“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

14 11 2011

Yesterday, Historiann explained the “crisis” in higher education with sixteen links. I haven’t made it through all of them yet (though I will), but I think I can explain that crisis just as well with just two.

1. Via Sociological Images, here are the real earnings of recent male college grads over time:

Here are the real earnings of recent female college grads over time:

2. Now consider that alongside this (via Education Week):

President Barack Obama’s goal of once again leading the world in percentage of college graduates by 2020 is impossible without increased implementation of technology in education, said U.S. Deputy Director Steve Midgley today at the Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis…

Midgley said hitting the president’s 2020 goal will take not only a drastic increase in graduation rates for children currently in the nation’s public schools, but also outreach to people who have already left the school system and do not have a college or even high school diploma. Increasingly, online coursework is viewed as a way to reach those students.

“The only way to hit that goal is to bring people back to the system and provide credentials,” Midgley said. “The only way we’re going to do that is with technology.”

I don’t normally have anything nice to say about economists, but I think they have a point with that whole supply and demand thing. When supply increases, price tends to go down. That means that the more college-educated people you have around, the less likely they are to pull in the big bucks. This is particularly true when economic restructuring limits the number of available jobs in the first place. That fact is not the fault of higher education. It is the fault of the economy at large.

Sending people to college online just because you don’t have the guts to take on the 1% of the population that benefits from mass unemployment isn’t doing anyone any favors, except perhaps for the owners of companies who want to join the 1% through spearheading this transition. In fact, steering the economically desperate towards an expensive inferior product strikes me as nothing but wanton cruelty.

You would think that as the number of available jobs decreased, what you actually learn in college would matter more, not less. Increased knowledge and a track record of success would be the best way to distinguish yourself from the pack. As Historiann explained in her contribution to her own linkfest, students who do better in college should tend to do better on the job market assuming college signifies anything.

Turn college into an entirely online experience, and it will signify nothing. If online classes were just as good as face-to-face classes, nobody would try to hide the fact that they went to online college. They do. If online colleges were just as good as face-to-face classes, they wouldn’t be the higher education of last resort in this country. They are. But the struggle to preserve college from creeping electronic mediocrity is not over!

Higher education should be open to everyone willing to do the work. However, there’s “college,” and then there’s college. There are only so many compromises that professors can make before we dilute the brand “college” beyond all recognition. Otherwise we might as well all wear shirts like Bluto’s because all colleges and universities will be equally useless.



4 responses

14 11 2011

Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, Jonathan! (Where did you find that photo of my husband, Fratguy?)

Thanks for the link. As I have said elsewhere many times, as soon as governors, state legislators, and our other social and economic elites start sending their kids upstairs to log in to Kaplan or Western Governors U., then I’ll sign on to online ed. But the fact is that they know just as clearly as we know that those degrees are no match for CSU Fort Collins or Pueblo–let alone for Penn, Colorado College, or Bryn Mawr. They’re perfectly happy to inest in higher education for their own children in very different ways than they are the masses of other high school grads in this state.

14 11 2011
Jonathan Rees


I wanted to title the post with that quote, but then I remembered that Dean Wormer was talking to Flounder. Oh well.

15 11 2011
Cheating is the new learning. « More or Less Bunk

[…] easy to replace with another member of the team. To borrow a line of reasoning that Historiann left here yesterday, when they start teaching this way at Choate and Yale, then maybe we can talk about new […]

15 11 2011

I’m inclined to agree with both of you, although I’m not entirely convinced that it’s so much the quality of the education that you get from an online school, although admittedly second-rate at best, that is causing such a downturn. The ability to get an “education” without getting your fat ass off the couch has made it so everybody and their brother is going for it, not to mention Obama’s insistence on extending unemployment for anyone that chooses to go to school. This has caused the job market to be flooded with college graduates in various fields, none of which are really hurting for qualified people. “Way to go… you went to college and got your B.S. in Information Technology.” Too bad there’s not much of a demand for such a degree with ZERO experience. Guess you’re still going to have to take that shit job at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart (both of which were hiring when you lost your job as well as when you ran out of unemployment benefits without going to school).”

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