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Hot under the collar over $10G college degrees

Hot under the collar over $10G college degrees

I was interviewed yesterday by Fox News online for a story about proposals around the nation for $10,000 college degrees.  We have covered this topic at College Insurrection.

I came out pretty strongly in favor of the proposals, viewing a new tuition paradigm as the only viable alternative for many students.

$10G degree deal: Governors push state schools to offer bachelor’s bargain:

The $10,000 bachelor’s degree could be coming to a campus near you….

The national average tuition for a four-year private university, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is nearly $33,000, and the median inflation-adjusted household income dropped 7 percent between 2006 and 2011 as the average tuition at public four-year college skyrocketed 18 percent. Daunting statistics like those and a tight job market are forcing many to reassess what they’re paying for, said William Jacobson, a professor of law at Cornell Law School.

“Almost every day in the newspapers there’s a story about student debt problems and how it’s influencing life decisions,” Jacobson said. “You’re essentially getting two classes of people coming out of higher education: those who have overwhelming student debt and those who do not. That’s affecting life decisions, including which jobs to take, even if they’re available, and whether they can afford to raise a family.”

But some critics of the $10,000 degree have dubbed the effort “Walmarting of education,” claiming that would likely rely more on online courses and say it could lead to a less effective education, an issue Jacobson acknowledged.

“You lose the interaction with the professor and interacting face to face with other students,” Jacobson said. “I do think you lose a lot. Some of my most educational experiences have been interactions with professors. I would not argue you get as much out of the online, $10,000 degree as you do with the traditional model, but the traditional model is not affordable to many people anymore.”

According to a 2012 study by Lindsay, the average student now takes five-plus years to graduate and accumulates roughly $26,500 of student-loan debt. Combined with an uncertain job market, the cost has prompted some high school graduates to question whether college is a wise choice….

Unfortunately for the pocketbooks of freshmen nationwide, however, several education experts contacted by said the $10,000 bachelor’s degree will not become the new normal anytime soon.

“It’s way too soon to say,” Jacobson continued. “You will see some of these programs developing, but I think it will be a long time before it becomes the norm because university costs are a lot more, on average, than $10,000 per year. I don’t see how if $30,000 or $50,000 a year isn’t covering your costs how you can offer a $10,000 degree.”

I received a couple of fairly heated emails as a result of my comments.

I believe that you are overstating the importance of teachers at major U.S. universities. Quite frankly, the professors are too focused on research instead of actually wanting to spend time with the students. Working with the students is such an inconvenience for most professors. In fact, when I was at the University of Florida, I never met one of my professors at all (except in a small French class). Even then, when we had a visiting teacher from France come in, I turned around to see what our regular teacher was doing – and she was balancing her checkbook! I mean, once a professor gets tenure, all kinds of strangeness happens in “relationships” with students. I even had one professor say that his goal was to earn tenure and then come to class and not even look at the students – to sit down and speak and when looking up glance out the windows. I really do hope the $10K education wakes up the sleeping professors. Thank you. A reply is not needed.

From someone else:

How about this one: “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Well maybe that’s true, but if I know the answer, then it’s pretty stupid for me to have to sit there and listen, especially if it requires a lengthy answer, and it’s preventing me from learning something else new. There are only so many hours in a day.

I can go on and on. This is just the beginning of how wrong you are about this.

I guess people read what they want to read into my comments.  In no way was I coming out against $10,000 degrees or denigrating online learning as a viable alternative.  But it’s not a debate we have to have because, as I pointed out, the traditional model is becoming increasingly unworkable.

Thank you.  A reply is not needed.



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BannedbytheGuardian | February 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I have been annoying people on NCAA posts about this development . They do not want to know but I believe. Wisconsin Texas North Carolina & Florida governors have all backed it.

This plus for those that can afford & value the college life – a batch cable done in 3 years. Perhaps an extra year for Honours students . Most grads need to get something that converts their undgrad to earning potential so there is usually another 1-2 years stacked on.

High school grad standards would need to b e lifted. The little darlings could give up their final 2 summers to jam in another semester.

As to the 5 years to grad – and what will they now say about Sarah Palin – that she was leading the way?

I am in favor of the $10,000 degree. Too many public universities have become top-heavy with administrators doing nothing except massaging their egos. You know the type: they tend to have long-winded titles like Assistant Vice-President Provost for Left-Handed Undocumented Immigrant Disabled Lesbian Single Welfare Mothers.

BTW: I am a mathematics teacher at a community college. I am also an online graduate student completing work on a Master of Science in mathematics. My wife just completed work on a BA in mathematics. So I see it from three different angles: teacher, student, and spouse of a student.

    I’ve seen estimates that in 30 years 50% of all colleges and universities now operating will be closed. Harvard will have an annual enrollment of 10,000, most who will never set foot on campus.
    Frankly, I hate web-based learning, but I could see it working for “gender studies.”

I fully support this. It’s unbelievable how quickly and how high tuition has gone up. I went to SUNY at Albany back in the mid 70’s and my tuition was $650 per YEAR! I like to think that I didn’t go to college that long ago! Anyway, I’m sure it’s really gone up since then. It really is criminal.

A $10,000 college degree? I’ll take three!

As a professor at a first-tier university, I also support this.

It sounds almost quaint, but there are a lot of young people out there who either aren’t ready to commit to a college experience, or don’t have the talent and/or maturity to make use of a college experience. Asking such people to go to college, and take on significant debt to do so, is (IMO) near criminal.

Don’t get me wrong: if Muffy wants to blow 200 large on a degree in Wimmins’ Studies at an Ivy League or Ivy-Wannabe, and either she or Mummsy and Daddsy have it to spend, then go for it. Maybe even it will be useful in the real world, and Muffy can always look back with satisfaction on ‘the experience’.

But for goodness sakes, Muffy shouldn’t borrow 200K to get that degree because there is no way she’ll pay it back. That’s not good either for her or for society at large.

A 10K degree in a real-world useful degree will meet the needs of a significant number of young people. It will introduce a little market discipline. The degree may end up a little light on a common Core, or in reading and understanding the Classics, but it will fulfill a need. In the coming decades I think that matters a great deal.

There is no reason a college education should cost even remotely what it costs. Just like in public education, the money goes everywhere but to the students in the classroom.

Making a college degree the equivalent of on-line traffic school is a bad idea: the quality of the education will instruction will cheapened, cheating will be rampant, and people will get exactly the education they paid for: 10,000 dollars worth.

There also the element of struggle that will be absent: student sitting at home in their underwear, half-watching on-line class instruction while they’re watching tv out of the other eye and paying very little for the privilege would be much better off spending the time either learning a trade or entering the workforce and learning a skill there.

Again, the problem is the bloated, top-heavy educational system, rife with overpaid administrators, overpaid and under-qualified instructions, and an idiotic liberal arts curriculum designed more to politically indoctrinate young people than educate them. So we’ll have another generation of idiots, and likely more of them now there’s a garage sale on college educations.

This also reminds me of the comedy of making a law degree a two year program. We’ll have American attorneys about as qualified as foreign ‘engineers.’

My fear would be an influx of cheap liberal arts degrees that might make you feel good but be of no practical use.

Still, college educational institutions are bloated and need to go on a diet. The reason for the bloat is the government providing unquestioned “aid” over the years just like in so many other cases.

The education industry in general needs to be shaken down to its roots and rebuilt in a systematic way to provide value at a reasonable price…

    stevewhitemd in reply to GrumpyOne. | February 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Grumpy, it’s a legitimate concern. One thing the 10K degree does though is enforce both personal and market discipline.

    By that I mean, if a person WANTS a 10K ‘liberal arts’ degree, he or she will find one, and if it’s any good that person will benefit, either with a job or with personal satisfaction (and for 10K you might indulge your inner satisfaction). Likewise, if it is of poor quality the word will get out. In a new era where money is tight and we’re all living like it’s 1974 all over again, such poor quality degrees will wither. That’s the market discipline.

    You also mention the bloat. The reasons for the bloat are several, and it gets complex. High level staff need lower level staff to demonstrate their importance. Government regulation (state and federal) drives the need for more people to push paper. At the biomedical institutions the regulatory component is substantial and getting worse.

    Another reason for bloat is that expectations of the ‘experience’ are higher. When I went to college my dormitory room was a cinder block rectangle barely big enough for me and my roommate. No air conditioning, no telephone in the room, and a single TV at the end of the hall. Fun, eh? I didn’t mind, I was in college. But that wouldn’t fly today. The ‘experience’ today costs a lot more money as universities have to upgrade their facilities to meet expectations.

    I have reason to hope that the 10K degree will make the college experience better, not just for the young people who use that pathway to get ahead, but for the rest of the colleges and universities as well. We need to reform and adapt.

Amen, professor. I notice that the one thing Barack “Everyone Should Go to College” Obama never does is demand colleges lower their costs. He certainly has no compunction about asking (or ordering) other businesses (insurance companies, banks, etc.) to lower their prices or pay lower salaries. Obviously, “shared sacrifice” doesn’t apply to his political allies in academia (or anywhere else).

BannedbytheGuardian | February 8, 2013 at 12:58 am

I have just had some non snarky feedback from my other ongoing NCAA post at a sport site.

A poster tells me of a 2005 study by San Jose (UC ?) that sees the very high immigration states of California Texas Florida being unable to maintain the higher education rate going into the 2020s.

Take that as Hispanic Immigration concerns. In California it is the Asian Americans who are blasting up the ranks so they may do better . however this has most likely been taken into account & will not be enough to compensate.

No was also on the list.

Colleges/Universities are increasingly not places I want my grandchildren to be ‘educated’.

For example, the headlines on Drudge bright and early this morning:

*SHOCK: Butt plugs, artificial vaginas awarded at public university’s ‘Dirty Bingo’…

*Illinois University brings porn star to teach orgasm…

State Universities should take a look at the way Brigham Young University is run. Current tuition for an undergrad who isn’t LDS is less than $5,000 per semester, LDS students pay less. While BYU is heavily subsidized by the LDS church, it also doesn’t waste money in ways I’ve observed/heard about other schools doing and it operates on an academic calendar that allows for two semesters and two terms (half the length of semesters) by not having the long breaks that are common elsewhere, allowing for a higher degree of use for the buildings (which are essentially fixed costs).

Full disclosure: I earned my undergraduate degree at BYU, I then attended law school at a state school.

Colleges are a vestige of decadent past that no longer serve the purpose they were intended to. Its high time the government withdraw support for these “institutions” so we can start allocating money to more efficient training institutions.

“Collegiate experience”? Pleeeeze. I have been both subjected to and a subjector of the `college experience`. Much of which is pure hogwash. Unless of course the definition of CE is separate living quarters and drunken debauchery on weekends qualifies. (yes I too am guilty as charged.) That can be achieved far cheaper than doing so on $40k or so a year. Observations —

* $10k degree a Walmarting? Maybe. But for a general BA you might get close and not affect the quality. Why? Look at the administrative G&A expense to instructor ratio. At many institutions its now 1:1. I even saw recently one institution had a Director of Coordination or some such at $150k. Pure hogwash. A pure instructional approach with automation can certainly deliver the quality at a lower cost.

* Instructional interaction. Well that can certainly be delivered via various internet conference software systems today. (skype, goto-meeting, etc.) When I hear a hidebound prof spew the drivel of interaction is key, I merely harken back to my Physics 101 course that was delivered in a auditorium so huge that they had overhead TV monitors to see the blackboard. If you wanted to see the profs lips move, bring binoculars.

* A key component of collegiate learning is to instill the very process of learning in the student. It may not be readily apparent in the first 2 years of early going as it is mostly drill. But it is highly unlikely that a student who has not taken up the self-learning capability will last long in any discipline in private enterprise. Self instruction is survival these days. Sadly that seed of the inquisitive mind is driven out of many institutions.

* Research professors. First, we need more of them. But lets stop deluding ourselves by forcing them to meet a semester minimum of teaching a huge lecture hall using a canned format years old. Their metric is publish of perish. So be it. Let them teach the grads that they interact with everyday to achieve their research aims. Both benefit. On the other hand, do not belittle the profs that first and foremost enjoy the teaching role and are good at it. That is what the paying parents expected of the institutions.