Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Education Bubble

Michael Phillips sounds out on an argument made by Glenn Reynolds on the high cost and lack of efficacy of the present stae of higher education, a system geared more to be a make-work system for those employed in it that the development of the student.

The value of work after college, in general, will no longer justify the astronomic costs of college time. It hasn't for nearly two decades. The same goes for prep-schools and many post graduate departments.
Free government education types take note: it’s true, whoever is paying the bill. Phillips also notes some fundamental life-isses that Reynolds misses:
Paying off the associated student loans is debilitating and destroys the working life and working opportunities for many people. If you have to pay off a student loan at $700 per month, you usually can't take a job where you will learn important lessons about the business world, or start your own business if you have the skills. You also must look forward to a very grim loan paying future with no likely reward in sight. Depression. You postpone a family at the time when you are most capable of raising children.
Having carried student loans, I disagree. Then again, I took up an area of professional study and found a WAY to pay them off.

Similarly in the fantasy world of “free University education” the want ads in European publications and websites make it clear: the offers are limited largely due to the over-regulation, over-management, and burden of employer mandates. What is stunning from an American perspective, are the listings for academic programs found in those publications and websites where job openings should be.
Colleges are a business disaster. The administrative costs of college are far out of proportion to their contribution to the final product. I've consulted with several colleges and walked away stunned by the administrative overhead, not to mention the incredibly high salaries to faculty which is wasted in 98.3% of the positions.
Which can be only MORE true the more socialized the management mechanisms are, regardless if the costs of state-owned or managed institutions are hidden: i.e.: Does a state run university get an electric bill? Did they sourcing of their own facilities appear on their own budget? Etcetera, etcetera.

Either way, for the outcome, one which barely benefits society and confers it’s questionable benefits on the student, the price of the way things presently operate is just too high, even if they weren’t turning out too many graduates for the economy not to undercut their value in the economy.

If intellectual fulfillment is a larger (PC/non-“greed” feeding) goal, what’s missing is something that was once ubiquitous: a society of well read and literate workers who enjoyed the pursuit of knowledge on their own initiative, and for their own personal enrichment. It didn’t require a degree, just a library card and a well ordered use of ones free time. It’s a pursuit that’s equally true of those who did come through the degree mills.

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