Education Bubble

I do think tuition rates are ridiculously high. Even though I went to a state school and paid for my second graduate degree as I went and thus have zero debt, I still think I paid too much because it’ll be a long time till I make up for that investment.

I think it’s high time people rethink all the money spent on college in America. All the extra services, many of which most students don’t use, and administrators seem unfair. If you can’t write at the college level, why should the students who can pay for your writing center sessions? Do we need all these extracurricular activities and facilities? Why wouldn’t those who need or use these things pay for them?

The idea that cost of education has quadrupled, as Peter Thiel states in these videos, yet many still graduate but are unable to write a paragraph, should be examined.

Accepting the idea that you can take out a loan and everything’s okey-dokey is unwise. Most people, parents and children alike don’t realize how long it’ll take to pay off that loan.

I also think it may be wiser for people to send their children to community college for two years and then transfer to the pricier university. Ten or twenty thousand dollars extra for a particular social experience, (e.g. dorm life, parties, status) seems like a bad choice. If you’re in a certain income bracket, all the other parents are sending their kids to schools with status. You don’t want to “deprive” your kids. That’s understandable.

Now it seems like it’d be better to put that money aside and give it to a child when he or she needs to buy a car, furnishing for an apartment or a condo. Of course, this is a personal choice for each family.

I’d like to see more colleges offering low-cost options. Think a Southwest Airlines version of higher education and more parents considering different paths to attaining education.

Limits of the Marketplace

I bristle whenever I hear someone assert that schools or governments should emulate business more, whenever business is put on a pedestal as something it isn’t , i.e. an ideal. So many businesses fail. Many businesses break the law or exploit people and resources. Too many are led by people who strive for an unfair advantage or seek to con as a way to boost revenue and stock prices. Too many disrespect their customers treating them like stooges or ignoring them altogether when service is needed.

As the University of Virginia struggles amidst a transition after the ousting of their president, those who idolize business assert that the school should be “run like a business.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has an opinion piece that highlights the limits of that idea. I particularly liked these paragraphs:

What we need is to learn the discipline of business without the short-term orientation. Markets are amoral. A competitive market will determine a fair price—whether for cocaine or cocoa—but not necessarily the enduring social value. A one-year increase of 25 percent in the price of a house does not reveal the underlying forces causing the price increase, or its real value. Markets do not know the worth of a mature forest three generations hence. Nor can a market accurately determine the lifetime value of thoughtful exposure to the classics or art or music. Enduring acts of civility are not bought and sold. The qualities that professional educators worry about often do not lend themselves to short-term market valuation.

We can learn from business to allocate resources responsibly, have transparent and disciplined budgets, and plan for a more secure financial future. At the same time, we need to avoid the hubris of business “success.” Too many successful business leaders espouse the benefits of a free-market system while accepting that some sellers can be too big to fail and must be protected from market forces. Too many successful business leaders hypocritically accept money from the government while at the same time decrying the intrusion of government in the economy. And what happens when money is at risk? Manhattan prosecutors recently opened an investigation into grades in M.B.A. courses at the City University of New York‘s Baruch College, some of which were apparently falsified for the purpose of maintaining revenue.

W. Keep, “The Worrisome Ascendence of Business in Academe,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 25, 2012

Your Education in Hock


In this era of rising tuition, many people are asking, “Just how much is a college degree really worth?” Pawnshop owners in Vietnam know exactly what the going rate is.

“For a university degree, I pay about 800,000 dong [$50],” says Trinh Thi Tinh, whose pawnshop deals in everything from mobile phones to motorcycles in a crowded university.

From Chronicle of Higher Education