Author Topic: College: costs a lot and delivers very little  (Read 3545 times)

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Offline Sskessa

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College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« on: December 27, 2009, 03:08:57 am »
This is a debate I've wanted to open up for a while but was having trouble framing it. President Obama has made it his goal that any kid who wants to can go to college, regardless of cost. He's given a lot of money to community colleges (which I agree with), but he's also increased the Pell Grant to $70 billion dollars over the next decade. Though a recipient of the Pell Grant myself, I deeply disagree with this action, and here's why.

Whatever colleges and universities may have been in the past, they are little more than money-making degree mills these days. In 1980, the average cost of a four-year degree was $2,500. Today, it's more like $12,000, a 500% increase. What's worse, colleges are teaching less. Over a quarter of adults with bachelor's degrees have such pathetic math skills that they can't even calculate the cost of ordering supplies from a catalog. To insert some anecdotal evidence, my husband teaches math to economics majors who have trouble adding.

We keep sending our children to college, yet we don't hold these institutions accountable for anything.

For those of you who went to college, how did you pick where you went? Did you have any evidence before you got in the door that you would get what you paid for? I know I'm liable to get under some skin (fur?) because many people have a warm, fuzzy college experience, but I want you to really think about this: Was that experience worth $12,000? Are you ready to spend 10 years of your life that experience off? And, most importantly, was that experience something you can in good conscious make a sweeping recommendation to people who can't really afford it?
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Offline Yip

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2009, 05:04:51 am »
12,000? That's cheap. It cost me like 40,000 or so (it would have been more, but I had a lot of transfer credits). I do wish college wasn't so prohibitively expencive. But I don't regret going one bit.

Offline Narei Mooncatt

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2009, 09:31:14 am »
I don't regret going to college (2 year tech college/trade school if you want to be specific), but I encountered something Sskessa didn't mention: Those with degrees not staying in their field of work. In my case it was circumstances unrelated to my field of work that pulled me out of my hopeful drafting career, but for a lot of people the job market is either so tight and/or has gone overseas to the point that there isn't near the demand for college educated people in the States any more. I've heard of many people that have a degree in one field, but work in another because they couldn't find employment in their chosen field. Yet another reason to argue against going to college is just for the sake of going to college. Especially when so many of today's kids don't have a career plan when they enter. It seems more and more of them are just taking the basics like math and english with the hopes they will pick a major in the second or third year. I didn't pay for my college, but my parents did through a pre-pay type fund our state had setup. It wasn't state funded, but you could pre-pay for a certain number of years of college and use those credits when it came time to enroll. While I didn't stay in my field after graduation, I do think my education was valuable and worth it over all.

When talking about colleges as a whole, I would agree that the degree doesn't mean as much any more for a variety of reasons. I would like to take trade schools out and put them in their own class because it seems they tend to educate better, the students are more focused on learning than partying (at least that seemed to be how mine was), and at least used to be relatively cheaper. I do agree that we also have the problem of colleges not teaching what they need to be teaching, and need to be "held accountable", but it's hard to do when the students are over 18.  Parental complaints don't mean much unless they are heavy donors to the school, and the students aren't likely to know a good school from a bad one. Those that think they know, do so for the wrong reasons a lot of the time. I do hope my girl goes to college, but I'm gonna try to steer her to a respectable school and not a "party school".

Now on to the Pell Grant and Obama wanting all kids to go to college. The biggest thing I don't like about the Pell grant isn't just being a gov. subsedy, but you can't get any other grants or scholarships unless you apply for it. Maybe things have changed since I was applying for scholarships, but I believe it's some sort of law that you have to at least apply for the Pell to get anything else... Now, let's face it. Not everyone has the mental capacity to achieve a higher education for whatever reason. That's why you have college entrance exams. It helps to weed out the bad apples that wouldn't be likely to succeed. If everyone is allowed government funded college, then you will have students slacking off even more (because HEY, it's not their money they're wasting. Not even their parents), and those that can't make the grade just wasting money by staying in when they can't succeed. As little as there is now, you eliminate all financial incentive to work hard in the school because we know government funded anything is known for financial waste.
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Offline Yip

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2009, 12:15:35 pm »
As far as government paying for college for everyone, I agree with Narei that it's a very bad idea. Although I think anyone should be able to aford college, money shouldn't be wasted sending those that are not serious about it.

Offline Heaven Implode

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2009, 12:31:31 pm »
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Recommend everyone watches this little lecture, as it frames my own thoughts on the value of education remarkably well. You should find this enlightening.

Offline Sskessa

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2009, 03:51:03 pm »
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Recommend everyone watches this little lecture, as it frames my own thoughts on the value of education remarkably well. You should find this enlightening.

Interesting. He has some very good points which I agree with, especially along the lines of teaching art in schools. But he's talking much more about grade school than college, so I won't say anything further as that's another debate entirely.

12,000? That's cheap. It cost me like 40,000 or so (it would have been more, but I had a lot of transfer credits). I do wish college wasn't so prohibitively expensive. But I don't regret going one bit.

Right, I realize $12,000 is the minimum. Mine was much more.
I can't say I regret going, either, but what I'm really trying to get at is how higher education is regarded, and I think it's deeply flawed.

We tell almost all high schoolers to try to attend college, that it's the only road to success. If everyone acts like college is the be-all-end-all and is willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for it, it produces no incentive for the colleges to actually deliver a good education.

Think about this: When you go to buy a car, wish costs about the same as a degree, you can find any number of magazines and websites dedicated to reporting the performance of whatever make of whatever brand you want. You can find the miles per gallon, the top speed, specs on the engine, the brakes, the required maintenance. I'm saying you can make an informed decision. Where can you go to get that information about the college you want to attend? Can you find a graph telling you how many of that college's graduates have basic math skills or reading skills? Data on the unemployment rates of a college's alumni?

Quote
I do agree that we also have the problem of colleges not teaching what they need to be teaching, and need to be "held accountable", but it's hard to do when the students are over 18.  Parental complaints don't mean much unless they are heavy donors to the school, and the students aren't likely to know a good school from a bad one.

So Narei said basically the same thing yesterday. I do think there's a cause and a solution. One, colleges actually have huge lobbies to fight against publishing the kind of data I just mentioned. They don't want to be held accountable. The first solution would be to make information about the quality of a college widely available.

The second solution, my own personal belief is that we should encourage our children to attend trade school or community college with a career in mind rather than a big university with the aim of getting a liberal arts degree. Community colleges are much more easily held accountable for a few reasons. One, because if they fail to deliver, the whole community knows. Two, they don't spend money to increase their prestige. Universities focus on new buildings, sports arenas, and famous professors to attract the attention of potential students from all over the state. If a university focused its money on good teachers, that's not something they can sell to students. It goes back to the lack of information again.


Whew, I'll stop here. I hope this post is legible >.>
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Offline RedneckFur

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2009, 04:33:03 pm »
I went to a community college that cost me an average of $2000 a semester including books and fees.  The education I got there (forest management) was superior to what is taught in several 4 year universities that cost considerably more.

I think my education was worth far more than I paid for it.  I realise that some universities out there do give sub-standard education.  Many of my freinds have these educations, and it shows :P.

I do not belive that taxes should be raised to pay for somone else's education.  College educations are for adults, and adults are responsible for making their own way in life.

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Offline Kay Alett

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2009, 05:43:37 pm »
I had someone else fund my college experience but with having so much to do at home and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life I was forced to take the classes they wanted me to take. I didn't even want to go to college, it was my parents who pushed me into going and to this day I still don't know what I want to do for a career. I work a wage job that pays all my bills so I'm quite content.

Unfortunately because I had to take the classes the people funding me wanted me to take it had all sorts to do with computers and I had barely even touched a computer up until that point. I was taking basic classes that, despite being basic, still required you to have some basic knowledge of computers that anyone who owned one would know. Knowledge I didn't have.

Our homework was all to be done on a home computer and e-mailed in to the teacher, no exception, even if you don't have a home computer and it couldn't be done on campus.
Add to that the fact that I was very busy at home so could never do the required after class lab work for my other classes and you have a recipe for a disaster of a college experience. Now because I bombed big time and had no results to show for my "education" I'm no longer applicable for grants so if I want to go to college I have to pay my own way through.

But I don't intend to do anything like that. My job is good and doesn't require me to have a degree in order to live. Besides I wouldn't even know what to get a degree in, I've never bothered to study up on what purpose college has other than giving you a piece of paper that says you're better than anyone who has more experience than you at a job, but doesn't have a paper.

I can see how it would help if they actually taught you the intricate ins and outs of something that you are interested in and want to learn about, but I think experience is a far better teacher than any classroom and always will be.
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Offline CiceroKit

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2009, 03:48:33 am »
There is an accreditation process for colleges in the U.S. and I believe that the Pell Grant is only awarded to those attending accredited institutions. I know that only those without a Bachelor degree already qualify for a Pell.

For years, there has been this disconnect between education and career development within the university system. While the goal of a vocational or technical college is to give someone job skills, the goal of a university is education and education alone. However, the reason for the additional money for the Pell Grant and other programs (a lot of money is being designated toward short certificate programs) is to develop our workforce here in the U.S. The problem is, that if an institution's goal has nothing to do with workforce development, then why should it receive such funding? Of course, if one wants to be a teacher, doctor, therapist, etc., those are 4+ year programs. Where we need more skilled people is in the sciences. Outsourcing of certain jobs is directly related to a lack of qualified people here when it comes to certain industries. That is not saying that people should be pushed into certain programs where they have no aptitude. But for those who demonstrate the ability, the funding should be there for their education.

What we are seeing now in the culture of academia is a push to artificially inflate grades. I know that when I worked as a teaching assistant, there was definitely pressure to do this, especially for general degree requirement courses. Those who resisted were not awarded any accolades for doing so, though it is only ethical to fail someone who is not capable of grasping the material.

All and all, college is what you, the student, make of it. I have met so many people who went through school and never got a job in what they went to school for. There needs to be more emphasis on school for the purpose of developing marketable workplace skills. So many people I know went through school believing that the classroom experience alone would do this. It will not. One needs to use their time in college to get on-the-job experience also, whether it is through work study jobs, an internship, or the unique networking opportunities.

When I went for my BA, there was little Pell Grant money to be had. I think I received $175 total from the Pell Grant program. I received some assistance from DVR, a state program for people with disabilities, but I also worked hard for scholarships. My cousin, whose parents never married but live together, pulling in quite a lot of money between the two of them, is getting her tuition covered entirely by the Pell Grant. Why? Because she is seen as the daughter of a single mother (even though my aunt and her boyfriend have lived together for 20+ years and likely make about $100,000 per year or better between the two of them). Is that right? Hell no! But Wisconsin doesn't have common law marriage, so that is how she qualifies. (I should mention that she was first awarded the Pell prior to Obama getting elected).

Honestly though, we need to provide the added funds for schooling, and I can say from going through the displaced worker program since being laid off in October that more people are being directed to enter a 12 week certificate program or a technical college program than those who are encouraged toward a four year program. What I have been told is that the funding is there already for the short, certificate programs, but there is a waiting list for funding for degree programs. I have seen people at these displaced worker meetings where I have to wonder how they ever held a job in the first place, and it disgusts me. There was one guy who was falling on the floor drunk. He won't last in this program. There are some people who really seem like they don't want to work. And then there are a few, like me, who just want to work in their field, but now realize that there are few jobs to be had in their designated field at the moment, so despite having training and experience, they have to seek new careers. (I majored in communications, my first job out of college was for a newspaper... I have worked within the publishing industry-newspapers and magazines-a field that has been largely downsized, outsourced and consolidated as people don't want to spend their leisure time reading anymore... but I digress...)

I don't qualify for the Pell, but do qualify for funding through the displaced worker program to get additional schooling so that I might teach Communications for the Technical College system in Wisconsin on a full-time basis. Anyway, I am thankful for that, since I don't see things getting drastically better with this economy until the baby-boomers start to retire. Then, we are in for quite a change, because companies will be struggling to fill all the jobs that will be vacated (that is if the majority of baby-boomers retire when they hit age 65, which I personally think they will based on the dynamics of their generation).

I look at other developed nations that offer college (which usually refers to a vocational school) free of charge, and think that is the way it should be here. Yes, there are degree mills out there, and they shouldn't be accredited institutions (I don't think that many of them are), but by and large, getting an education is a good thing, but it is what the student makes of it. If you squeak by, while passing your classes, get a degree but have earned nothing in the way of work experience, you will find out that your education was wasted.

As for the pressure to inflate grades, if you the student find that you have an instructor who is way too easy or isn't teaching you what the class is supposed to teach, you need to speak up on your teacher evaluation forms. Action is taken based on student feedback.

BTW, U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges and universities on a variety of programs, largely based on the employability of those who went through certain programs.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 04:05:54 am by CiceroKit »
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Offline Sskessa

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2009, 11:53:52 am »
Thanks for sharing your experience, Cicero, it's always fascinating.

You're right about grade inflation. It's pretty staggeringly sad, and what's even worse is cheating. My husband was teaching a low-level math class for business majors (another useless major). There were, I think, five other grad students teaching the same class at the same time. Donald caught something like 10 cheaters in his class, while none of the other grad students caught any. Did all the cheaters coincidentally end up in Donald's class? Yeah, right. He encountered a lot of resistance when he tried to punish the cheaters, as in the university will only make that particular test a zero instead of having the kid flunk the class. Forget about being expelled for cheating. It doesn't happen any more.
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Offline CiceroKit

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2009, 02:59:49 am »
*nods*

That is an excellent point about cheating. When I first started as a TA there was all this talk about tough penalties... failing students in the class or possible expulsion for plagiarism and cheating, but whenever one of us reported it, the same thing happened. Only a failing grade on the one test or assignment. It seems like such a waste of time to even go before your superiors for just that.
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Offline Mazin

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2010, 11:17:55 am »
I have to say that, as an engineer, the idea of colleges and universities being useless seems absolutely absurd. I'll agree that a four-year degree isn't the best choice for every field (especially creative ones), but for anything related to science, medicine, engineering, or finance, I don't see how you couldn't go to college first. Additionally, I agree with the notion that college should be free, just like it is in most of the civilized world. All the current system in the US does is make people start out their adult life with a massive amount of debt.

Think about this: When you go to buy a car, wish costs about the same as a degree, you can find any number of magazines and websites dedicated to reporting the performance of whatever make of whatever brand you want. You can find the miles per gallon, the top speed, specs on the engine, the brakes, the required maintenance. I'm saying you can make an informed decision. Where can you go to get that information about the college you want to attend? Can you find a graph telling you how many of that college's graduates have basic math skills or reading skills? Data on the unemployment rates of a college's alumni?

What about US News's university rankings, Princeton Review, or asking teachers, fellow students or neighbors?
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Offline Kodakk

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2010, 02:02:23 am »
i waited almost four years after highschool to go to college. i knew if i went right away, i would inevitably drop out and be in rediculous amounts of debt. good thing too, i thought i wanted to stay in the automotive field after i went to my vocational highschool, but this turned out to be the COMPLETELY wrong field for me. waiting ensured i was mature enough to go to all of my classes and that i would pick a well paying field.

i debated what i was going to take for atleast two years. after much carefull consideration and research, i found that you can make $40K-$70K with a two year degree in the radiography field. when i worked out how much classes were, it would actually pay itself off rather quick. i chose a school that had the cheapest credit hours, didnt need a million of them to pass, and would train me quickly.

if you do this right, instead of running to the first school you find, it really isnt that exspensive. 86 credit hours and all my books should roughly come to $15K.

Offline Drake Blackpaw

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2010, 02:13:23 pm »
In terms of earning power, my undergraduate degree did not deliver a lot.  But then I was a theater major.  Still, I got a lot out of moving away from the rural town I grew up in and having a stepping stone between high school and full adulthood.  Getting out of Pennsylvania and the area I grew up in was worth more than any amount of money. 

Now my graduate degree, which was in information systems engineering delivered a ton in earning power.  I went from working a low end clerical job to doing IT work after a year of graduate courses.  By the time I finished with my degree, my salary was 3 times higher than what it was when I was in the clerical job I left.  I would be very surprised if would be making half of what I make now if I hadn't gotten my masters degree.

Of course, I got my BA in 1990 and my MS in 1997.  So my experience may different than many of you. 

Offline animagusurreal

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Re: College: costs a lot and delivers very little
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2010, 10:18:17 pm »
I believe college, like so many things, has turned into a racket (at least somewhat). There are certain jobs that it seems you absolutely cannot get without a Bachelor's Degree or higher, no matter what your experience. (Of course, having the degree doesn't guarentee you a job either, but there are many that won't even consider you without one).

I have an Associate's Degree in English, which I joke is called that because it's "associated with a degree, even though it doesn't really count as one." I think my one month of seasonal work at Toys 'R' Us was a bigger factor in my getting my current job at Wal-Mart than my degree was. I did get a job as a Teacher's Assistant with the School District using my degree, but the position was soon eliminated due to budget cuts.

Now, I learned a lot of stuff in my three years at a two year college (it's where I discovered Photoshop, which was well outside my major - taking classes of things I actually wanted to learn instead of just what I was supposed to take was why I took so long :) ), and I'm sure I could have learned/could still learn a lot more if I decide to go back, but this absolute bar to even being considered for certain jobs seems a little ridiculous to me. Learning also happens outside of a college campus.

I've freelanced for newspapers for over six years, but can't get a staff positon anywhere, presumably because I don't have an impressive enough degree. There are probably other factors, but I think this is one of them. Once, at a meeting with a high-up editor for one of the papers I write for, I said that I hoped to someday get on staff, and she scoffed and said, "We have writers applying from Ivy League schools" (essentially, "why would we ever want you?") She went on to say that one thing I missed out on was the "ethics classes" - because, of course, journalistic ethics come from a class  :P.


See also this video from Linkara's "Atop the Fourth Wall", about a pro-college propaganda comic, "Future Five":


http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/linkara/at4w/16191-future-five-1


Note: the videos on this site contain some swearing.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 04:44:32 am by animagusurreal »


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