Monday, December 26, 2016

Higher education at the precipice - By Thomas Lifson

A straight-A student at Kansas State University has boldly proclaimed that the college emperor has no clothes and bidden a public farewell to what he calls a “scam.”  This could be a sign of what lies ahead for the left wing propagandists that have taken over our colleges and universities.

An entirely predictable cataclysm awaits the American higher education sector. Having jacked up their prices at roughly triple the rate of inflation for at least 5 decades, college education is no longer affordable without crippling debt for all but the richest families. The sole justification for spending a quarter of a million dollars on a child’s education at a full-price private school is that a prestige degree is the gateway to upper middle class work status.

Yet in tandem with higher education’s putative lock-grip on career prospects has come an intellectual death spiral into ideology and irrelevance. Baristas with prestigious baccalaureate degrees are now a cliché; but the underlying fact is that a bachelor’s degree in grievance studies (most of the humanities and social sciences are now little but propaganda on the evil of America) does not equip one for useful work.

All of these facts are well known, but have yet to influence a significant-enough segment of the market, with a few exceptions.  Instapundit and the University of Tennessee’s Glenn Reynolds has ceaselessly been writing about the coming Higher Education Bubble for years now.  And he has chronicled the market and ideological forces already closing in on the nation’s law schools, as automation and a changing market mean fewer jobs for new graduates.  (Latest news: Charlotte Law School students suing and claiming problems not disclosed).

But until the smart kids start saying that they don’t need college, that it just isn’t worth it, higher education can keep on running toward the cliff.  Well, it is starting (hat tip: Instapundit).  Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Education (a trade journal) reports:
Billy Willson finished his first (and his last) semester at Kansas State University this week -- and in so doing has set off a debate there and beyond on the value of college and of general education in particular.
In a Facebook post, he announced that he was dropping out, despite having earned a 4.0 grade point average. He said that he would start his own business and learn more from that experience than anything he could hope to achieve at Kansas State or any college. He ran a photo of himself giving the finger to Kansas State, although he's since said he really wants to be doing that to all of higher education. (snip)
"YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED," Willson wrote on Facebook. (The wording, grammar and capitalization quoted here and later in this story are verbatim from Willson's and others' social media posts.) "You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day. Heck you may have already seen it if you've been through college. You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use. Wasting 4 years of your life to be stuck at a paycheck that grows slower than the rate of inflation. Paying $200 for a $6 textbook. Being taught by teacher's who have never done what they're teaching. Average income has increased 5x over the last 40 years while cost of college has increased 18x. You're spending thousands of dollars to learn information you won't ever even use just to get a piece of paper."
He added: "Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking gen. ed. courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES."
His complaints are not political, which really helps spread the discontent. He can't be dismissed on this basis as a crazy rightie. Willson’s own first plan, a t-shirt business, will only be  stepping stone. But if this angry young man focuses and starts to acquire online education on-demand, as is now possible, he can learn every skill he will need.  

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and am exposed to numbers of millennials working in the tech sector.  Some have computer science degrees, others do not. All are pulling in enviable wages, and all of them are constantly acquiring new skills online. That is the nature of life today for techies.

For this life, an online degree in computer science would be helpful, but a young person like Willson can simply pick up a skill set and get hired without ever paying outrageous tuition.

The marks are wising up.

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