Sarah Lacy has a post on TechCrunch that’s supposed to be terribly outrageous and upsetting because Libertarian ideologue Peter Thiel thinks higher education is a bubble.

The only problem with thinking behind the post is that it focuses on Thiel’s misguided reality-show style experiment of choosing a group of young people and paying them not to go to college, but instead start businesses.

Putting that aside, there’s a real issue behind Thiel’s thinking which is summarized by Lacy here:

“He thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on  something that is by definition exclusionary. “If Harvard were really the best education, if it makes that much of a difference, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” he says. “It’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing. Whenever Darwinism is invoked it’s usually a justification for doing something mean. It’s a way to ignore that people are falling through the cracks, because you pretend that if they could just go to Harvard, they’d be fine. Maybe that’s not true.”

The question is, why doesn’t Thiel make it possible for anyone who wants to go to Harvard to be able to do it? After all, Thiel has made his fortune disrupting other hidebound institutions. Making it possible for motivated individuals to get the same quality of education that exists at the nation’s best universities without having to attend them would be the kind of disruption that would fit into Thiel’s social views and his economic ones.

We know from past history that highly motivated persons exposed to a quality education system will self-select for success. New York’s fabled City College is only one example.

Wouldn’t it be possible given the backing of the right kind of successful and smart people to make a superb education both more affordable and effective? Even if there isn’t a whopping business opportunity here (and I’m pretty sure there actually is one,) wouldn’t gathering the best lectures, course materials, testing protocols and turning them into a cloud-based learning platform that focused on educating individuals and being able to measure their progress be a profound alternative to traditional schools?

~~~

Source:
Peter Thiel: We’re in a Bubble but It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education
by Sarah Lacy
TechCrunch.com; April 11, 2011

http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/10/peter-thiel-were-in-a-bubble-and-its-not-the-internet-its-higher-education/

Category: Markets, Think Tank, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

49 Responses to “Disrupting the Higher Education Bubble”

  1. chartist says:

    Ah Harvard, developer of status quo and the corporate glass ceiling.

  2. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    You can test into college, but you can’t test out of it. There is a huge problem with this, and it sets the stage for online learning from cloud colleges. Take retired professors, pay them to lecture, save those lectures and use them for 20,000 students instead of 20-200 students, bringing the cost crashing down. Have satellite campuses for testing and tutoring to complement this model and you’re probably looking at destroying much of the US college system status quo as we know it.

    All that’s needed is a standardized test to apply to get a bachelors degree in each subject.

    The way things are right now, you don’t need to learn to graduate from college. You only need to have acquired the necessary credits. Testing would mitigate this fallacy.

    This is a model that will be really opposed by established interests in the US, but it would likely be embraced by the developing world, hopefully helping turn the US university upside down.

  3. dwkunkel says:

    Young people like my granddaughter that have grown up with the internet have no reverence for ivy covered anachronisms.

    She’s taking a class in discrete math at a local Junior college and doing quite well. The class is taught by a very mediocre teacher, but all the lessons are available on line. She doesn’t care what the teacher says and just uses the interactive on line lessons along with the student networking that goes with it.

    It’s proven to be a very effective way for her to learn.

  4. Guillermo says:

    The bubble in student loans has nothing to do with education. Institutions are seeing students’ desire for a TV college experience and up-selling them since it can be financed by debt. It’s not higher-education that’s a bubble, it’s a ridiculously high standard of living for 18-22 year old kids on borrowed money (student loans and on-campus CC sign-ups) that’s causing this.

    This is not investment in our future. This is consumption. Dane Cook coming to speak on campus is consumption. A huge fancy gym is consumption. Apartment-style dorms are consumption. Super high-tech classrooms that get used for plain-old lectures are underutilized capacity. Top-of-the-line computers in labs that get used for browsing facebook are consumption.

    I graduated in ’08 and most people I know talk endlessly of how much they miss college. They lived well and didn’t work and now they work hard and live poorly. A good-chunk went to grad-school to live the life again after not being happy with life as a 40k entry-level office-drone paying student loans and living in a shitty apartment.

    All the student-loan boom is is anticipated consumption. That’s it. Nothing to do with education. For a lot of kids it’s simply 4 years of partying/socializing/indulging while also going to school

  5. bonzo says:

    Guillermo pretty much sums it up. So what happens to all that expensive infrastructure if and when the bubble bursts? Do the colleges drain their endowments to keep the system going a few more years (read: a few more years paying administrator salaries), putting selling pressure on stocks and bonds? Do the campuses get turned into nursing homes for boomers?

    Cloud-based education doesn’t help college-class people find a spouse of that same social class, which has always been a prime reason for going to college.

  6. crutcher says:

    The evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller has a wicked chapter in his book “Spent” along these lines, ripping into higher education as an exercise in conspicuous consumption.

    nofoulsontheplayground you got it bang on imho – that’s exactly the future of education as I see it.

  7. snapwizard says:

    You are absolutely correct. There is no problem in attaining higher education. Higher education is a bubble because the prices paid by students to get one are far too high relative to the value that they get. This is especially true for the “for profit” sector which not only overcharges but does little to improve the job prospects for the students. Easy access to loans means that market clearing is being kept artificially high.

    There is a lot that technology can offer to make the higher ed much more cost effective. The learning in the cloud will soon be a reality (my company is one of the many that are trying).

  8. Stick says:

    I am a long time reader of this blog and rarely comment because it is outside of my expertise. For the most part, I come here to learn about the financial sector, and I am grateful that BR is willing create this forum for lay-persons such as myself.

    This is a subject in which I have a good deal of experience in both the public and private sector [real and online classrooms from K-12 to R-1 institutions]. While I understand the business mindset that Marion is bringing to the issue of expanding educational opportunities, the idea that the Harvard model can be replicated via standardization and cloud computing lacks a scientific basis. Some concrete subjects do lend themselves to online learning, and I’m all for using technology when and where appropriate. However, subjects that involve a good deal of theory, ambiguity and critical thinking translate very poorly.

    One of the big issues that I see in my classrooms day in and day out is that our increasingly standardized education system is pumping out large numbers of young people who can memorize and regurgitate abstract bits of data, but they are unable [and un-willing] to synthesize any of that data into a workable framework that allows them to construct or create knowledge. It doesn’t teach critical thinking, and that is something this country needs now more than ever. What makes Harvard… well… Harvard isn’t necessarily the top notch academics situated there [although that does have something to do with it]. More than anything else, it’s the peer effects of attending an Ivy League institution. Your ability to work, debate and create with other very bright, intelligent individuals is the value of Harvard.

    Again, thanks to BR for all that you do and to the many folks who comment here.

  9. arogersb says:

    “wouldn’t gathering the best lectures, course materials, testing protocols and turning them into a cloud-based learning platform that focused on educating individuals and being able to measure their progress be a profound alternative to traditional schools?”

    Many schools already have a cloud open education systems. Check MIT´s opencourseware, MIT World, Stanford´s Youtube channel, Kahn Academy…

  10. Andy T says:

    Absolutely agree that their is a bubble in higher education.

    Anecdotal story: I suggested to my daughter, who loves doing nails, hair, etc…, that she should open up her own Salon some day. That, she really didn’t need to got to college to make that business happen if she had financial backing (from family). My wife, who never went to college, SNAPPED at me: “Don’t tell her that! She has to go to college!”

    That’s how “ingrained” the higher education mantra is in this country…..that my wife, who is an entrepreneur herself, and never went to college, was aghast that I would suggest our daughter didn’t acutally need college.

    Thought it was interesting.

  11. Kclemmer says:

    Long time reader, first time caller:

    The idea/ experiment of separating the coursework and info from the institution is already happening with MIT’s Open Courseware (http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm).

    Elite institutions do a service to lazy future employers/ investors/ mates by providing a sort of “Good Housekeeping Seal” of “Official Smart (though possibly really well connected or freakishly talented) Person” endorsement. People from Harvard (or Oxford, or Stanford) are rarely dumb. But it’s a valid point that all smart people don’t have pedigreed degrees.

    The challenge is for those without the “official” certification to convince the human capital market they’re just as capable or better when up against those who have the name brand degree. I think the tech/ software space is more open to this (“You taught yourself Perl? OK, prove it. OK, you know Perl, moving on.”) than other tracks and industries. No one wants a self-taught brain surgeon or defense attorney. Yet.

    Wikipedia/ Open courseware/ Khan Academy all provide the platform to change this, but I don’t think it’ll happen too fast. But as the white collar world becomes more about how fast you learn and recombine ideas, formal education (and institutional certification) will matter less than demonstrated processing power.

  12. Brent_in_Aurora says:

    The internet is actually better suited for discussion and interaction than college courses and this blog (and comments) is an excellent illustration. Mixing in varying degrees of expertise with links to relevant content allows the participant to be fully immersed into the discussion. Then, the participant is able to add to the discussion with nearly instantaneous feedback. How many posts are followed up with responses that are along the lines of “you are wrong and this is why” or “excellent comment, but what about this?”. Compare that to sitting in a lecture hall or taking a standardized test.

  13. super_trooper says:

    @Stick,
    “It doesn’t teach critical thinking, and that is something this country needs now more than ever. ”

    Really? In my view, critical thinking was more important right after 9/11 or during the build-up of the credit bubble (mod 70s and on). At this point, it’s a bit late. Now, I’ld recommend students to follow mainstream thinking as odds are that they will do better.

  14. Chad says:

    @super-trooper

    First, you outline why the lack of critical thinking hurt after 9/11 and that the lack of critical thinking helped cause the credit bubble. Then you advise people to just be flesh data troves? Can the lack of critical thinking be demonstrated any more clearly than in that response?

  15. ShanePer says:

    Online learning will continue to grow for core competencies. As an engineer and an attorney, I could have taken much of my undergraduate courses on-line. Labs are obviously not one of those courses. I can even see sucessful attorneys graduating from on-line law schools. Much of what is practiced as an attorney and an engineer may only be learned while on-the-job, so if you have the knowledge to draw from, you’ll be fine. However, I also see that some people may benefit more from a traditional college environment. Interacting socially while learning over the course of 4 years allows many to develop qualities desired by employers – as well as to be a competent entrepreneur.

    Hopefully parents, who are the ones making these decisions with their children, can openly discuss each option with their children and choose which path is best for them. Maybe it’s a combination – dorm living, but enrolling part-time in on-campus lectures, with part-time on-line courses. What is clear, however, is that online colleges will only become more popular and more accepted.

  16. TripleB says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people in my field (investment management) refer to another person’s “pedigree.” Basically just code for where s/he went to school and where s/he worked after graduation (one feeds the other, of course). It’s a mentality that really bothers me. I’ve worked alongside Ivy’d professionals and honestly, they aren’t all rock stars, while some non-Ivy colleagues have been all-around fantastic.

  17. Chad says:

    @Brent_in_Aurora

    One of the problems is that education is associated with standardized tests and being lectured at. A real education would make those two items small parts of the process, which the elite schools tend to do better than others.

    Also, classroom discussion is much much much faster than internet discussion. The internet is a good supplement, but it couldn’t be 90% of an education. Though, I agree it could help make it cheaper to a certain extent.

    With all that being said, I do think there is an education bubble more like the situation Andy T describes. Everyone should not go to college.

  18. Stick says:

    @Chad

    “Also, classroom discussion is much much much faster than internet discussion. The internet is a good supplement, but it couldn’t be 90% of an education. Though, I agree it could help make it cheaper to a certain extent.”

    Exactly.

  19. SysAdmin says:

    @Stick

    “Your ability to work, debate and create with other very bright, intelligent individuals…”

    I applaud your comments on critical thinking, and I am very grateful for my Jesuit education.

    I am surprised there has not been any commentary on the necessity of laboratory work in the engineering and science disciplines. i do not see how these can be “in the cloud”.

  20. super_trooper says:

    @Chad
    or better by your response.

  21. econimonium says:

    Let’s just pose the online question this way: what’s better feedback, saying something in a lecture and getting 10 people to immediately call what you just said bullshite, or waiting 6 hours for the responses to come in via the internet? What’s better, having me look at you when answering your question so you can read my expression or typing it out in an email? Now you know the limits of “on line” education.

    I agree with Guillermo above. This isn’t about “education” it’s about “consumption”. It’s also about the idea that, magically, if you have some sort of degree you will get a better job. That’s the same sloppy thinking that led to the current problems. Do people who have a college education make more, generally than people who don’t? Yes. So we just stop there? There’s no follow-on question? It’s NOT the degree. It’s the WHY? And the answer is thinking skills and being exposed to people who are smarter than you are (or as smart as you are) on a daily basis. That’s what makes an education at a so-called upper tier school “valuable”. Smart people are scarce. So therefore being exposed to them is scarce. That’s the value…getting pushed by your peers. Try that online.

    Again, there’s a difference between career training and education. The people who get it are either the upper-tiers or making great money as a nurse. The people who don’t will end up with big student loan bills and not very well paying jobs saying “but I went to college….”.

  22. wannabe says:

    Chart of College Tuition CPI vs. U.S. Home Prices vs CPI, 1978 to 2010:
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_INy8vWv7G0o/TD27VrF_QwI/AAAAAAAABDM/rcPE_Fdfc4A/s1600/college2.jpg
    ht: http://humblestudentofthemarkets.blogspot.com/2010/07/erosion-of-american-competitive.html

    National Graduation Rate About 55% (I call that a 45% drop out rate):
    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/2007161.pdf
    or
    http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/?year=1997&level=nation&mode=graph&state=0&submeasure=27

    Yeah, absolutely no bubble there!

    I agree that someone’s ideology is showing in this post, but I’m not sure it’s Peter Thiels’.

  23. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    George W. Bush: Graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School.

    ’nuff said regarding the value of top tier education. Reminds me of this:

    http://www.wendyswizardofoz.com/5ozpeop1.jpg

  24. derekce says:

    There has been a bubble in tuition costs in my state for the last 20 years. Due to a unique political compromise to get the lottery started, some funds were pledged from the lottery’s profit to provide 4 years worth of tuition and books for students with a B average. As a consequence, grade inflation from parents complaining to teachers that they were costing their kids a scholarship if they didn’t grade easier took hold. Suddenly everyone was a B student and lots of kids could now afford college. The colleges responded to the new demand with bigger staffs and infrastructure and with the government giving an open ended promise to pay, jacked up tuition year after year, way beyond the rate of inflation. I suspect charts of tuition costs the past 20 years everywhere are straight up. I suspect that model is ripe for disruption. I was shocked how well online classes worked for my wife. Perhaps degrees that require a lot of lab work wouldn’t work well but most would. Also, beware of student loans, I’ve been told if you get in financial trouble they are nearly impossible to get rid of even in bankruptcy.

  25. CB says:

    Full disclosure: I teach high school students AND I generally agree with many of Peter Thiel’s positions. VC funding and mentorship for the best student entrepreneurs (instead of going to college) already happens every day. It’s just usually done through parents, relatives or friends/investors instead of a high profile provacative hedge fund manager. Thiel just creates more public awareness and perhaps some motivation and fun in the process.

    I think cloud based lectures can be a great resource for self-study but real group discussion, critique, personal interaction and collaboration are unique for each group of students. Maybe we should think beyond the assembly line method of education?

        

              

  26. willid3 says:

    i am thinking that a lot of the up ward rise in cost was a lot of states cut higher education funding, and allowed the schools to raise tuition to make up for it. that lead to more of a marketing mentality in the schools. which meant that schools had to do more to attract students. which lead to things that a lot of us might think of as being fluff. the real downer is that education isn’t worth what it used to be as we have exported a lot of the jobs that new graduates could get

  27. ami_in_deutschland says:

    I went to a small, private university in Texas known for being a “top value.” When I was there back in the 80s, that meant a yearly tuition somewhere in the range of $3000 – 5000 (if memory serves correctly). It now costs 10x that amount! With the way things are, that STILL is “low enough” for it to be considered a good value in the various publications which concern themselves with such matters.

    It would please me to no end to know that the thousands of new students each year experience a similarly special time which I had as a student. Those years semi-sequestered amidst so many brilliant people, having the luxury of pondering myself, the cosmos, and my place within it, have left an indelible impression upon me — truly I was transformed by the experience. Although now there are certainly immense amounts of knowledge simply available for the taking, I have my doubts that the isolated pursuit of enlightenment on the Internet can be an adequate replacement for the shared experience of inquiry possible within the especially fertile environment of a college campus.

    But at what cost?

    It’s simply unfathomable to me that students now graduate saddled with something comparable to a mortgage when just starting out into the “real world.” And that’s even before going into even more debt to finance an advanced degree, which for many occupations has become the minimum ticket for entry.

    Something has gone seriously (and sadly) awry with our system…

  28. Marion Maneker says:

    Although I am certainly a fan of the Socratic method, there’s no reason to assume that we cannot replicate a great deal of education–including labs and seminars–through the internet. Most college learning takes place as the student reads or does problem sets alone in the library. With the proper design and development, we should be able to film the best lectures in most courses and supplement those with interactive reading and measurement that show what the student has learned (or failed to understand) while there is still time to continue to get the idea across instead of seeing how the student performs on a one time test at some point during the semester. Why get only an acceptable grade when you can keep at it until you really understand or accept that it is beyond your abilities.

    @ Stick: I agree that the point of education is to be engaged with a teacher but that happens less than we think and there’s no reason we cannot create a system of education that allows everyone access to the very best teachers while having section leaders locally instead of just at the various schools.

    The overall point I’m trying to make is that the internet, mobile computing and the cloud have allowed us to time shift communication, make it iterative and interactive and expand the reach of anyone communicating.

    That has to apply to education too.

    Also, I think it odd that Thiel isn’t backing a disruptive education play rather than disrupting the education of a few individuals.

  29. VRWC says:

    I think Mr. Ritholtz needs to do some research outside of his own little bubble…. because the higher education bubble is well known to open minded academics and those of a libertarian bent; [BR: As indicated by the byline, this post was written by Marion Maneker]

    “…. Our business model is built on all kinds of assumptions that don’t hold anymore,” said Richard Holmgren, associate dean and CIO at Allegheny College. “Over the last 40 years of the last century, we built a model based on the assumption that net revenues per student would go up every year.…We have a culture built on that assumption,” Holmgren said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve been struggling because net revenues have been flat.”

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/04/08/college_technology_experts_discuss_broken_business_model_in_liberal_arts

    “Teachers in many states automatically get raises if they complete a master’s degree. The trouble is that those credentials do nothing to improve teaching competence, a new report shows. This is another instance of a rent-seeking, politically connected industry feathering its nest at taxpayer expense.”

    Master’s Degrees in Education Proven to be Ineffective in Florida
    http://www.educationnews.org/ednews_today/153240.html

    The Higher Education Bubble

    Higher education is in a bubble situation—its price has risen sharply, fueled by cheap federal loan and grant money (sound familiar?) while the return on the investment has fallen. More and more college students are either not graduating or are taking jobs that do not require college-level skills and often pay mediocre amounts. In investor parlance, the price-earnings ratio on investing in higher education seems to be rising sharply. Where markets operate without external interference, there would be a correction. Sensing lower returns on their investment, the demand for higher education would fall and, with that, enrollments. Declining demand would lead to falling tuition fees, etc. Colleges would layoff lots of workers.

    Yet market forces in this sector are grossly distorted by governmental and, to a much smaller extent, private philanthropic payments.

    http://blogs.forbes.com/ccap/2011/04/05/the-higher-education-bubble/

    Start paying attention, and it becomes readily apparent that more and more Americans today are skeptical about the benefits of college. . . . Yet despite the mounting skepticism about the value of a college degree, and in the face of the economic downturn, colleges continue to demand ever higher fees, saddling graduates with crushing debt along with their diplomas. In June of last year the Federal Reserve released new figures showing that the nation’s total student loan debt now sits at about $830 billion – for the first time surpassing the nation’s credit card debt.

    Start paying attention, and it becomes readily apparent that more and more Americans today are skeptical about the benefits of college. . . . Yet despite the mounting skepticism about the value of a college degree, and in the face of the economic downturn, colleges continue to demand ever higher fees, saddling graduates with crushing debt along with their diplomas. In June of last year the Federal Reserve released new figures showing that the nation’s total student loan debt now sits at about $830 billion – for the first time surpassing the nation’s credit card debt.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/an-anti-college-backlash/73214/#

  30. VRWC says:

    My apologies to Mr. Ritholtz…. I now notice that this thread is the result of a guest poster….

    Shoulda known better….

  31. [...] about Thiel’s plan is Marion Maneker at The Big Picture, who notes that Thiel’s efforts may be misguided. “Why doesn’t Thiel make it possible for anyone who wants to go to Harvard to be able to [...]

  32. tryflyfishing says:

    In addition to the MIT open ware mentioned above (Kclemmer @12:45) see iTunes University. Classes taught by MIT/harvard/Stanford/LSE profs for free. Individuals have to seize the initiative to progress. Whether enough will do so for the country to prosper is up for grabs.

  33. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    While many of us are aware of the free online lectures offered by MIT and other universities, it is not possible to utilize those lectures towards a degree unless you pay tuition.

    The idea that would work best is to bypass the huge fixed costs of the university and the get away from the out of whack variable costs in the same institution. There needs to be a push towards this, as college tuition has gone up 300% more than inflation over the past 30-years.

    We need someone to do to colleges what Amazon.com did to the book and music retailing business.

    Most employers ask for a degree first. Today Bill Gates’ resume couldn’t get through the firewalls companies put up with their HR screening software, as he does not have a college degree.

  34. econimonium says:

    OK so I’ll out myself as teaching (adjunct) at the college level now for 22 years (even since grad school) and am also a C level guy. I teach comp sci and math. Sometimes finance when I’m in an evil mood ;) I can unequivocally say that internet only based classes do not work. Period. In fact, they work better for older students, but they don’t work at all for typical undergraduates. We offer a lot of classes both ways, some subject matters are better than others at adapting, and the students that I get who have taken the first level of classes online are absolutely positively challenged taking the second level in the classroom. They inevitably drop out or do poorly compared to the students that have done the classroom track.

    The very idea that a curriculum can be published and “packaged” runs counter to over 20 years of my experience. You could publish what I do, in fact I do everything even that MIT does in comp sci I and cover the exact same material and you wouldn’t get the same results I do in the classroom. Period. We don’t now. I hate to sound a bit elitist here, but you know, not everyone is college material. And the very idea of “packaging” things up is…well, I don’t know what it is but it is NOT education. That classroom interaction with me sets up everything they take with them and do on their own, and I’ve had students time and time again tell me this. Especially those that have taken these subjects online. They admit it’s a joke. It is.

    Furthermore, if you think that the 17 to 21 year old age group has the discipline to take it on themselves, study, and work at something without regular in-person guidance…well you really haven’t been living in any reality I’m familiar with. Even adults can’t do it very well. On-line education and classes have a place but they are NOT the answer to all subjects. At best it can be a combination. My next screed with point out why spending this much money on any undergrad education is a waste, period, even at the H bomb or MIT. You do the math on how long it’s going to take you to pay off those bills once you graduate. Or better yet, go and look at a school like Boston University and tell me if that tuition is worth it. This is the biggest lie in the country today. And soon people are going to figure it out.

  35. derekce says:

    The one drawback I saw when my wife was taking online courses, was how easy it looked like you could cheat and have someone else do the work or take tests for you.

  36. Bill Wilson says:

    I’d like to see the consumer protections put back into student loans, and all of the money that the government spends on loan subsidies put into lowering tuition at community colleges. The ability to borrow does not equal affordability, a low price equates to affordability.

    I respect what econimonium has to say about the importance of classroom instruction, but it’s important to remember that online education is still in its infancy.

    I have a degree in engineering from UMass Amherst. Most of my lectures could have been done online. There wasn’t a ton of interaction with the professor, and I’m a terrible classroom learner anyway. I did get a lot out of small discussion sections where we would do homework problems and test problems. Those were usually taught by a TA.

    I learned the most when I got together with classmates to help each other work out problems and learn the material. Then we’d drink a few beers. It was UMass.

  37. donna says:

    WE’re in the top 5% of incomes and are going into debt to get our kids through college. For two kids our tuition payments are more than our mortgage. Things are seriously, seriously wrong in this country. Thank goodness they each went to community college for three years. Some of their friends can’t even afford to do that. It’s all so ridiculous.

    The rich should be creating scholarships right and left instead of just going after more and more income. Our value system in this country is just insanely screwed up.

  38. bulfinch says:

    Outside of hard sciences, a University education is like rent-seeking on information, which in this day & age — between living in a land rich with amazing public libraries and 24 hour access to the Googles — is already readily available for the more motivated and disciplined autodidact, and usually for free or very cheap. Perhaps best of all, you can access this information free of any professor’s agenda. For example: I love Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson’s world history lessons and I can watch many hours worth of them on Youtube for free. However, whenever he genuflects to Henry Kissinger, I can openly gag and it won’t disrupt the class, or hurt my grades when I refuse to pander to his neocon bent.

    University is a noble pursuit, if you are willing to afford the time and the expense and truly seek to enrich yourself or desire credentials of eminence in a particular discipline; however, spending a disproportionate amount of your life stuck in a classroom listening to a professional student trying to enrich you in the ways of the world outside, not to mention saddling yourself with tremendous and inescapable student loan debt for what amounts to an abridged version of the education that life itself provides to anyone who might avail themselves of it seems at least counterintuitive to me at least worthy of skepticism. I think if you’re really into a subject, you’re gonna inhale that shit; you don’t need a lot of help. Maybe a mentor.

  39. bulfinch says:

    For a different angle on the rise in tuition costs, please Google the Chivas Regal Effect.

  40. bonzo says:

    econimonium says: “Furthermore, if you think that the 17 to 21 year old age group has the discipline to take it on themselves, study, and work at something without regular in-person guidance…well you really haven’t been living in any reality I’m familiar with”

    Students who can’t discipline themselves will be unable to function in the work world, especially in the computer industry, where constant self-education is required to keep up with changing technology. What you are really teaching these kids is how to suck up and regurgitate information in precisely the way you want it regurgitated and otherwise be compliant to the whims of whoever is in charge of handing out goodies (grades in college, jobs with good salaries in the real world). Compliance training is indeed useful in life, but anyone who hasn’t learned compliance and sucking-up behavior by 17 is unlikely to finish high-school, much less attend college.

  41. jrob says:

    Barry, have you ever considered making the byline more prominent, so you don’t have to keep correcting people who attribute posts by other authors to you? That would save everyone time and confusion. Truth is, it is very small and easy to overlook.

  42. mathman says:

    It’d be nice if there were some decent jobs for these kids comin’ out of college/grad school. Last i looked we’re the country with the highest number of PhD’s driving pizza delivery vehicles in the world.

    A plumber acquaintence has put his 7 kids through college, but not one of them makes what he does years after graduation.

    Seems the way to go now for college grads is entrepreneurship of some kind, invent your own job, work for yourself if you can (on the side while paying back std loans or eventually).

  43. Chad says:

    @super_trooper

    “or better by your response.”

    Seriously, an “I’m rubber you’re glue” comment? Come on.

  44. Chad says:

    econimonium has it.

  45. bulfinch says:

    “Furthermore, if you think that the 17 to 21 year old age group has the discipline to take it on themselves, study, and work at something without regular in-person guidance…well you really haven’t been living in any reality I’m familiar with.”

    So, the high cost of tuition is justified in part because students simply cannot be arsed enough to stay focused? In other words, it’s only once you’ve debited your future earnings that you take your personal enrichment in a subject seriously?

    Even this is debatable, given the debauchery at some of the more notorious ‘party schools’

  46. Lariat1 says:

    So I have a high school junior whose art teacher keeps insisting that this kid needs to go to art school, preferably School of Visual Arts in NYC. This place makes ivy leagues look affordable. The problem in all this is finding out what he wants. Well maybe SVU, but maybe community college first. Or maybe work a bit or maybe travel.out west and work and then go to art school. Or maybe join a workshop. Or maybe like the other day when he came home and told me maybe he should enlist in the army. I asked him if the army teaches art. So as of right now, I am in a holding pattern watching a seventeen year old flourish at all the possibilities that are out there. None of which are easy.

  47. Lariat1 says:

    The last point is, being “gifted” in art guarantees that he is going to need a “day job”.

  48. Henry Hub says:

    The real value of a Harvard education is in the enormous status that people place in the name. Americans don’t believe in class (we are all middle class – LOL), but they do believe in status. It’s the reason people are willing to pay $5,000 for a Gucci handbag – status. Harvard is the Gucci handbag of higher education!