Thursday, March 14, 2013

The higher ed shell game

The John Wilson Pope Center has been a very good source for material regarding the scam of higher education, and this piece on how government failure has led us to a point where college grads are working $10/hour jobs.

The entire piece is well worth your while, but I want to point out a few conclusions that Gary Jason draws:

  • You'll frequently see me use a line in these pieces that amounts to, "your tax dollars at work."  That's because "the federal government has taken over and dramatically increased the student loan program. This is the very program that has fueled the growth in the number of students graduating with less-than-marketable degrees, pushed up tuition, and enabled universities to afford administrative bloat (some of it undoubtedly required by unfunded federal mandates)."

  • That government loan system does not discriminate in terms of what students might be good investment risks. "What degrees are less than marketable? For one, probably a degree in fine or performing arts. The Wall Street Journal recently analyzed Department of Education data and concluded that the highest student loan debt loads are run up by students at art, music, and design colleges—on average now over $21,500. To repay that, the students will be paying about $3,000 a year. This is a challenging amount for graduates who, with five or fewer years of experience on the job, have average incomes of only about $40,000 per year, according to"

  • The K-12 system in this country is for the most part an abject failure. "The reality faced by employers in private industry—which, unlike government, needs to be efficient to survive—is that a high school diploma doesn’t guarantee that the student can actually read, write, and compute at anywhere near the twelfth-grade level, or often even at the eighth-grade level. Chalk that up to decades of “social promotion” along with other “progressive education” theories, all of which have badly undermined our K-12 system."

  • The "disparate impact" standard has been a disaster. "[A]ny basic skills test that has a 'disparate impact' (i.e., has scores that show statistical differences between ethnic groups) will subject the company using them to enormous legal risks. That legal minefield is due to a 1971 Supreme Court decision, Griggs v. Duke Power, which many argue, has led companies to insist that applicants have college degrees."  Whether or not they're required in order to do the job. 

  • To avoid legal threats, "employers began demanding college credentials as the safest way to screen out applicants who probably were less trainable and reliable. That appears to be a major reason why so many young Americans think they must go to college these days but often end up doing low-skill, low-pay jobs."
The result, Jason says, is "market failure."  Specifically, government failure.  Which leads to more personal debt, higher government debt, unrealistic dreams and frustrated grads. 

When I first proposed this series to Mitchell, he asked if I thought I had enough material to make it worthwhile. I told him there were two ways of covering this - to show the outrageous things going on in higher ed, which I've done in the first couple of posts, and to challenge the perception that higher ed is always needed, which is what we're looking at here.

A college education can be a fine thing, but to suggest that it is an absolute necessity is not only outrageous, it's not true.  Those who have conspired to make it so - the government, the education industry and big business - are running a shell game, and increasingly the American people are the suckers.

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