Subprime College Educations

comment by Pepin the Short in G-Vegas
Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Liberal Arts are not what they once were. Previously, they taught you what you needed to know about the foundation of your culture; allowed you to immerse yourself in the greats of literature, music, history, and philosophy. Once upon a time, a man with a Liberal Arts education was a well-rounded human being, able to draw on the experience of his ancestors, and it was all thanks to his Alma Mater.

But this is the 21st Century. You can have all of Beethoven’s works in your back pocket. You can read Montesquieu with the touch of a button. You can have The Divine Comedy on audiobook. The pillars of the human legacy are no longer confined to ivy halls, they can be had for free, everywhere, for anyone who wants them.

It makes the rigors of a Liberal Arts degree look superfluous. Even if most Universities were not staffed by ideologues preaching whatever tenets of progressivism happen to be in vogue at the time, it would be difficult to make an argument that, in order to culture oneself, one absolutely must study the Liberal Arts in an official capacity.

The sorry state of the intelligentsia is merely incidental, icing on top of yet another layer of icing; the Liberal Arts no longer carry the weight and command the respect that they once did.

Subprime College Educations

By George Will
June 10, 2012

WASHINGTON — 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.”

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, University of Tennessee law professor, believes 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.” Since 1961, the time students spend reading, writing and otherwise studying has fallen from 24 hours a week to about 15 — enough for a degree often desired only as an expensive signifier of rudimentary qualities (e.g., the ability to follow instructions). Employers value this signifier as an alternative to aptitude tests when evaluating potential employees because such tests can provoke lawsuits by having a “disparate impact” on this or that racial or ethnic group.

In his Encounter Books Broadside “The Higher Education Bubble,” Reynolds says this bubble exists for the same reasons the housing bubble did. The government decided that too few people owned homes/went to college, so government money was poured into subsidized and sometimes subprime mortgages/student loans, with the predictable result that housing prices/college tuitions soared and many borrowers went bust. Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money. A recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Student Debt Rises by 8% as College Tuitions Climb.”

Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that as many people — perhaps more — have student loan debts as have college degrees. Have you seen those T-shirts that proclaim “College: The Best Seven Years of My Life”? Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.

In 2010, The New York Times reported on Cortney Munna, then 26, a New York University graduate with almost $100,000 in debt. If her repayments were not then being deferred because she was enrolled in night school, she would have been paying $700 monthly from her $2,300 monthly after-tax income as a photographer’s assistant. She says she is toiling “to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back.” Her degree is in religious and women’s studies.

The budgets of California’s universities are being cut, so recently Cal State Northridge students conducted an almost-hunger strike (sustained by a blend of kale, apple and celery juices) to protest, as usual, tuition increases and, unusually and properly, administrators’ salaries. For example, in 2009 the base salary of UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion was $194,000, almost four times that of starting assistant professors. And by 2006, academic administrators outnumbered faculty.

The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that sinecures in academia’s diversity industry are expanding as academic offerings contract. UC San Diego, while eliminating master’s programs in electrical and computer engineering and comparative literature, and eliminating courses in French, German, Spanish and English literature, added a diversity requirement for graduation to cultivate “a student’s understanding of her or his identity.” So, rather than study computer science and Cervantes, students can study their identities — themselves. Says Mac Donald, “‘Diversity,’ it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.”

She reports that UCSD lost three cancer researchers to Rice University, which offered them 40 percent pay increases. But UCSD found money to create a Vice Chancellorship for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. UC Davis has a Diversity Trainers Institute under an Administrator of Diversity Education, who presumably coordinates with the Cross-Cultural Center. It also has: a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; a Sexual Harassment Education Program; a Diversity Program Coordinator; an Early Resolution Discrimination Coordinator; a Diversity Education Series that awards Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression”; and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.” California’s budget crisis has not prevented UC San Francisco from creating a new Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach to supplement UCSF’s Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and the Diversity Learning Center (which teaches how to become “a Diversity Change Agent”), and the Center for LGBT Health and Equity, and the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention & Resolution, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committees on Diversity, and on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, and on the Status of Women.

So taxpayers should pay more and parents and students should borrow more to fund administrative sprawl in the service of stale political agendas? Perhaps they will, until “pop!” goes the bubble.

(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

Rebecca Emmons in Tulsa, OK
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 5:17 PM

I don’t think we should scorn liberal arts majors, because I have a well-rounded history degree that I worked for 12 years to complete. (Health problems, marriage, moving, and two young children all meant taking longer to complete my degree.) It is possible for a student to obtain a well-rounded education if she is able to discern the difference between scholarship and propaganda. Many students attend college assuming their professors are neutral scientists in their allegiance to simple facts, much as a child views their elementary and high school teachers. Or, they encounter professors who enthuse them with messianic views of their own importance and capacity for revolutionary change – and who DOESN’T want to be a significant part of history? But it’s still appealing to ego, to narcissism, to juvenile fantasies of omnipotence and “specialness.” Surrounded by a supportive administration who will only condemn beliefs believed by the “experts” (themselves) to be stifling and intolerant (like conservativism and Christianity), nothing really provides an anchor for the students to structure their studies on.

I have always had a regard for tradition and history, without trying to blindly or slavishly follow it. I had almost complete freedom in my Seven Sisters school to create my own degree, within certain general guidelines for obtaining a complete education – and I took that very seriously. But unlike many people I knew, I came to school with a strong faith that places God first in every thing. So I prayed over which courses to take, and was led to many incredible courses by incredible professors, in a wide assortment of disciplines, so I truly feel better able to contribute to the community – and especially my own growing family – because of my liberal arts education.

I don’t have the talents or interest in “hard, useful” college studies like engineering or chemistry, though I certainly did well enough in math and science in high school and the intro college levels. A liberal arts degree is essential for preserving culture, and is wonderful for people whose interests and skills lend themselves to success in these fields. Unfortunately, many students are sold a bill of goods because they end up taking useless classes with subpar professors (I’ve also had a couple of those, which I’m grateful for at least because they showed me what my college experience might have been). Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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Mac in Phoenix
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 5:44 PM

I suppose it’s what you want to do with that degree, isn’t that the whole reason? I found it truly amazing that some of the OWS “children” were lamenting that they couldn’t get any “good” jobs – after 6 years in college (and, no, Rebecca, no kids etc..-just a damn good time) a 4 year degree in, as one said, women’s studies. Well, what the hell is that? Victimology, – so she – maybe – has the capacity now to complain to (?) that she can’t get a 80K a year job???? Hooo-boy! Talk about deluded! I believe the Universities should be held in some kind of fault for even offering a degree like that. They should at least get the student’s waiver, acknowledging that there’s no job market for this major!!! Hell, they put “MUST COOK TO EAT” on some food labels these days…

Mac in Phoenix
Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 9:22 AM

When administrators outnumber faculty is there any question as to what a joke academia has become? These elitists offer a failed business plan to teach these kids to somehow compete and prosper in business?

And women’s studies? Victimhood 101??? Really? These colleges should be sued, screwed, tattooed and booed – and discredited for another progressive hoax foisted on America.  They’re all laughing on the way to the bank.

Hard Thought in Vicenza, Italy  Sunday, June 10, 2012

The science major asks “Why does it work?” The engineering major asks “How does it work?” The liberal arts major asks “Do you want fries with that?”


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