Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Compelling Case Against College for Weak Students

In these egalitarian times, our leaders deem it more important to treat everyone equally rather than according to their needs or merit.

In one of the more pernicious manifestations of that, we send millions of academically bewildered or apathetic students to college without even disclosing to them the enormous dollar cost, time cost, failure rate, and opportunity cost.

And of course, there's the cost to the qualified students who must endure a dumbed-down education. Alas,  today's egalitarian ethos makes it politically incorrect to worry about the impact of egalitarianism on society's Haves, even though they have the greatest potential to contribute to society.

This article, by Carol Christen, author of What Color is Your Parachute for Teens, presents the statistics more compellingly than I've yet seen. To read it, click HERE.


Dave said...

Higher education has been turned into a commodity. Every parent feels his or her child must have this product, which is why the decision to pursue it is usually ill-advised. I think Soviet-style education is the answer.

"Students who wanted admission to a VUZ [univ./institute] had to have graduated from either a general secondary school (10 or 11 years) or a specialized secondary school or a tekhnikum. Those who completed only vocational school (PTU) or "incomplete secondary school" were not certified as having completed secondary education (they lacked an аттестат зрелости – maturity certificate – or equivalent diploma from a specialized secondary school) and were thus not eligible to attend a VUZ."


Government should make the decision, not parents.

Anonymous said...

I am listening to Marty Nemko talk about how he could live more conservatively, spend less etc. as an antidote to American consumerism. His restricted measures include a "$1000 Toyota" (I believe this make was right), eating fresh fruit and vegetables, tuna, and live in a basement flat with "nice lighting." First of all the $1000 car will probably cost that much or more in repairs - has he had a cheap car!? Assumed access to fresh fruit and veg, let alone tuna - cheap? Does he do the grocery shopping? Is he planning living outside the bay area? There is no cheap basement here! In the same episode he says he is paying for his mother "at great cost" to stay in her own home! Please, Marty, try and relate to what it's like for other people who really live on the cheap and make decisions out of dire need not because it's a hypothetical principled choice!
As for the idea aired by him and his guest with great enthusiasm about a robot who could "pick up" a fallen elder: with respect, you have no idea of the skills needed to assess how to "pick up" someone who has fallen safely - did they faint, break a bone, hit their head, have a stroke, are they able to speak/not speak - I could go on (I'm in the health care industry). Good luck with robot paranoia. It sounds so much like immigrant paranoia - oh no, they are taking our jobs!
Our task, it seems to me, is to be creative in how we take on the responsibility of collective wellbeing, as citizens and governments, in stead of focusing on the problem/solution as one of individual choice alone, internalizing, as we do, inordinate amounts of individual stress, self-inefficacy and financial hardship. Supporting things like rent control, low income housing, better access to good affordable food, universal health care, good public transport etc. Yeah, those really shamelessly liberal things, what an idea (I got it from a robot.)

Marty Nemko said...

Indeed, thanks to Toyota's building a car that lasts, a $1000 Toyota can still have many trouble-free miles left in it. I know: I've driven my last three Toyotas for 250,000 -275,000 miles. I have 222,000 on my current one and haven't had a bit of trouble.

Indeed I do my own shopping and know that fruits and veggies are much cheaper than most food, and is more healthy. Today, for example, I spent 79 cents a pound on peaches, $1 for a large mango, and 59 cents a pound for bananas, and 69 cents a pound for broccoli. A can of light tuna (less mercury than white tuna) costs 89 cents.

Nice lighting can be bought, for example, with a 3-fixture track lighting (LED) for $45 at Home Depot.

Re housing, I know many people indeed who, with a little extra time and effort, found a place to live for $1,000 or so that is NOT a basement apartment, but for example, a cottage in the backyard of some rich person's home. Indeed, that's the kind of place I lived in when I moved to Berkeley--for $475 in TODAY's dollars.

Of course, a robot cannot do medical diagnosis, but as the son of a mom who falls frequently, 99% of the time, it's nothing serious, and if it were, she'd simply click on her MedAlert bracelet. The Pick-Me-Up robot would be invaluable both for her and immense savings in medical costs because when she clicks the MedAlert, they send an ambulance and to avoid being sued, they take her to the ER for expensive and unnecessary tests.

All the suggestions you make have enormous benefits and enormous costs, in excess of the simple recommendations for simple yet quality living I recommended. Sorry you perceive them as out of touch.

Maria Lopez said...

I looked at Marty's idea of eating tuna. It seems to be on the edge of doable. At his age a male who weighs about about 150 lb requires around 1500 calories a day to supply his basic needs. Six cans of tuna will supply about 1200 calories and veggies will make up some of the remainder.

This would cost, using values from another expensive area of the country, $9.00 dollars a day or $63 dollars a week.

One point is that unless you eat starchy vegetables you would be in a state of ketosis. This is survivable and, according to paleo dieters, natural, but many people find it unpleasant and it initially interferes with clear thinking.

If you have access to a hot plate and some sauce pans traditional poor people food of dried beans and rice would probably be cheaper and more satisfying. Also the relatively calorie totals would be acceptable,even possibly beneficial, for a relatively inactive older man or woman but would be too little for a young man or a pregnant or nursing woman.

Marty Nemko said...

I don't recommend eating too much of any one source of protein. Healthy inexpensive examples include chicken breast (especially when on sale), lean beef such as (93% lean beef or flank steak, beans, eggs (in moderation), sockeye wild salmon, etc.

Anonymous said...

"we send millions of academically bewildered or apathetic students to college without even disclosing to them the enormous dollar cost"

This is simply and factually wrong, Marty. Every school publishes their schedule of tuition and fees, and their are countless articles on student loan debt and the rising cost of education a mere Google search away.

Why do you persist in making such overtly erroneous statements over and over? Are you just out to demonize colleges?

And Dave's comment is pretty hilarious. Yes, Dave, by all means, let's take personal choice away from families and let the government decide our fate! I will say, however, the the "Soviet Union" is not doing so hot these days---something you might take into account.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, it is simply and factually correct. Most colleges bury the true full cost of attendance deep within the website where very few students actually find it or on some third-party site, which also, is consulted by few students.

I persist in being a critic of colleges because as someone with a relevant PhD, taught at four universities, and been a consultant to 15 college presidents, I have been in the belly of the beast and have the methodological chops to assess how unfair colleges are to students.

Anonymous said...

Okay, but you are still wrong. Factually wrong.

Just as examples, I found these on the first try in Google (they were not "buried deeply" anywhere):




And I could have done this with every bonafide university and college in the country.

So please, spare us the hyperbole ("belly of the beast"---really? And you DON'T have a personal axe to grind here?!); you are not, after all, an actual academic, despite the puffery.

And I'm willing to bet you will not post this response.

Marty Nemko said...

I have looked at many college websites and indeed, the full cost of attendance is not easily found on most.

And I have indeed been in the belly of the beast and, as I've written and observed, I have become convinced that higher education deserves far more scrutiny.

With regard to colleges posting full pricing on their sites, I have visited dozens of colleges' websites over the years (USC and Santa Clara come to mind) and most of them really do bury the pricing information and obfuscate further by prominently citing such misleading statements as "70% of our students receive financial aid."

I'm guessingg that you are the person who continually seems to think that my being a critic of higher ed comes from some resentment of my not becoming a tenure-track professor. Hardly. When I was a visiting lecturer at Berkeley, at a faculty meeting, I brought in the back-to-school issue of Family Circle,in which I wrote the cover story; How to Make This Your Child's Best School Year Yet." The faculty ridiculed me for publishing in Family Circle. I believe that article helped more people than most of the research done by professors' publications in arcane journals. That experience was the tipper that convinced me that I did not want a job in the professoriate, that I could make a bigger difference from the outside. Then, because my background was in the evaluation of education, I wrote a related book, which brought me a number of consultancies at colleges. That is what made me realize how overrated higher education is.

With regard to methodologies: everything from statistical analysis of reported data to anthropological qualitative explorations of faculty, adminstrator, and student experiences, as well as simply having spent a tremendous amount of time talking with faculty, students, administrators, dropouts, and graduates, over---alas--3 decades now. (Geez, I'm getting old.)

Anonymous said...

Nope, still not hard to find and still only a click away:



Perhaps "factually wrong" is an overstatement (since "hard to find" is a subjective statement); so how about "demonstrably wrong"---see above. And do you have evidence that "70%" of students don't receive financial aid?

You have a sadly funny little anecdote about being "ridiculed" for publishing in Family Circle...and you claim your animus is NOT personal? How do you know you helped anyone with an article, what, 20? 30? years ago?

And specifically, which methodologies informed you about students' understanding of college costs?

And if students don't take the .02 seconds it takes Google to generate pretty clear answers to questions of cost analysis (including multiple articles on the subject from a variety of sources, from the government to colleges to blog posts), why blame academia?

I'm with you about the costs of college and the numbers we educate---but your own commentator-methodology is far below someone who makes the sorts of professional claims you do.

C'mon, I dare you to post this one too.

Marty Nemko said...

There you go, I've posted it. And while I could respond point-by-point, I'm going to stop here. I believe this sort of exchange is not the best use of our time.

We both care about making education the best it can be and I daresay that if you think about what all the critics of higher ed and I have written and said, it's clear that the institution of higher education desperately needs reinvention if it is to live up to its promise. I am animated not at all by animus; it's not my nature. I am animated b injustice, in this case, primarily from having seen so many people be shortchanged unnecessarily by our overrated system of higher education.

And on that note, may we both work long and hard to improve higher ed, in whatever way we feel wisest.


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