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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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    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.

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