Less, but Better

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Over at the Atlantic, a college professor revisits a 2008 essay that he's turned into a book:

Since the appearance in The Atlantic of my essay "In The Basement of the Ivory Tower" (2008), in which I questioned the wisdom of sending seemingly everyone in the United States through the rigors of higher education, it's become increasingly apparent to me that I'm far from the only one with these misgivings. Indeed, to my surprise, I've discovered that rather than a lone crank, I'm a voice in a growing movement.
"Professor X" notes, among other things, that many of the students in colleges today are unprepared for college work, most don't care about ideas, and many (if not most) would benefit more from other kinds of education.

He also, particularly in the first essay, touches on some of the causes of this practice. The need to make up for a poor (pre-college) education and credentialism, for example, are proximate causes. In his more recent essay, he touches, indirectly, on another, after noting that student loan debt across the economy is well on its way to $1 trillion:
Some commentators have even suggested that the crimp the financial downturn is putting on students' ability to get loans may in fact be doing those students a favor. In a piece titled, "Huge Debt Incurred for College Tuition Just Doesn't Make the Grade," syndicated financial columnist Michelle Singletary writes, "I'll be honest. I think if college students and their parents have a harder time getting loans, that's a good thing. Perhaps now more people will stop and consider the long-term implications of taking on so much of this so-called good debt."
One of the things feeding this trend is -- as with the housing bubble -- government encouragement via cheap money. That is, part of the cost of acquiring an education is artificially removed from the prospective student's consideration, making it difficult to reach a rational decision. Furthermore, the availability of such money economy-wide compounds the problem by making it virtually certain that anyone he competes with for a job will have the credential he is thinking about. Thus the cost of a very difficult undertaking is artificially lowered and the value of acquiring it is artificially raised.

What America needs is what she once had: higher quality education that is cheaper in terms of the money and time needed to acquire it. We once again have further evidence that central planning isn't the way to achieve that objective.

-- CAV

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