Your Ad Here
2009 April 19 Sunday
Ignorance Cheaper Than Education For Many

A New York Times article explores the debt burden that many carry when they graduate from college.

“You often hear the quote that you can’t put a price on ignorance,” said Ezra Kazee, who has $29,000 in student debt and has been unable to find a job since graduating from Winona State University in Minnesota last May. “But with the way higher education is going, ignorance is looking more and more affordable every day.”

One guy in the article graduated with a $150,000 debt for training in visual design with $1500 per month payments and he can't find a job that pays anything more than his rent. Oh, and get this: student loans are now hard to discharge in bankruptcy. Go to school and become a serf. Colleges and universities are graduating indentured servants. How's that for enlightened liberalism?

You should not graduate with more total debt than your expected starting salary.

The average cumulative debt among graduating seniors is about $22,500, according to FinAid.org, a Web site that specializes in financial aid.

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FastWeb.com and FinAid.org, recommends that students follow a simple rule of thumb. “Do not borrow more than your expected starting salary for your entire undergraduate education,” he said. “If your starting salary is going to be $40,000, then you should borrow no more than $10,000 a year for a four-year degree.”

Higher education has become unaffordable. The return on investment is too low. What is needed to solve this problem? Here's a good start:

  • Make video recordings of lectures for large numbers of college courses. Put these lectures on the web.
  • Come up with standard tests for objective topics of study (e.g. calculus, physics, chemistry, etc). Put them on the web. Let people test their knowledge using web tests.
  • Provide walk-in testing facilities at state colleges (or other facilities) where people can pay to take standardized tests and get certified for their competence.
  • Certification requirements should be set by professional societies (e.g. American Chemical Society, American Physical Society). That way industry can know that possession of certificates of competency demonstrates understanding of substantial bodies of knowledge.

Basically, eliminate the need to go to bricks-and-mortar colleges. They cost too much. They take too much time. They are inconvenient with lecture times that reduce the ability of students to use their time effectively. Also, quality of teaching varies. Recorded lectures of the best teachers would raise the average level of viewed lectures.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 April 19 11:08 PM  Education


Your Ad Here
Comments
Truth said at April 19, 2009 11:19 PM:

Price controls on university tuition.

black sea said at April 20, 2009 2:26 AM:

Two flaws in the underlying premises of the article:

1. College education can, or should, guarantee a student something in the way of a career.

Education never has been able to do this, even in fields considered more pratical, such as engineering. At best education is just that, education. What you can or can't do with that in terms of making money is dependent on a large set of variables beyond any university's control.

2. There are two categories of people: 1. the ignorant and 2. the educated.

Ignorance is the general human condition. We're all destined to be ignorant of a great deal more than we'll ever have even the most superficial knowledge of. Beyond that, anybody who -- in this day and age -- imagines that a university degree represents much of anything about a person's scope or depth of knowledge is dreaming.

For most students, university represents an opportunity to forestall, or at best gradually ease into, adulthood. For those with genuine intellectual curiosity, it can actually be exciting and gratifying. On a slightly more practical level, it does provide some credentialism, in that some level of intelligence is required to get into a decent school, and some minimal level of persistence and self-discipline is necessary to get out with a degree. These two characteristics are of some interest to potential employers.

Buckaroo said at April 20, 2009 10:56 AM:

I agree with much of black sea's comments, especially the "credentialism" part.
As other people (e.g. Steve Sailer) have observed, college degrees have largely become a very expensive and inefficient but reasonably accurate IQ-test proxy. Subconsciously perhaps, employers have by now classified degree-granting institutions into rough strata and figured out a mapping to an expected intelligence range of their graduates. To the extent that this is true, colleges' primary contribution to a student's success is just admitting him in the first place. The successful completion of the four year program just reassures the employers that the guy is not simply an intelligent but volatile goof-off.
The actual subject matter taught is of at best secondary importance except for the hardest of hard sciences and engineering disciplines. And even there I would argue that apprenticeship should replace the student-paid four years in the maw of the government-educational complex. Software development immediately comes to mind. Similarly, people who are destined to be laboratory grunts in bio-chem would be better served by a two-year focused education.
And this doesn't even touch all the "communications" and "fill-in-the-blank studies" majors which should simply go out of existence. My guess is that no more than 30-40% of current undergraduates should even be attending college. The entire industry (because that's what it is) represents a gigantic misallocation of resources.

O'Brien said at April 20, 2009 12:26 PM:

The successful completion of the four year program just reassures the employers that the guy is not simply an intelligent but volatile goof-off.

I wouldn't even go that far. I'd say that probably most people who contribute to true innovation--as opposed to simply refining existing theories or doing high-tech grunt work--are these "intelligent but volatile goof-offs." Of course these people are also liable to become Stalins, Hitlers, Goebbels's, Goerings, etc, especially in societies that do not appreciate their talents. Goebbels and Goering, and their Soviet equivalents, I believe were especially drawn to their positions b/c they had nowhere else to go, especially with their alcohol abuse, drug use, womanizing, etc which were not approved of in traditional institutions. I think one reason that so many intellectuals hate capitalism is because much of business is still trapped in aristocratic Victorian thinking.

Similarly, people who are destined to be laboratory grunts in bio-chem would be better served by a two-year focused education.

This is a problem in all of the sciences--much of the type of work that most profs want from undergraduates is stuff an intelligent junior high kid could do and has little if anything to do with what a student has learned in the classroom. Of course an ambitious undergrad student who wanted to do more than high-tech grunt work could probably find it, but such a thing would require some doing. It seems that a disturbingly large number of disaffected students simply accept the high-tech grunt work, and rely on drugs, alcohol, and sex to soothe their boredom--or like a minority, decide that boredom is a good thing (see reaction formation)*. I don't have any problem with drugs, alcohol, or sex but I don't want to rely on these and related activities as my sole outlet--drugs and alcohol in particular have a lot of downsides.

*Unfortunately reaction formation tends to be both an unhealthy and unstable psychological defense.

Anonymous said at April 20, 2009 4:06 PM:

This is liberal professors exploiting their students. Exploiting the young people. It's immoral.

Aki_Izayoi said at April 20, 2009 10:02 PM:

I think the answer to the problem is "socialism" in some form.

I suppose the demand for higher education would be reduced if people in blue-collared jobs get nice benefits (from the state or the private sector.) In Denmark, people are content working blue-collared jobs such as collecting trash, and those people do not feel like shit. I guess that what happens when the "successful" in society are highly taxed so they are unable to engage in conspicious consumption or use their wealth to signal "superiority."

Have people be content with less (although needs such as housing and health care are provided), and you will create a relatively happy society with low expectations. And yes, that means bringing down the "productive" unless one could show that their "productivity" benefits the least well off of society as this is similiar to Rawls' proposal in A Theory of Justice. Since most people will not accomplish much, I think most people will benefit from such a society. Just look at Denmark.

averros said at April 20, 2009 10:41 PM:

> I think the answer to the problem is "socialism" in some form.

I think you need an all-expenses paid vacation in North Korea.

> and you will create a relatively happy society with low expectations

Like Soviet Union? Mind you, Russians are still dying from habits picked up during the decades of low expectations.

Xenophon Hendrix said at April 21, 2009 4:07 AM:

Randall, for freshman- and sophomore-level university classes, part of what you describe is already available through CLEP.

A few years ago, when I was kicking around the idea of becoming a high-school teacher, I took several CLEP tests. They were relatively inexpensive (much cheaper than even a community college class) and easy to take. I just had to go to a computer lab at a community college and spend two or three hours answering multiple-choice questions. I received an unofficial score immediately after completing the test. The CLEP people sent the official score to the educational institution of my choice.

A Non said at April 21, 2009 6:51 AM:

"Just look at Denmark."

Yeah, it is full of Danes! America? Well, not so much...

Aki_Izayoi said at April 21, 2009 7:08 AM:

Look at Denmark, Averros... You probably wouldn't like it, but you have to agree that it isn't a hellhole. At least acknowledge that.

Also, in Russia, at least you get a flat and a regular stipend. In the US, you are thrown on the street and eat government subsidized cheese. (see the comment here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2009/04/socialism-gaining-ground-in-america.html)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shepBx2ogJo (about Denmark)

"Those high taxes have another effect. Since a banker can end up taking home as much money as an artist, people don't chose careers based on income or status. "They have this thing called 'Jante-lov,' which essentially says, 'You're no better then anybody else,'" said Buettner. "A garbage man can live in a middle-class neighborhood and hold his head high."

Indeed, garbage man Jan Dion says he's an eight out of 10 in terms of happiness. He said he doesn't mind collecting garbage for a living, because he works just five hours in the morning and then can spend the rest of the day at home with family or coaching his daughter's handball team. Dion says no one judges his choice of career, and he actually loves what he does because he has many friends along his route. It makes him happy when he sees the children who wave to him and the old ladies who bring him cups of coffee."
http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=4086092&page=1

That life probably would not make you happy, but really it is the best that many could hope for. And he is happy, not because of the money he makes, but because of the money that other people do not make because of the taxes.

Basicially, I was saying that if one eliminates the gap of perceived status gap between blue-collared people and those who went to college, you have decreased demand for college since there would be no status arms race. Again, in Denmark, that blue-collared workers doesn't feel like shit.

Paul Craig Roberts is correct: blame the right-wing for promoting illegal immigration (the WSJ wing) and free trade (which drives down wages and causes people to go to college in order to acquire a signal that they are worthy of higher pay), and blame the left-wing for promoting that education is the panacea. At least he doesn't have utopian left-wing expectations of education, and at least understands the problem.

WTF said at April 21, 2009 9:05 AM:

"In the US, you are thrown on the street and eat government subsidized cheese."

Ignorant comment. And on the street? If only...

LIHEAP
Section 8
Public Housing
Food Stamps
Medicaid
WIC
Free education

I'm sure I've left quite a bit out like state and local "social programs"...Maybe the chance of actually being out on the street would motivate the underclass slugs in the US.

"And he is happy, not because of the money he makes, but because of the money that other people do not make because of the taxes."

Really? I thought he was happy because of this:

Indeed, garbage man Jan Dion says he's an eight out of 10 in terms of happiness. He said he doesn't mind collecting garbage for a living, because he works just five hours in the morning and then can spend the rest of the day at home with family or coaching his daughter's handball team. Dion says no one judges his choice of career, and he actually loves what he does because he has many friends along his route. It makes him happy when he sees the children who wave to him and the old ladies who bring him cups of coffee."

I didn't catch the part about how he is happy because of taxes keeping other people from being too rich. It sounds like he is happy because he has a job, that while dirty and maybe strenuous at times, provides a valuable service for his community: keeping it clean, attractive and healthy and pays him relatively well with hours that aren't all that long. The people in his community (Danes, mind you, not a polyglot of dependent NAMs or freaks who only care about credentials, neither who never got their hands messy or actually broke a sweat) understand this and appreciate it. Dion sounds like a personable guy to begin with. He also has time for his family and his own interests. Imagine that!

"Again, in Denmark, that blue-collared workers doesn't feel like shit."

Do blue collar workers in the US feel like shit? I'm willing to bet that some do, some don't. Probably for a variety of reason that may have nothing to do with being blue collar.


beowulf said at April 21, 2009 12:34 PM:

Xenophon Hendrix,

Very good point of using CLEP exams to test out of college classes. I've mentioned here before the site http://www.123collegedegree.com/ . A US Navy sailor put up a site explaining how he picked up a college degree in less than a year by using CLEP and similar exams to accumulate all the credits necessary for a bachelors (there are at two least two state colleges that let you test out of every class). CLEP exams are cheap for civilians and free for servicemen so its a damn good deal.

Speaking of servicemen, the socializing (easing into adulthood) and proof of work ethic roles that college play could just as easily be played by mandatory national service. You want an IQ proxy? you could do worse than requiring ASVAB scores (particuarly the AFQT breakdown).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armed_Services_Vocational_Aptitude_Battery

mike said at April 22, 2009 7:32 PM:

"I suppose the demand for higher education would be reduced if people in blue-collared jobs get nice benefits (from the state or the private sector.) In Denmark, people are content working blue-collared jobs such as collecting trash, and those people do not feel like shit. I guess that what happens when the "successful" in society are highly taxed so they are unable to engage in conspicious consumption or use their wealth to signal "superiority."


Not sure if raising minimum wages for lower skilled jobs will work that much, in Australia the minimum wage for blue collar work is pretty high, but their are still far too many people doing degrees and not getting high paid jobs that really require degree skills.

There needs to be a cultural change, in which employers and educators acknowledge the value of manual work, and stop expecting people to a have a degree for low-level white collar jobs.

A lof of university prefessors are naive baby boomers who had it easy in the 70s and don't realise how tough the situation is today.

Randall Parker said at April 22, 2009 10:06 PM:

mike,

We have tens of millions of Mexican immigrants with little education who compete with our natives for manual labor jobs. There's far too many manual laborers for those jobs to pay well in the United States. Automation combined with a growing population of an immigrant ethnic group whose scholastic achivement does not improve across generations means that pay rates for manual labor will continue to fall behind.

In a society with a very high average IQ the average manual laborer will be much smarter. But that's not where the US is going. Manual laborers are seen as not bright because on average they are dumber than they used to be and their relative status is dropping.

Xenophon Hendrix,

Can you take CLEP practice tests on the internet to let you know in advance whether you'll pass?

Xenophon Hendrix said at April 23, 2009 10:02 AM:

In the past, I found online official study guides for all of the tests that included half-length practice tests that in my experience were accurate in predicting how well one would do on the official exam. I have no idea if those study guides were posted with permission. I also have no idea where I found them.

I suspect they were posted illegally, because I see on the College Board site that they sell pdfs of the individual exam guides for $10 each. I can recommend them as excellent investments for persons considering CLEP.


Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

      
 
Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©