Higher Ed ain't what it used to be

Posted on 04/29/2010 in misc

I love it when famous people break interesting concepts. Particularly when it's something we've been talking about around here for years.

Seth Godin is afraid college is about to crash and burn. He seems to correctly recognize the problems, so I'm not sure why he is afraid. A major shake up in the ideas and practices in Higher Ed would be a good thing, IMHO.

Most colleges are organized to give an average education to average students.

I think you can get a great education at just about any college. However, you'll have to work your ass off to figure out how to do it. If you follow the prescribed curriculum and you do the work assigned to you, you'll get the average education. Hell, I managed to get 2 undergrad degrees, and a Masters degree, by going through the motions.

ollege has gotten expensive far faster than wages have gone up.

This is very true. The upper 5% may be continuing to make a lot of money, but the other 95% has not seen sustained growth in their income over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, college costs maintain their steady 7% increase year after year. If only my 401K would grow like college costs... I just don't see how anybody justifies $100K or more for the average degree from State U.

Why do colleges send millions (!) of undifferentiated pieces of junk mail to high school students now? We will waive the admission fee! We have a one page application! Apply! This is some of the most amateur and bland direct mail I've ever seen. Why do it?

Biggest reason: So the schools can reject more applicants. The more applicants they reject, the higher they rank in US News and other rankings.

I never thought about it that way before. Does rejecting more students really increase the ranking? I also had another thought, one that ties back directly to watching Beer Wars on Monday night. When you spend that much money on marketing and advertising trying to convince us that your beer is really different than the other guys, it almost certainly isn't. The same holds true for college. The difference in what you can learn at UVA, George Mason, Va Tech or Radford really is not that significant. Sure, IU actually does suck, but that is a different issue :)

The correlation between a typical college degree and success is suspect.

We discussed this in one of the posts linked above. The ROI on State U is still ok, but the ROI on Brown is a pipe dream for most of the students there.

Back before the digital revolution, access to information was an issue. The size of the library mattered. One reason to go to college was to get access. Today, that access is worth a lot less. The valuable things people take away from college are interactions with great minds (usually professors who actually teach and actually care) and non-class activities that shape them as people.

This is an interesting point. As I read it, I was trying to remember the name of any of my college instructors. I'm drawing a blank. However, I can remember several high school instructors very well. Mr. Homan and Mr. Shoemaker, who between them brought out an interest in the written word that ultimately resulted in this blog. (So now you know who to blame!). Mr. Taylor, who gave me a 99 on my epic computer programming project of playing craps on an Apple II. I didn't get the 100 because I forgot to account for negative betting, so he made money by losing. Clearly I picked up the real lesson there as I still remember the incident, and the lesson had nothing to do with BASIC code. Mrs. Oyamot, my Calculus teacher, was not happy when my family took off for 2 weeks in Hawaii and I missed the first 2 weeks of my senior year. In fact, she looked me in the eye and told me nobody missed two weeks of her class and made it through with their GPA intact. I still have the note she wrote my parents at the end of the year when I was still there, with my GPA intact. Granted, I went to a very small high school in unusual circumstances, so maybe that plays into this a bit. However, 10th grade was also a very small school on a remote military base and all I remember from there are my basketball coaches.

he solutions are obvious...

Yes they are. And we've talked about them here, and at JJ's, and at Daryl's so often I'm not going to rehash it here again. This is getting long enough as it is.

The only people who haven't gotten the memo are anxious helicopter parents, mass marketing colleges and traditional employers. And all three are waking up and facing new circumstances.

It's good to know I'm not a helicopter parent :) I hope the work world gets the message soon. The reality is that the reason so many people end up so far in debt to go to college is that employers demand a college degree to even get a foot in the door, even though most of the jobs absolutely do not require any specialized knowledge that you may have picked up at school.

So what am I going to do with my 16 year old and 14 year old? I have no idea. The 16 year old wants to be a history professor. It's probably a good thing he doesn't read this blog. The 14 year old wants to be an equine Vet. So that's about 20 years of college between them?

I have a feeling I'll be one of those people that dies on the job. As a 94 year old greeter, at WalMart.

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