The League had a symposium on education. I contribute two pieces. Since those racked up dozens of comments, feel free to comment on them here.

The first involved our misguided focus on sending everybody to college:

This country is run by people who have college degrees. It’s run by people where everyone they know has college degrees. It is, then, completely understandable that the solution for those who are not as economically well off as they and their friends are is “Go to college!” The economic melt-down of the latter part of last decade demonstrated that college isn’t even enough, ultimately. And it saddles you with debt. But people are looking at the debt end rather than the college end.

Now, defenders of the supremacy of college point to the fact that even when working in not-college-specific industries, college graduates tend to earn more than non-graduates. But of course they do. They have “Rush” stamped on their forehead. They get to go to the front of the line. That doesn’t mean the solution is to put the Rush stamp on everything. Not that anybody is advocating that, exactly. Not explicitly. Not overtly. And, in their mind, it’s not so much about the stamp on the forehead as it is about what you learn while in college.

I don’t mean to dismiss what we actually do get from college. It’s not insignificant. I learned a lot both from a vocational standpoint and from a personal standpoint. It was a great experience. Or, at least, it was for me. I have a certain temperament and a certain intellectual curiosity that made me suited for college in a way I was never suited for high school. A lot of people, though, don’t really have that. By placing so much emphasis on college, we’re often trying to shoehorn them into our own path. We’re pushing on them what worked for us and universalizing from our own preferences, talents, and experiences.

But college will get you ahead, and so it’s objectively good advice. That brings us back to the Rush stamp. The end result being that we (as students, parents, and taxpayers) are spending tens of thousands of dollars to save employer HR departments the time it takes to go through applications. Why not? Just weed out those without a degree. Too many with a degree? Weed out those with the wrong degree. Then complain about how employees aren’t lining up at your door-step, pre-trained precisely for the job you have an opening for. Or hire someone from India on a visa.

The second involves a potential solution, the implementation of the Federal School:

So what would federal universities provide and accomplish? As with state universities, it would be the federal government’s seal of approval. The government would have a reason to get it right as far as quality goes. Quality, in this case, is defined by graduating only students that are worthy of graduation and not becoming a diploma mill. At the same time, it would have a different mission than most universities. A primarily undergraduate, purely academic-and-teaching institution. The normal rules of prestige wouldn’t apply. Not in the same way. They could even work with other schools that offer their online courses publicly and arrange for “transfer credits” for taking those classes. Or they use the online class in substitute of lectures and Federal U.’s part would be collaboration and grading (or in some cases, just the latter). I mention the online component, but for larger cities it could be integrated with physical instruction the same way that Phoenix does. There are a number of ways to approach it. The key thing would be to make it trim, affordable, and only the frills people want to pay for.

Category: School

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4 Responses to Trumwill on Higher Ed

  1. says:

    Why do you expect that the federal government would get quality right? Have you stepped inside a VA hospital lately? To me, “federal” implies unbelievable bureaucracy and slavish political correctness.

  2. Mike Hunt Rice says:

    I like your rush stamp analogy.

    It is like the person who sends all of his email as urgent. Unless you only use email for urgent situations, then they aren’t ALL urgent.

    • trumwill says:

      Thanks. I was pleased with it as well (and it got me a mention on Dustbury). I guess it’s not too surprising the sheer number of people who keep going back to “But look at how much better the employment and wage numbers are on those who go to college!”

      “Uhmmm. Rush stamp.”

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