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2012 February 20 Monday
Heartiste: Repeal Griggs To Destroy Education Racket

Heartiste argues that repeal of the US Supreme Court decision Griggs v. Duke Power Company would destroy the education racket.

College degrees are very expensive and time-consuming proxies for intelligence measurement. If you are smart enough to get into Harvard (with really g-loaded SATs to help qualify) then you are smart enough to work at a company that needs high cognitive ability. Ditto the rest of the Ivy League and other schools with high entrance requirements. If you graduate at the top of your class at a less selective school again you have demonstrated higher cognitive ability. But we can't afford this increasingly expensive but politically correct way of measuring intelligence.

Some of the commenters argued that it wasn't the Griggs decision so much as US government subsidies of higher education (student loans and tuition grants) that caused the higher prices. Chuck Rudd of Gucci Little Piggy responded that Griggs created the conditions under which people would be motivated to use the government subsidies that further helped drive up the costs of college.

It’s all tied in together. Griggs set the table for college degrees to become worth so much to employers making hiring decisions. It became their only metric for sifting through piles of applications. We’re no longer choosing for IQ or mental ability per se; we’re now choosing for something that indicates IQ or mental ability (loosely) and universities can make money off of it.

Government enters the fray – distorting the market – and creating a bubble where colleges and unis have no natural curb to the prices they charge their customers. They know they can charge X amount and that the government will ratchet up student aid and subsidize enough loans to ensure that they get paid.

So Griggs doesn’t directly cause this, but it immediately distorts the market and everything else falls to shit from there.

The same (still existing and still very damaging) intellectual conditions that led to the foolish Griggs decision also led to an overestimation of the value of a college education. The ROI of college was exaggerated because the higher IQ of college grads (as compared to non-college grads) was ignored when college grads were observed to make more money over their careers. The overestimation of ROI from college education provided political support for wasteful levels of subsidy for higher education. So today students have wracked up massive amounts of college loan debt on the theory that college would make them smarter than they really are.

The worst outcome the education racket has brought about: a 50% increase in college graduates in the last 25% with a 0% increase in STEM (science, tech, engineering math) grads. Yes, the huge surge in college education has resulted in a zero percent increase in the supply of people who design, discover, and create new innovations.

What we need: separate the testing for competency and granting of credentials from the delivery of instruction and courseware. For a look at what is going on in educational innovation to free us from inflexible and costly bricks and mortar colleges check out this exchange between Kevin Carey, Reihan Salam, and Arnold Kling:

By Randall Parker    2012 February 20 06:04 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2011 August 04 Thursday
Rick Perry's Higher Education Reforms Hit Resistance

Texas governor (and likely US presidential aspirant) Rick Perry wants to force Texas state universities to lower their costs.

More recently, Perry has proposed that the state’s top colleges come up with a four-year degree that costs no more than $10,000 — a goal that skeptics say cannot be achieved without sacrificing academic quality and prestige.

The whole article makes no mention of separating certification testing from teaching and course work. Yet that's key to lowering the cost of education. If someone does not need hand-holding and doesn't mind watching videos and taking online practice tests why should that person pay the very high cost for enrolling for a bricks-and-mortar education?

Perry wants to measure costs and benefits of each faculty member. This has basically caused an "Empire Strikes Back" where influential and powerful alumni fight to protect their favorite university from Perry's reform attempts.

On May 3, nearly two dozen people who had been honored as distinguished alumni by the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M released an open letter to their fellow Aggies: “Our concern is the result of the extraordinary level of political intervention in our university. . . . It is our observation that individuals, including the Boards of Regents, often misunderstand the fragile nature of academic prestige.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, said of Perry: “He bit the giant, and that giant is the alumni, who care more deeply and passionately about their alma maters than they do about his politics.”

Perry's wasting his time trying to reform the existing (and inefficient and corrupt and manipulative) higher education system. Take a lesson from Sun Tzu. Do not attack directly. Reformers should focus on building up pieces of a parallel system and avoid political warfare with loyal alumni. Western Governors University is a useful model. But I would go further and divert some dollars toward producing free-to-download lecture series. Then allow people to just pay for tests to prove their competency for a variety of basic university courses. Best to start out with highly objective subjects like calculus, physics, and other science basics where the knowledge does not change for years.

By Randall Parker    2011 August 04 02:26 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2011 August 02 Tuesday
VC: Education Completely Screwed Up

Chi-Hua Chien of legendary Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins (e.g. they funded Amazon, Sun Microsystems, Google, Genentech) thinks the educational market is in need of massive restructuring.

Secondly, education is a trillion dollar market “that’s completely screwed up”, because it involves millions of children going to sit in a classroom for 7 hours, and it combines three different businesses for the state: the real estate business, the union labor management business, and certification business.

When, in reality, education should be delivered in a realtime basis to students who are learning at their own pace, who don’t have to sit in a room full of 30 people in an antiquated environment — a realtime, mobile solution that’s learning based as opposed to curriculum based. This second idea is a bit more nebulous, but Chien is hitting on an important theme here: How badly American education is in need of disruption and innovation, especially as that would relate to mobile.

He's not slicing up education into enough pieces. The real estate and labor management pieces should disappear as online course delivery makes unions powerless and building usage minimal.

Certification should be broken up into course delivery, tutoring of groups and individuals, and testing. But testing really has two distinct uses in education: testing for learning (frequent testing enhances learning) and testing for certification of knowledge and skills acquired.

Each of these pieces could be delivered by different organizations for the same topic area. So you could get video lectures from one source, tutoring from another source, learning tests from yet another source, and certification testing from still another source.

A big need: certification standards for assorted fields of expertise. Many fields have certification tests. But too many also require bricks-and-mortar education and accredited institutions before becoming eligible to take the tests. For example, with one exception I'm aware of (Virginia) one can't pass the bar to become a lawyer without first going to law school.

By Randall Parker    2011 August 02 09:01 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (12)
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