS

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High school kids get dumber by the year, so they'll sign up for anything.

 

I have to take a little umbrage with that statement.  I doubt that high schoolers are any more or less smart than at any other time.  I think people just have a tendency to "back-date" their own knowledge of the world.

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^Fair point. At any high school, there will always be smart kids and dumb kids, nice kids and jerks, etc. The structure has been the same for quite some time. The issue is more ignorance in the area of predatory lending. Very few kids seem to fully grasp how the student loan system works. But I would be wrong to blame them for it. It's the job of schools and parents to teach them.

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^Fair point. At any high school, there will always be smart kids and dumb kids, nice kids and jerks, etc. The structure has been the same for quite some time. The issue is more ignorance in the area of predatory lending. Very few kids seem to fully grasp how the student loan system works. But I would be wrong to blame them for it. It's the job of schools and parents to teach them.

 

I think it's a lot harder to get student loans, and less funds are available, at the undergrad level (maybe it's changed since I last took interest in this, so correct me if I'm wrong). In most cases, students in undergrad are likely still claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns, and as such most lenders don't necessarily consider them 'independents'. It's when you get to grad school that the spigots open wide and you get the $100k+ in loans suddenly available to you.

 

Much like in law school, where I think the program could be whittled down to 3 or 4 semesters, I think the undergrad experience could be streamlined. If you still want the 4 year 'liberal arts' experience, well you can pay for that, but a 2 or 3 year 'professional degree program' focusing on the specific skills you would need for your chosen profession, without all the fluff, is where I ultimately see college evovling.

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^ Europeans get Bachelors degrees in 3 years. They get less general ed/liberal arts. The thinking is it is because their high school education is more intense than ours.

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^ Europeans get Bachelors degrees in 3 years. They get less general ed/liberal arts. The thinking is it is because their high school education is more intense than ours.

 

It's also quite a bit narrower. British, French and German kids get tracked onto academic or vocational (etc) paths much younger than we do in America, and we keep access "open" at all postsecondary levels in ways that few European and Asian countries do. In Japan, for example, it is almost unheard of for anyone to get into undergraduate university after age 18. Most good Japanese universities limit their clientele to 18 year olds.

 

I also read recently that European-Americans perform as well or better than Japanese, Finnish, Singaporean and other 'high-achieving" students. When a school system is geared toward your culture, language and experience, as it is for most Whites in the US, the students do great. This makes sense when one looks at the lack of diversity in Japanese, Finnish and Singaporean schools. And also helps explain why "minority" students tend not to do as well. US schools are almost never built around them.

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It's also quite a bit narrower. British, French and German kids get tracked onto academic or vocational (etc) paths much younger than we do in America, and we keep access "open" at all postsecondary levels in ways that few European and Asian countries do. In Japan, for example, it is almost unheard of for anyone to get into undergraduate university after age 18. Most good Japanese universities limit their clientele to 18 year olds.

 

And that is one aspect of American universities that I like. We believe that you can change course during your adult years. What Japan does is horrible. For as many problems as our universities have, the openess to non-traditional students is not one of them. It may even be beneficial for kids to see some people in their 30's and 40's. Education is not something that should have set time limits. Four, five, or six years just might not cut it in some careers. Technology is moving much faster than the schools do. Basically, you're learning for life. The days of going to college for four or five years and then being done with it are probably gone. I'm not saying kids should rush to grad school (quite the opposite), but that it's increasingly common to take a course or two to learn a specific piece of software or new technology. And I think it's great if kids work in the real world for a few years after high school before going to college. They will probably be a lot more mature. College is a lot of fun, but it can easily become too much fun.

 

The bigger problem I see is the explosion of new colleges and for-profits popping up all over the damn country. Ohio unfortunately was one of the states where there was a massive expansion of public university programs. We set the gold standard on over-saturation. No way does a state our size need seven major universities with over 20,000 students and all those duplicated major programs. Why do OU, Miami, Kent, and BG all need journalism schools? Hell, there aren't even good jobs for the Scripps grads...we've done a great job pumping out more grads than the market can handle. There is little to no regard for the job market in Ohio. That's great if you work at one of the universities, but it's terrible if you're a student who desires a career near home. The bubble is probably bigger in Ohio than in any other state. The number of college grads working at coffee shops has gotten out of control.

 

But still, college is an unburstable bubble due to insourcing. The big universities are now doing what Hollywood did- finding an overseas market. Even if American kids can't afford tuition, there is now a pipeline overseas. This is why higher education is a good field to work in. One day, it might not even matter what is happening with American students ("Hey, screw those kids from Ohio! Check out our numbers from Asia!"). Kids from China will come here to get the American university experience, and then move back to work in Hong Kong or Shanghai. I'll give universities credit where credit is due. They are masters of advertising and marketing. Nobody holds a candle to them- not Ford, not Coke, not Chevy, not even Anheuser-Busch.

 

Strong increase in international student numbers from China in 2009/10

December 2010

 

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the USA increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE). This represents a record high number of international students in the United States.

 

http://www.universitiesintheusa.com/opendoors-2011-news.html

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If there was another way to get irresponsible 18 year-olds safely into their mid-20s without bankrupting country that isn't sticking them on college campuses that would be great. I can't see a draft even w/ a civilian option ever being very popular w/ the right American fear of large-standing armies.

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I'll address some points that Deneen makes.  Some I agree with, some I don't.  At least he has the dialectic decency to be up front with his assumptions, however.

 

(1) The end of cheap energy means the end of cheap money, and therefore the end of higher education as we know it.  I believe the first part of this chain of reasoning is incorrect, but also unnecessary.  The student loan market is ripe for a collapse not because of an impending rise in energy costs, but because of the increasingly dim job prospects for college graduates and the likelihood that federal fiscal and regulatory (e.g., nondischargeability) backstopping of the student loan market will not survive various political pressures of the next decade.

 

(2) Globalization will decline, and universities will reorient themselves locally in response.  I strongly doubt that either the premise or the conclusion here is true.  Globalization is here to stay, in one form or another.  It will change, but it will not vanish, and universities will need to prepare their students to succeed in a global marketplace--not just against their classmates and the other graduates of whatever their crosstown rival school is.

 

(3) Ever-growing endowments will end, driving another nail in the fate of the modern university.  Actually, university endowments are often some of the most well-protected and well-managed reservoirs of wealth in the world.  That's not to say that they grew during the recession, but many weathered the recession far better than most retail investors.  In addition, even if their growth slows or even stalls, the amount of money in university endowments is already prodigious.  Universities will need to deploy those assets differently in the future, and that may well mean the death of the relatively upper-middle-class tenured academic (particularly in fields that seldom offer lucrative careers to graduates and purport to offer only personal fulfillment), the bidding war for ever bigger and better showpiece facilities (not that this shows any sign of abating yet), and similar large-scale deployments of resources.  Small endowments may cause the death of a few small schools here and there.  The big schools almost all have enough to survive and adapt--if they learn to so adapt, that is.

 

(3) "The land-grant institutions, in particular, will return to their original mission and will bear a special responsibility in re-educating a populace in the arts of farming and cultivation."  Utter bunk.  This primordialist folderol presupposes an economic collapse that sends a large segment of the population back into the agricultural sector.  This would basically require a nuclear war--something that eliminated our source of almost all the mechanization of the agricultural sector.  Even a quintupling in the price of energy would not make it more cost-effective to hire mass quantities of farm laborers to replace the machines that currently tend the vast majority of the arable Great Plains.

 

(4) The mindset of higher education will change, including a reconsideration of whether increasingly specialized faculty publishing increasingly specialized articles in increasingly obscure journals, counts as knowledge creation.  I seriously hope this happens, at least with respect to the liberal arts and soft social sciences; I do not know if that hope is leading me to bias my thinking on whether it will happen, but nevertheless, I do believe it will happen.  Increasingly technical and inaccessible articles in the realms of the hard sciences are, of course, somewhat inevitable, given the difficulty of advancing the frontiers of human knowledge further in those fields than it's already reached.

 

(5) [sanctimonious drivel about elite educations being nothing but resume-padding and a shot at joining "the roving corporate class of itinerant vandals."]  Sanctimonious drivel is sanctimonious and drivel.

 

I am one of those who shamelessly believes, even after reflection on arguments to the contrary, that we are definitely not headed for a world of retrenchment, shrinking real wealth, and the other parade of material horribles that Deneen sees as both inevitable and a some kind of positive as a crucible for a moral revolution.  The world of higher education will be threatened because its business model will be threatened by more innovative competitors, not because it will be suddenly called upon to reorient itself to teaching people how to deal with a world of ever-increasing privation.  Not only are we not headed for such a world, but the kinds of people most threatened by the increasingly globalized world of the future are those who are seldom beneficiaries of a college education in modern America anyway--particularly at its current price point.

 

No, it is not energy prices or other economic maladies that will doom higher education.  It is precisely the reverse: an explosion in the quality and availability of education untethered to the extraordinarily cost-intensive higher education model.  It is because of this:

 

http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/06/bill-gates-education/.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/bill-gates-in-five-years-the-best-education-will-come-from-the-web

 

Once higher education is reduced from an actual place of learning (a status which, per that article about actual student learning, has basically already happened) to a mere credentialing/access racket, it will be sustained by nothing but inertia--and therefore be very, very vulnerable.

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It's also quite a bit narrower. British, French and German kids get tracked onto academic or vocational (etc) paths much younger than we do in America, and we keep access "open" at all postsecondary levels in ways that few European and Asian countries do. In Japan, for example, it is almost unheard of for anyone to get into undergraduate university after age 18. Most good Japanese universities limit their clientele to 18 year olds.

 

And that is one aspect of American universities that I like. We believe that you can change course during your adult years. What Japan does is horrible. For as many problems as our universities have, the openess to non-traditional students is not one of them. It may even be beneficial for kids to see some people in their 30's and 40's. Education is not something that should have set time limits. Four, five, or six years just might not cut it in some careers. Technology is moving much faster than the schools do. Basically, you're learning for life. The days of going to college for four or five years and then being done with it are probably gone. I'm not saying kids should rush to grad school (quite the opposite), but that it's increasingly common to take a course or two to learn a specific piece of software or new technology. And I think it's great if kids work in the real world for a few years after high school before going to college. They will probably be a lot more mature. College is a lot of fun, but it can easily become too much fun.

 

The bigger problem I see is the explosion of new colleges and for-profits popping up all over the damn country. Ohio unfortunately was one of the states where there was a massive expansion of public university programs. We set the gold standard on over-saturation. No way does a state our size need seven major universities with over 20,000 students and all those duplicated major programs. Why do OU, Miami, Kent, and BG all need journalism schools? Hell, there aren't even good jobs for the Scripps grads...we've done a great job pumping out more grads than the market can handle. There is little to no regard for the job market in Ohio. That's great if you work at one of the universities, but it's terrible if you're a student who desires a career near home. The bubble is probably bigger in Ohio than in any other state. The number of college grads working at coffee shops has gotten out of control.

 

But still, college is an unburstable bubble due to insourcing. The big universities are now doing what Hollywood did- finding an overseas market. Even if American kids can't afford tuition, there is now a pipeline overseas. This is why higher education is a good field to work in. One day, it might not even matter what is happening with American students ("Hey, screw those kids from Ohio! Check out our numbers from Asia!"). Kids from China will come here to get the American university experience, and then move back to work in Hong Kong or Shanghai. I'll give universities credit where credit is due. They are masters of advertising and marketing. Nobody holds a candle to them- not Ford, not Coke, not Chevy, not even Anheuser-Busch.

 

Strong increase in international student numbers from China in 2009/10

December 2010

 

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the USA increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE). This represents a record high number of international students in the United States.

 

http://www.universitiesintheusa.com/opendoors-2011-news.html

 

Change like you described - valuing out of state and int'l students more than Ohio students - is coming soon to Ohio. At my institution (one of those 20K student spots), we are moving from university-funded graduate assistantships and stipends toward departmental funding. One important change that will affect how much (or little) funding we give graduate students are residency requirements to be considered "in-state" and thus benefiting from the e'er-shrinking state subsidy. Until now, you could not count any time in Ohio toward residency if you moved here for the purpose of going to school. That's gone; now, after one year and $10,000 in income, you can be an Ohio resident. This means that the departments will only have to pay the university for in-state tuition after the grad student's second year. And a "year" means 12 months, not a calendar year. It's an interesting way to get the state to fork over a little more for graduate education, but it means that there's less institutional incentive to bring in Ohioans, not that there was a whole lot before, mind you.

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If there was another way to get irresponsible 18 year-olds safely into their mid-20s without bankrupting country that isn't sticking them on college campuses that would be great. I can't see a draft even w/ a civilian option ever being very popular w/ the right American fear of large-standing armies.

 

Makes me think of the '50s to the '80s when kids in this age bracket spent their days drinking, drag racing on the street, crashing motorcycles, doing speed and PCP, going to massive concerts that drew 50,000+, skinny dipping, getting in bar fights and smoking dope in the basement listening to vinyl. When we were a nearly exclusively rural/urban nation before WWII, kids were occupied with farm or factory work. Suburbs and desk jobs that aren't the best drains of youthful energy put us in this situation of "What do we do with all these kids?"

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Cross-posted from the American Wusses thread....

 

01/19/2011

 

An Epidemic Of Ignorance

 

It is painful for me to write about ignorance in America because it is rampant and disturbing. I was at my local watering hole one night talking to a professor at Carnegie Mellon University when, after several libations, I suddenly heard myself exclaiming when did everybody get stupid?  By stupid, I did not mean mentally slow or impaired. Rather, I meant ignorant or untrained to think. As with so many other things, I believe you can lay this at the doorstep of a culture dominated by corporations, aka. the "consumer" society.

 

I am not going to cite the usual statistics today—the U.S. ranks 27th among developed nations in the share of students getting engineering and science degrees—as I did in American Competitiveness? It's Not A Pretty Picture. Instead, let's look at what's happening on college campuses.

 

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa have written a book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses. Here's an excerpt from the summary—

 

READ MORE AT:

http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2011/01/an-epidemic-of-ignorance.html

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You guys might like the discussion they had about this very subject in the NYT. I tried to read it, but...you know...too many words.

 

Does College Make You Smarter?

 

First there was the news that students in American universities study a lot less than they used to. Now we hear, in a recent book titled "Academically Adrift," that 45 percent of the nation's undergraduates learn very little in their first two years of college.

 

The study, by two sociologists, Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, also found that half of the students surveyed did not take any classes requiring 20 pages of writing in their prior semester, and one-third did not take any courses requiring 40 pages of reading a week.

 

The research has come in for some criticism. But a larger question is: Have colleges, in their efforts to keep graduation rates high and students happy, dumbed down their curriculums? If they have, who is to blame? What should parents and federal taxpayers do?

 

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/24/does-college-make-you-smarter

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The more that I read into this it seems that the student loan industry is really to blame for this. They are fueled by public policy made by lawmakers who don't have a better answer to the question of what to do with the larger pool of the population that has been left behind by the US economy's move from traditional manufacturing to information/service/highly automated manufactiring than everybody goes to college. What is the real answer?  I have no idea but it appears that a large number of people are attending college because they have no other idea what to do and they feel it is what is expected of them.

 

Things change. I do think the commentors in the NYT do have rose colored glasses on when looking back at the past. The younger generation always has it easier.

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I realized after three years of college that going another $60,000 in debt to get a degree for a near-zero growth industry (Chemical Engineering) where I had less than a 50% chance of getting a job right out of college was a waste. The final tipping point for me was when the school administration decided to double parking fees and put on a $300 per term surcharge to help pay for the football stadium (Oregon State University, the other, OTHER OSU).

 

There clearly is a problem in the higher education system. Many people would rather spend four years getting a degree in English Composition, History, Fashion, or some other overpopulated subject and end up a hundred grand in debt. Getting an associates degree in one of the many less glamorous trade schools is considered 'beneath' many people even though it often pays just as well as some degrees.

 

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I am surprised to hear that chemical engineering is a "near-zero growth industry," since it's both in the hard sciences and on the applied side (as opposed to a "pure science" like chemistry).  Surprising as it is, though, I just Googled, found the BLS page for <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos027.htm">engineers</a>, and do see that employment growth in chemical engineering is expected to be slightly negative over the "projection decade," whichever ten year span that is (though I presume we're somewhere in the middle of it).  That's disappointing.

 

At a general level, though, I really think that the "peak education" phenomenon will most significantly hit the fluffy, politicized disciplines (ethnic/gender studies, "peace studies," etc.) hardest, particularly at private schools below the elite tier, but also at large public schools that are starting to have price tags high enough that people are beginning to think harder about the return on investment in a college education.

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Chemical engineering has been slow for a while, even in cities where you think there's be a lot of opportunities. Mechanical engineering is tough to get into as well since so many go to school for it in hopes of doing something with race cars or gadgets.

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These are my own thoughts and not that of my employer, but I believe the idea behind peak education, in terms of four-year and graduate degrees is at least valid.

 

When I entered into UK, I was peppered with offers for student loans at "unbelievable" 0% APR's (for a period of time, before jacking up), over a dozen credit card offers (with free pizza!) and other unsustainable practices. I felt that going to college for my B.S. was more like attending a year-round trade show, and not a place of higher education.

 

Let's look at this example:

6a00d834256bce53ef013487706fe2970c-800wi

 

Some time in the 1980s, the cost of higher education and everything related to it, such as books, have exponentially risen without any respect to our current levels of inflation. To put that into perspective, that new car for $20,000 would be more like $60,000 if it would be pegged to that of college tuition. And we thought that housing prices were in this magical bubble that popped?

 

But not only are we educating more even though the cost of education has risen so much, are we receiving the best bang for our buck? Probably not. When most public universities are accepting people with low ACT/SAT ranks, and people who graduated middle-of-the-pack in high school because they have the money and can pay - or borrow and pay even more, we are looking at unsustainable growth. Something has to give.

 

I am lucky that I attended a school whose tuition rise was capped at 10% each year. It went up on average, 9% for the five years I was there - think of the outrage if food inflation was 9% for those five years combined! Yet, it goes unnoticed in our legislatures because college education is nothing more than a giant money-making business, and those who are in the for-public education sector stand to reap in more. And there is little to no oversight into either of this.

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>ethnic/gender studies, "peace studies," etc.

 

All those getting master's degrees in women's studies, etc., are doomed.  These departments won't be expanding, meaning the first generation crackpots who comprise their faculties will be there for decades more. 

 

I saw this in the faculties of the art and music departments -- people who got the first master's degrees in stuff like ceramics and glass blowing back in the late 1960's are just now retiring.  So they've been occupying these faculty positions for decades while art departments stopped expanding. 

 

That said, I'm surprised by the number of people with useless art degrees who I know who have gotten jobs in the arts.  I'd say it's at least 20-30%, so it's not true that there aren't jobs "out there". 

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I almost see the problem as being the opposite from the idea that these general majors are worthless and technical degrees being great.  Will they get you a job?  No absolutely not but I think technical degrees have shortcomings too.  I think the problem with the education system is that students just want the bling that comes with a certification or degree.  Most students in undergrad are not at all interested in learning as long as they get the grades and title after their name.  Education has become a consumer society and young people see it as degree+grades+school name=living the good life.  American students are not willing to look outside the box and just want to push their way through the system.  It has been a wake up call for many students because all the promises made before the recession about how paying a ton of money for a fancy degree would be worth it has turned out to be a lie. 

 

Many people I knew in undergrad with technical degrees were not at all what I would consider smart.  They worked hard and got good grades but they knew nothing about the world that they lived in beyond their little bubble.  I studied abroad in Scotland and every student knew about the latest developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict for example and took a general interest in Politics, world affairs and being intellectual.  I could go on forever but here is a start.

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That said, I'm surprised by the number of people with useless art degrees who I know who have gotten jobs in the arts.  I'd say it's at least 20-30%, so it's not true that there aren't jobs "out there".

 

^Ditto with journalism, film, and video production. I'd say it's around those numbers. But what you don't hear is what the pay and hours are like. Most working artists and media professionals are still starving (though the smaller the place you work, the better). It's really easy to exploit kids in these fields. You have a situation where some of the biggest media companies in this country are paying 25k and expecting a lot. Teaching is the safest route. Usually those that end up in teaching are much happier. You generally get paid more to teach this stuff than actually make it professionally.

 

If 80% of those kids never get a job related to their major (or end up teaching), it's a very questionable investment. The ones who land jobs probably get them despite the degree. They were talented all along or had the potential. They didn't need an expensive college degree to tell them that.

 

All those getting master's degrees in women's studies, etc., are doomed.

 

You'd think that, but many of them end up working in other fields. Good looks and social skills can go far anywhere. I know some kids with those kinds of degrees who now work in banking or healthcare and are making boatloads of money. The thing about business is that many businesses still take chances on kids with unrelated college degrees (though you better be pretty cool and know how to work an interview). It really comes down to your work ethic, how you look/dress, and your social skills. I know of some ex-newsmen who switched to completely unrelated careers and are making a lot of money. They know how to work their asses off and talk to strangers, so they're pretty valuable anywhere. I also know of some art and communications majors pulling 50-100k bartending in college towns. Getting a bartending gig in town is the safest bet any college kid can make. Some of the wealthiest college grads are bartenders in college towns. Walking out with hundreds of dollars every night is quite a feeling. "Look at those chumps who got real jobs! I make three times as much money as them!"

 

It's the same feeling plumbers have every day when they see snooty kids with college degrees struggling to survive. The most valuable lesson I learned in college is to never fall into the mindset of elitism that is rampant at universities. I'm glad I've worked sh!tty jobs and know what it's like to be on the bottom of the societal ladder. It gives me perspective. I don't think most of my professors would have survived at the tough jobs I've had, even the ones they were teaching. Some guys have been out of the game for too long to know what it has turned into.

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There's been complaints about the devaluing of college degrees...that they are not so special anymore.... since the mass entry into college with the baby boom generation after WWII. 

 

Yet that graph that Sherman posted was pretty interesting, seeing that inflation in college costs.  I would never have went to college (at least not "away" to a 4-year college) the way costs are now. 

 

Before going to college (starting 1977) I had a line into two apprenticeship programs, for ironworkers (the guys who erect heavy metal framing in construction) or moldmaking (part of the machinest/tool & die trades).  Now, if I was offered those two apprenticeship programs I would have taken them becuase college would have been out of the question.

 

So these high costs are probably pushing people back into the trades or technical things like med-techs and such who might have went to college when it wasn't so expensive.

 

So it all works out in the end.  Only the super-bright kids who can get scholarships can afford college, or if their folks have a lot of money, or they do what C-Dawg did, or they go into debt.  For guys like me, who shy away from debt and arn't smart enough to snag a scholarship, that leaves either working your way through or going into a trade. 

 

Still, for knowlege, if you like to learn things, you can read about stuff in the library.  Cheaper than college.

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Let's look at this example:

6a00d834256bce53ef013487706fe2970c-800wi

 

Good graph.  Good find.

 

Some time in the 1980s, the cost of higher education and everything related to it, such as books, have exponentially risen without any respect to our current levels of inflation. To put that into perspective, that new car for $20,000 would be more like $60,000 if it would be pegged to that of college tuition. And we thought that housing prices were in this magical bubble that popped? ...

 

I am lucky that I attended a school whose tuition rise was capped at 10% each year. It went up on average, 9% for the five years I was there - think of the outrage if food inflation was 9% for those five years combined! Yet, it goes unnoticed in our legislatures because college education is nothing more than a giant money-making business, and those who are in the for-public education sector stand to reap in more. And there is little to no oversight into either of this.

 

I agree with you that the cost goes unnoticed (or at least uncared-about) in the legislatures.  I think you're a little wide of the mark about it going unnoticed because it's a money-making business.  Many major money-making businesses get significant legislative attention (both favorable and unfavorable).  You mentioned the likely consequences if the price of food went up 10% ... you're right, but agriculture is still definitely a money-making business.

 

I think the more likely explanation is simply that college students don't vote, and college parents are voting other concerns more saliently.

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Sallie Mae is/was a gov't sponsored corporation like Fannie and Freddie. Look at what good those guys did to the housing market. I'd add that there was a perverse cycle driven by parents and increasing spoiled high schoolers in which they flowed to the schools w/ the newest rec center, which forced everyone else to compete or lose students. There just wasn't a large enough base of folks interested in an austere four-year college experience. The austerity folks likely started at 2 yr and then got a job or transferred to their local state school for as short a time as possible and were gone.

 

In general, it is best to blame the growing size of college administration for the ills of higher ed.

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That said, I'm surprised by the number of people with useless art degrees who I know who have gotten jobs in the arts. I'd say it's at least 20-30%, so it's not true that there aren't jobs "out there".

 

^Ditto with journalism, film, and video production. I'd say it's around those numbers. But what you don't hear is what the pay and hours are like. Most working artists and media professionals are still starving (though the smaller the place you work, the better). It's really easy to exploit kids in these fields. You have a situation where some of the biggest media companies in this country are paying 25k and expecting a lot. Teaching is the safest route. Usually those that end up in teaching are much happier. You generally get paid more to teach this stuff than actually make it professionally.

 

If 80% of those kids never get a job related to their major (or end up teaching), it's a very questionable investment. The ones who land jobs probably get them despite the degree. They were talented all along or had the potential. They didn't need an expensive college degree to tell them that.

 

Agreed.

 

All those getting master's degrees in women's studies, etc., are doomed.

 

You'd think that, but many of them end up working in other fields. Good looks and social skills can go far anywhere. I know some kids with those kinds of degrees who now work in banking or healthcare and are making boatloads of money. The thing about business is that many businesses still take chances on kids with unrelated college degrees (though you better be pretty cool and know how to work an interview). It really comes down to your work ethic, how you look/dress, and your social skills.

 

Then the conclusion here is that these people succeeded in spite of their majors, not because of them.  The women's studies department or Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies did not teach them how to dress for the job, nor did it teach them work ethic or how to "be pretty cool" in an interview.  The undercurrent here is exactly the same as it was in your first section: In your own words, "If 80% of those kids never get a job related to their major (or end up teaching), it's a very questionable investment. The ones who land jobs probably get them despite the degree. They were talented all along or had the potential. They didn't need an expensive college degree to tell them that."

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Then the conclusion here is that these people succeeded in spite of their majors, not because of them.

 

Kind of. They may have been just as fit for the job without the degree, but most jobs like the ones he described require a bachelors degree.

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^ Then the conclusion here is that these people succeeded in spite of their majors, not because of them.  The women's studies department or Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies did not teach them how to dress for the job, nor did it teach them work ethic or how to "be pretty cool" in an interview.  The undercurrent here is exactly the same as it was in your first section: In your own words, "If 80% of those kids never get a job related to their major (or end up teaching), it's a very questionable investment. The ones who land jobs probably get them despite the degree. They were talented all along or had the potential. They didn't need an expensive college degree to tell them that."

 

Yup, same type of deal. Also, this is what happens with that other 80% of art and media majors (throw in political science too). They end up working in other fields just like those women's studies majors do.

 

The only difference is that there are professional artists, professional video producers, professional photographers, professional television/film makers, professional graphic designers, professional writers/reporters/copy editors, etc. There is a heavy entrepreneurial element in these fields too. It's not just about landing a job, it might be creating your own job. I don't know of any career track for Medieval & Renaissance studies. At most schools, you probably have a 100% chance of working outside the field.

 

One of the big problems with this peak education thing comes down to expectations. With the cost of college completely out of line with wages, people expect it to help them land a job. Unfortunately, that's only true in the right majors- growth fields with moderate levels of competition at home and abroad. The number of those majors is shrinking fast and is now even hitting hard subjects like engineering (somebody in India can do that job for $5 an hour and live the dream). These days, finance, healthcare administration, nursing, and education are just about the only good college degree tracks to get into. For the most part, skilled trades are the best investments of time and money. Kids just can't admit this due to wanting the college dream. Everyone imagines how fun it will be and how much it will set them apart from the kids with high school diplomas. Then graduation comes...

 

Probably back in the 60's and 70's nobody cared too much about this because college was just a fun time to explore your options, party hard, and maybe learn a thing or two. You barely spent any money on it, so it didn't matter if your major lacked a career track. Hardly anyone had college degrees, so it still was worth something. You didn't worry about your job being outsourced. You didn't worry about 100 graduates for every job opening in competitive fields. And you didn't worry about gambling your life on a piece of paper.

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>art and media majors (throw in political science too). They end up working in other fields just like those women's studies majors do.

 

Actually a lot of people in art school and these other useless fields are trust funders, so these hypothetical stats don't really matter for them.  A lot of these people try to act poor on campus, but I think there is a secret handshake or something because they all seem to find each other. 

 

 

 

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^True. There are lots of trustfunders in the art world. Also, I can tell you that television and news are getting pretty similar. Most of the content creators these days are from wealthy backgrounds (which creates quite a contrast with the gritty blue collar workforce of the past). Somebody is covering them during all those unpaid internships. This also has the effect of keeping the kids with the most potential out of the business. They just can't afford to work for free in New York City. The kids with parents who foot the bill for unpaid internships are at a huge advantage. It's creating a whole class of media professionals who have no connection to the other side of things. It's really sad and frustrating to see talented, hard-working kids lose spots to kids who were able to do two or three unpaid internships. Every now and then, you'll see a kid who lives at home with their parents while going to school do an unpaid internship, and those are the ones I'm rooting for.

 

What the colleges are doing here is downright criminal. I'm starting to fear the whole point of creating these majors in the first place was so the media companies could avoid the labor police. You can only work for free while enrolled in school. On top of working for free, you also are still paying tuition while getting zero instruction from the university. The joke is always, "Hell, I should be getting that tuition money! I'm training these little bastards." Unpaid internships are gold mines for universities. The way kids worship some of the professors who work 20 hours a week or take paid leave of absences to work on their pet projects is terrifying (those types of profs are totally working the system). Kids just don't understand what is really going on until after graduation. Many students today are getting ripped off left and right. They pay tuition while learning all this stuff outside of school. If these jobs paid well after graduation, I might not think as much about it (I do think a well-rounded education is important). But these kids are getting into the rawest, most cut-throat businesses on earth where starting pay is just not enough to survive in most cases.

 

As crazy as this sounds, it might actually make sense to change the labor laws. If the kids can do unpaid internships while not enrolled in college, they'll actually save a ton of money. The degree doesn't matter. The work experience (even if just internship) does. The system works, it just doesn't work for the students. I'm not sure who is to blame for this, but it's not the kids. Shame on universities for exploiting them, and shame on media companies who happily partake in it as some sort of military or fraternity-style hazing ritual.

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The feds have started to crack down on the unpaid internships. Those are the dark secret of how class and our meritocracy actually work. I'll go to grave defending the right to learn things not directly related to one's future employment.

The problem is that 'picking' that field is actually much harder than it looks. Two bits of evidence from my undergrad days - Physical and Occupational Therapy were really hot majors based on the logical notion that we live in an aging society and that lots of folks would need this in the future, then suddenly the feds placed a very low lifetime limitation on how much they would pay for PT and OT and w/in a year the hot major was just another track that had no particular claim to success.

 

Likewise, a lot of folks trained in the late 90s in IT, Computer Science and web stuff, were crushed by the collapse of the Web bubble.

 

History we make new everyday and will as long as we continue to be humans that live and die.

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Computer engineers, IT professionals, and others in that sector still do pretty well for themselves.  They may not all be buying NBA teams with the proceeds of their dot-com sales, but they still do fine.

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Peak Education -- the term has been out there for a few years now.  It is of course a play on Peak Oil, but there are some important similarities.  I'm starting this thread as a spin-off from the Law School thread.

 

The theory:

http://patrickdeneen.blogspot.com/2008/09/peak-education.html

 

 

Here's a link to a recent article:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110118/ap_on_re_us/us_college_learning

 

 

I agree with the theory, because what I experienced in college was so ridiculous.  Clearly, many if not most of the people shouldn't have been there and should have been stamping widgets instead.  Most *didn't* rack up massive student loan debt because they were from families of 1 or 2 kids and benefited from inheritances.  Meanwhile, many of the individuals who *did* belong there *did* pile on student debt.

 

The other thing that drove me nuts about college was that the whole thing was about resume padding, not actually learning or doing anything.  In fact, actually becoming an educated person and a critical thinker, if you weren't one already, was to your disadvantage.

 

None of this would be possible, of course, without the giveaway student loan programs that we have.  But reforming student loans is a political non-starter, so I don't know what the future holds. 

 

 

 

Excellent!

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The feds have started to crack down on the unpaid internships. Those are the dark secret of how class and our meritocracy actually work. I'll go to grave defending the right to learn things not directly related to one's future employment.

 

The problem is that 'picking' that field is actually much harder than it looks. Two bits of evidence from my undergrad days - Physical and Occupational Therapy were really hot majors based on the logical notion that we live in an aging society and that lots of folks would need this in the future, then suddenly the feds placed a very low lifetime limitation on how much they would pay for PT and OT and w/in a year the hot major was just another track that had no particular claim to success.

 

The unpaid internship thing really is the ugliest aspect of our class system. It does effectively shut out poor kids from getting into the media. Some of the smartest people I know have had to change career paths. These are probably the kids who would be doing the best broadcasting and writing in this country (it's no accident that quality is declining). They have perspective that the luckier kids don't have.

 

And yes, these hot majors come and go. What happens with hot majors is usually what happens with our economy in general. Outsourcing becomes available and thousands of Americans get the axe, and/or companies just implode. Part of the point of university education is learning how to navigate the system so if these things happen to you, you can pick up the pieces and find a whole new career. I just am not sure how effective that education is today. There is just too much blind faith put into the university system to solve our country's woes. When you look at the administrator salaries and the obsession with landing research/project professors who don't teach (but look good in the brochures), it's easy to think the students are just an afterthought. There are people at these universities who get very rich by doing very little work.

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But if we think that more people need to go to trade schools, then we need a more stable economy that allows us to match supply and demand in the trades. Otherwise, we risk training the next generation of telephone operators, carriage builders, and horsemen to say nothing of steelworkers, machinists, or autoworkers.

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Many people speculate that NAFTA and free trade with China were implemented in order to mitigate the threat of communist revolutions and alliances.  Basically the thinking was if Central America, China, etc., were places where people could make money, there would be interest in keeping it that way.  At some point when these places are respectable players free trade could be curbed an manufacturing brought back to the United States. 

 

 

>It does effectively shut out poor kids from getting into the media.

 

Great point.  But it doesn't seem that poor people are embracing the internet and starting any serious blogs.  Finally everyone has a place to say their piece, but it turns out relatively few really have anything to say.  When I taught at a community college, the students weren't interested in journalism or current events at all.  What were they interested in?  Watching bum fights on youtube in class.   

 

 

 

 

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