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Increasing Access to Graduate Education Key to America’s Economic Growth

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If there is one thing that the new Obama administration could do right away to increase America’s competitiveness, it would be to increase access to graduate education for more Americans.

Consider the chart below, from which it is quite clear that we do a good job at producing undergraduates but fail to create enough advanced degree holders, especially at the doctoral level.

But programs like the H1-B are not the solution because they encourage us to become dependent on foreign talent while neglecting the vast pool of human capital we already poses as a large nation of over 300 million. Nor is a policy of making it easier for foreign students to stay after they get their advanced degrees a good bet. Such a policy would have the effect of crowding out domestic students, at least in the short term, including immigrants who grew up in America. Programs like the H1-B encourage more and more foreign students to compete for admission to a limited number of openings in graduate programs in hopes of getting their green cards with diplomas. We are better off making it easier for those who earn undergraduate credentials to continue to graduate school. One way of making this easy is to reduce the costs of graduate education.

The most aggressive policy would involve a grant program that would make graduate education free, especially at the doctoral level, where we seem to have a shortage. A really smart and aggressive program would make STEM graduate education free. Such a program would pay for itself. For example, a study by Arlene Holen for the Technology Policy Institute found that over a decade, high skilled workers generate as much as $100 billion in increased tax revenues. By easing access to graduate programs, we increase the number of highly skilled workers in the America, which has the effect of broadening the tax base.

Expanding the nation’s highly skilled human capital is certainly one of the key aspects of a sound growth policy. But focusing on immigration as the only solution is absurd for a nation of over 300 million; we already have millions of highly intelligent and creative people in America. All we need to do is to assure that those who can do the work academically have the opportunity to earn an advanced degree, regardless of their ability to pay for the education. We have not done so, nor are we doing so; but until we can say that anyone in America who wants to can get a graduate degree, the calls for opening the borders to immigrants who somehow have magical intelligence and talent will sound unconvicing.

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About A. Jurek

A. Jurek is one of the editors at Blogcritics. Contact me at: a.jurek@blogcritics.org
  • http://rwno.limewebs.com Not the liberal actor

    Mr. Jurek, as the possessor of a Ph.D. in Statistics and Quantiative Studies, I feel that I am qualified to address the subject you have brought up. I both agree and disagree with you. I agree with you when you say “… we already have millions of highly intelligent and creative people in America.” But I disagree with you for two specific reasons when you say “… assure that those who can do the work academically have the opportunity to earn an advanced degree, regardless of their ability to pay for the education.”

    First, when you say “regardless of their ability to pay for the education,” do you mean taxpayer subsidies? If yes, please explain why I, a taxpayer, should be forced to pay for a graduate student’s education, unless I get to choose his or her major? After all, we have more than enough people with a Ph.D. in History, Arts (Liberal or otherwise), and Music. These people, although obviously smart, do NOT generate anywhere near the revenues in the Arlene Holen study you cite. If no, please explain just how you propose to pay for the educations.

    Second, have you ever heard of scholarships? My personal observation (both for myself and my children) is that companies with specific demands are more than happy to provide all the education anyone wants. You say “We are better off making it easier for those who earn undergraduate credentials to continue to graduate school. One way of making this easy is to reduce the costs of graduate education.” My contention is that such programs are already in place. All one has to do is take advantage of them.

    You say “Expanding the nation’s highly skilled human capital is certainly one of the key aspects of a sound growth policy.” With that statement I agree. But just throwing money at the problem is not (nor has it ever been) a solution. You say “… make graduate education free, ….” NOTHING is, ever has been, or ever will be, free! At what cost (ultimately) is your “free” graduate education program? Sounds like yet another vote buying scheme to me. I, of course, await your “setting me straight.”

  • Baronius

    Far more important would be a policy of improving the quality of elementary, secondary, and undergraduate education.

    In my father’s generation, a kid with a high school diploma knew English, math, civics, and basic science. An employer could trust him. If he was college prep, like my parents, he’d know his way around a slide rule and speak Latin or German. If he was going to pursue a trade, he’d have shop experience.

    Now, I’m glad the days of the slide rule are gone, but with the current generation, an employer can’t be sure that a high school graduate can speak and write plainly, or handle basic math. As the quality of college graduates falls, we’re heading into the days when a graduate degree will be required for nearly every career.

    We don’t need more people going to graduate school. We need high schools and undergraduate programs to turn out people who have sufficient learning to be able to handle their future jobs. We probably need to spend less on graduate programs.

  • Dr Dreadful

    I tend to agree with Baronius. Improving access to grad school doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is a low number of available jobs juxtaposed with a large pool of available workers, which in turn forces employers to raise their qualifying standards in order to weed the mass of applicants down to a manageable number. Just because an employer is asking for an advanced degree doesn’t mean that an advanced degree is necessary to do the job competently.

  • Baronius

    Right. The employer has to be able to defend every hiring decision in court, so he’s got to weed out as many applicants as possible using quantifiables. But there is also a problem on the other side, that an employer can’t trust that a high school or college graduate will be able to handle a job.

  • http://www.ucedaenglish.com/ Quincy

    Employers shouldn’t be accountable to the ridiculous state deciding whether or not they hired properly. So stupid.

  • Igor

    @1-Not: for the same reason that a multitude of American citizens paid taxes to build the hospital you were born in, to train the doctor that delivered you, the roads that your parents used to go to that hospital, the schools that you learned to read and write in, the universities that you used to get your fancy degrees.

    You didn’t come into this world fully formed and paying for everything as you used it. You were dependent on society, probably until you were in your 20s. Your predecessors voluntarily paid for building the society from which you have so greatly benefited.

    And you are still benefiting from societies investment in roads, bridges, airports, seaports, subsidized oil and gas, armies to fight wars, and on and on.

    But you KNOW all that, don’t you? Or did it never occur to you that you owe so much to all those who came before and prepared the way for you?

    …please explain why I, a taxpayer, should be forced to pay for a graduate student’s education, …

  • Baronius

    “And you are still benefiting from societies investment in roads, bridges, airports, seaports, subsidized oil and gas, armies to fight wars, and on and on.”

    Sure. And society is benefitting from Warren’s work, both directly (through taxes) and indirectly. What does that have to do with paying for a grad student’s education?

  • Igor

    It has everything to do with a grad students education. Just as society benefits from Warrens work, so to the presumption must be made (and usually Americans willingly presume) that the grad student will prove useful and a good investment.

  • Baronius

    Lots of things would be beneficial in the long run. It’s not government’s job to allocate our resources among them. Public goods – roads, bridges, etc. – are understandable, but not individual goods.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    The human resources area of a major company must make certain that a professional job analysis accompanies every job description. The job analysis sets forth the various tasks required for each job and maps education and work experience to the ultimate job description. Then, the human resources area looks internally to fill positions. If they can’t be filled internally, requisitions are ordered to fill externally. In a nutshell, that’s how the process is supposed to work.

    The Federal Jobs hiring is done with the aid of the Civil Service Examination. The public is invited to take the exam. Candidates are tested, graded and ranked. Then, the various federal agencies seek out candidates from the examination pool.

    Hiring in the professions is different. People pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher. They get experience. Upon passing a licensing examination, candidates apply for a license by presenting the examination results, education, the requisite work experience and first biennial registration fee. When the various Boards of Licensure are satisfied with a candidate’s profile,( education, passing the licensing exam, experience etc.) a license is issued in the applicable profession. i.e. actuary, accountant, engineer, physician, lawyer etc.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Thanks for that Wikipedia entry, Dr Joe.

  • Igor

    @9-Baronius: so you say, but the evidence is against you. The GI Bill Of Rights did exactly that and produced the biggest boom in American history.

    Public goods – roads, bridges, etc. – are understandable, but not individual goods.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    Dr. Dreadful, that’s from my personal experience.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It’s precisely the shortcoming of Baronius’ comment which provides the concept of “social capital” with all the context one needs to make the term meaningful.

    It goes without saying, of course, that Baronius wouldn’t object to the ordinary, commonplace notion of “personal capital.”

  • Baronius

    Igor – Interesting point. I’ll have to think about that. But from what I recall, it was a lot easier back then to become a professional with just a high school diploma. The legendary reporters hadn’t gone to journalism school; the startups weren’t necessarily tech firms like they are today. Even the shop worker earned a good living and contributed a lot to the post-war boom without going back to school. And the downside to wider availability to college was the subsequent generation’s expectation of college, which helped move us toward the situation we have today with 25-year-old MBA’s who have no skills or work experience.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Dr Joe, your comment struck me as bland and not contributing at all to the discussion.

  • Clavos

    Baronius @ # 15:

    Good points all. It’s also questionable as to how large a role the GI Bill (which I used to attend college myself, after service in Vietnam) played in the post war boom.

    There were other factors that fueled the boom as well. Factors such as pent up consumer demand, especially for big ticket items like autos and appliances (I have a client who became super rich just by realizing that there would be an enormous demand for housing with very little inventory available at the close of the war, so he set himself up as a dealer in maufactured housing (trailers) and soon cornered the market for such in his home state, reaping enormous profits because he could supply the demand on an almost instantaneous basis), retooling of manufacturing from war production back to civilian manufacturing created an unprecedented hiring boom, aid programs for Europe like the Marshall Plan, created brand new sources of demand for American products — the list goes on.

  • Clavos

    Regarding the pent up demand point; when my father got back home from WWII, he wanted to give my mother a convertible for Christmas that year. Auto production was a long way from fully ramped up after years of building tanks and deuce-and-a-halfs, so the dealer (Lincoln-Mercury), who could have sold ten times as many convertibles as he had in inventory, told my Dad he could have the Mercury convertible only if he also bought a Lincoln Cosmopolitan (forerunner to the Continental), which he of course, did.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius and Clav –

    We all know people who didn’t need college degrees to become wildly successful – Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind – but in the big picture, looking at level of income as compared to level of education, the greater the level of education, generally speaking, the greater the level of income.

    In other words, those who were successful even without college educations – as common as they seem to be – are but the exceptions to the rule.

  • Clavos

    Glenn, you’re quite right, but missed my point, which is first of all at the end of WWII far more people didn’t go to college than did, although the GI Bill was also used by many to go to trade school.

    But again, there were many factors, some of which equaled or exceeded the effect the GI Bill had on the post war boom; there was a lot more going on than just the Bill.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clav –

    True enough. Not to be snarky, but (after the recession that immediately followed WWII) the boom might also be attributed to (1) the 91% top marginal tax rate or (2) the Korean War – because wars do have a taxpayer-funded stimulative effect.

    I know those opinions will probably make you want to do a face-palm in frustration at how That Liberal Just Doesn’t Get It, but there it is.

  • Baronius

    Clav – the big sweep in growth since the 1940’s has been due to technological improvements. Not just computers, either. Transistors, refrigeration, countless developments in agriculture and health care. Dozens of others.

    Technology is the intersection between science and profitability. Tech growth was definitely affected by scientific advancement, but also by increased international trade, new debt instruments, and a low level of regulation. I doubt that any attempt to weight each element would have any meaning at all.

    Glenn’s link completely misses the point – many points, really. The value of scientific knowledge, the change in income over time, the role of education as a signalling mechanism. I really can’t think of a point that Glenn’s link doesn’t miss.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    Glenn’s example of Steve Jobs and others provides a good delineation of the primary driver for ingenuity.
    This driver consists of a good idea coupled with the assertiveness to take the idea from concept to
    practice or commercialization. My previous comment gets into the need for education at all. The primary
    driver for the need for education is a thorough job analysis. The professions are also drivers of need for
    education primarily at the collegiate level. The government is another driver because people need a
    baccalaureate degree to sit for the Federal Civil Service Examination at certain pay grades.

    The need for a graduate education must be thoroughly researched by candidates for these degrees or
    people will graduate from programs without any firm direction for employment. The drivers for graduate
    school education include academe, some think tanks and even some of the professions. For instance,
    accountants must now have 30 graduate school credits in order to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination.
    Previously, a baccalaureate was the basic requirement together with passing the CPA Exam with the
    requisite diversified work experience in financial statement preparation and the attest function.

    Other professions; such as, medicine and law require the basic BS/BA with 4 yrs.of a post-
    baccalaureate program in either medicine or law. Medicine and law do not require grad. degrees per se.
    Although, the law degree itself does have the title JD which is Doctor of Law or Jurisprudence.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    Glenn’s link completely misses the point – many points, really. The value of scientific knowledge, the change in income over time, the role of education as a signalling mechanism. I really can’t think of a point that Glenn’s link doesn’t miss.

    Except for the fact that it was increased education by millions that enabled that boom in technical advancement. Look at what you listed:

    Not just computers, either. Transistors, refrigeration, countless developments in agriculture and health care. Dozens of others. Technology is the intersection between science and profitability. Tech growth was definitely affected by scientific advancement, but also by increased international trade, new debt instruments, and a low level of regulation.

    Do you really think it was just a few people who invented those technical, financial, and governmental tools? Baronius, when a group of people get together to discuss things, there’s a very real synergy that develops…and the greater the level of education of the people within that group, the greater the intellectual synergy of that group.

    Or to put it more simply, which is more inventive – a lab with one highly-educated leader and a bunch of high-school graduates, or a lab wherein most or all are college-educated? C’mon, now, Baronius, I know you understand this.

    You can even apply market principles to this, for the more people that have college educations, the more they will be forced to compete with each other to develop the Next Big Thing.

    THAT, sir, is what fueled – and is continuing to fuel – the world’s technological boom. The greater the general level of education of a group – and the more easily they can communicate with each other – the more they will invent, develop, and bring to market the Next Big Thing, whatever it may be.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    I would tend to agree with the above comment.

  • Igor

    I entered engineering school in 1955 along with a bunch of GIs from Korea on the GI bill. Most of them were married and already had kids and they were more serious, hard working and interesting. There were 300 of us entering EE school at a land grant university. We graduated in 1959 and most of those guys fanned out across America and across American industry. They built up famous companies like HP, Fairchild Camera, 3M, Texas Instruments, etc. I went to grad school on a stupendous $195/month stipend and worked as a TA or RA. The entering class of 1959 only had 50 students. The GI Bill had ended.

    It WAS the access to education that made the bulwork of all the wonders we’ve seen since then. Guys like Jobs and Gates are exceptions, high riders who took low lying fruit. But it was Intel, born of Fairchild and TI, that created the 4004 and the 8080, upon which PC empires are built. It was TI that created integrated circuits.

    And the pioneering companies were those that broke away from traditional capitalistic sunset industries.

    Education: it’s the most important factor in national growth and health. Even when that education is seemingly unrelated. Many of our greatest contributors took unusual courses. Steve Jobs himself studied Caligraphy at Reed college, and began a font revolution that many (including myself) scoffed at when he started.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Very impressive post, Igor.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    *sits back and sips coffee while reading the words of someone who’s been there and done that*

  • Baronius

    Igor, Glenn, etc. – It’s not an either/or proposition. I didn’t say, and I don’t recall anyone saying, that education doesn’t matter. I said that technology is the meeting point of science and profitability, and scientific developments are definitely related to education. But it’s foolish to ignore the role that market incentives have played.

    Additionally, the connection between the academic system and education is more complicated than “dollars in, smart people out”. This article urged a particular policy. A person can recognize the role of education in improved living standards, both for the individual and for the society, and still disagree with the particular policy recommendation. In a serious discussion, it’s doubtful that anyone is anti-education, rhetoric notwithstanding.

    It’s well and good to look at the example of earlier corporate founders. But one common complaint among them is that they couldn’t get hired at the companies that they built. There’s something odd going on in the relationship between credentials and individual potential.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    I would agree that market forces played a part – of course they did. But you can see for yourself how in the for-profit college marketplace we have today, Americans who seek a college education are being forced to dig themselves into a fiscally perilous hole:

    Late last year, total student debt outstanding surpassed $1 trillion for the first time. Now, the problem of student loan delinquency is generating its own eye-popping numbers.

    New data released today shows 11% of student loans were 90 days or more past due in the third quarter, up from 8.9% in the previous quarter and 8.8% a year prior, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It’s also the highest since at least 2003, when the bank first started tracking student loan delinquencies. “It’s a red flag and a warning sign that more Americans are struggling to repay their student loans – things are bad, really bad, and getting worse,” says Rich Williams, higher-education advocate at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit based in Washington.

    We didn’t have this problem a generation ago – back then, we would work our way through college if we really had to. But now there’s no way that most people (especially college-age kids) can work their way through college – it’s simply too expensive…but at the same time, it’s daunting to try to enter the professional workplace without a college degree.

    The current for-profit education model is a windfall for hundreds of corporations, but a financial disaster for tens of millions of Americans. America needs to learn that there’s places in society that the profit motive simply doesn’t belong.

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    College was affordable when I went. I graduated in an allied area of Industrial Engineering. At college, I worked in the statistics lab. The assignments in the lab were varied. These consisted of operating software in statistics, operations research, chemistry and a variety of business and scientific areas. We had specialized programs in linear algebra, as well as econometrics.

    I graduated with a $2,000 debt accumulated over 4 years. Today’s college students are not that fortunate. Their debt is much higher. There are ways to lower the debt by going to community colleges where tuition is much cheaper and there are resources for things like tutoring.

  • Clavos

    To call our current university system a “for-profit education model” is, at the very least, an exaggeration; while some (perhaps most) private schools may be, to some degree, “for profit,” the public schools, especially the so-called “land grant” schools, are emphatically NOT “for profit.”

    Please provide an authoritative link to support that characterization.

  • Baronius

    If the market supports the current price of boats, and I give everyone $500 if they buy a boat, what’s Clavos going to do? Increase the price of boats by $500.

  • Baronius

    I probably shouldn’t have posted that as-is. It’s one of those comments that, if everyone understands, is brilliant, but I have no idea if anyone is going to understand it.

    Whatever you think the correct price of education should be, it’s worthwhile to consider what the pricing mechanism is telling us. We’ve seen tuition prices skyrocket as government aid (directly or through backed loans) has skyrocketed. It’d be easy to assume that A->B, that as tuition increases, government does more.

    But what if there’s some feedback? In fact, couldn’t the whole thing be A->B->A->B ad infinitum? If the government promises every student a certain level of aid, and colleges know that they can fill their classrooms at a certain cost today, then they know they’re going to be able to fill their classrooms at (current cost) + (certain level of promised aid). The colleges will increase their tuition. Students will complain that they need more support. Government will provide increased support. That’ll be eaten up with new tuition rates. The cycle will continue.

    Not to stir up a hornet’s nest here, but another area where government guarantees to pay an increasing amount is health care. Those two fields run at an inflation rate something like twice that of the average good.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    We do understand your comment very well…but there’s more than that to be considered. For instance, look at Medicare – did the price of medical care skyrocket when Medicare was implemented? No, it did not. The cost of medical care began to skyrocket quite some time afterwards.

    My oldest son is working in a management for a major for-profit college. The workplace atmosphere there is all about slicing costs and maximizing profit, all that the market will bear – and if you’ll ask him, the quality of education provided to their customers (the students) never enters the conversation. You might say, well of course, minimizing costs and maximizing profits is the way it should be.

    But there’s a big difference between simply covering costs (including personnel costs) and maximizing profit for shareholders…and that’s why I say that there are places where the profit motive does more harm than good.

  • Baronius

    I’m not saying that the profit motive is all-important. And I didn’t say that my comment #34 contained all that needed to be considered. But if government intervention automatically drives up costs, then government intervention is the worst thing to do in response to increasing costs. It’s not a matter of partisanship; it’s a matter of looking at the consequences of different policies.

  • Baronius

    Furthermore, you say that the workplace atmoshere at the for-profit college is about maximising profit – but then you add, all that the market will bear. That’s a pretty significant add-on. The market can only bear $X of costs per person. A college, for-profit or non-profit, can only charge so much. The only way higher is through product differentiation, that is, through increasing the reputation of the college. There are a lot of ways that can be done, and it’d be an interesting tangent, but this conversation already has too many tangents. But the people who work for the college can only do so much to raise tuition, because the consumer has other options.

    About the only thing that can drive up tuition is financial aid. That allows the college to raise its prices to $(X+G), with G being the government aid or more likely the cost of a student loan guarantee. G is a debt for the student if he does go on to pay it off; it’s a debt for the taxpayer if he doesn’t. Either way, the college gets more money without providing any better service. For-profit or non-profit.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    About the only thing that can drive up tuition is financial aid.

    Not true. Why? Because it can be compared to Medicare, which is essentially government subsidy and which did not drive up prices. What DOES drive up prices is the pressure from shareholders – always has, always will.

  • Clavos

    Actually, a number of experts have postulated in the recent past that what Baronius is referring to is indeed the reason for the skyrocketing tuition: the rapidly increasing availability of funds for same. Supply and demand: a rapidly increasing supply of dollars chasing a relatively inelastic number of college classroom seats = rising prices.

  • Baronius

    There is no pressure from shareholders in a public or religious college or hospital, but their prices are going up all the time. And there’s no magical evil pressure from shareholders in private companies that can force customers to pay more than they’re willing to. Sure, a shareholder would be happier with a few extra dollars, but that doesn’t make the price of boats or brain scans go up. The prices go up because the consumer doesn’t actually have to pay the bill.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius and Clavos –

    When costs go up, rising prices are understandable. But if you’re going to try to tell me there’s no pressure from shareholders in a for-profit institution to raise prices as much as the market will bear, I’ll call you quite naive.

    When there is no profit motive – non-profits (usually) have less of a profit motive – the prices go up much less. As I keep saying, there are areas of society where the profit motive does not belong, where the profit motive does more harm than good. Our for-profit universities are a prime example – look at the University of Phoenix, for example. They’re making money hand over fist, but from what I saw of what my son was being taught, they’re not much more than a hideously-expensive degree mill.

    Conservatives love to claim that the profit motive gives otherwise-absent incentive for a company or institution to excel…but in the real world, when there is no profit motive, the worker is motivated not by the need to make ever more money, but to do the right thing, to do the best job, to do what is best for the customer/client/patient/student.

    And as an example to hold up opposite of the for-profit University of Phoenix, I submit for your consideration Western Governors University, a government-subsidized non-profit online university that – unlike U of P – comes very well recommended (here’s a link to a simple Google search of their awards). They’re MUCH cheaper than U of P, and they provide a superior product.

    Same thing in the shipyards I love to use as an example. The government-run shipyard I live next to is clean and safe and have a very good working relationship with the ships and sailors. However, we viewed the civilian for-profit Todd Shipyard with trepidation, for they would cut every corner they could to turn a buck.

    Again and again, the profit motive absolutely belongs in the marketplace…but does NOT belong in so many areas of society, from schools to first-class mail to prisons. To keep pushing for for-profit privatization in almost all sectors of society falls afoul of the ‘Goldilocks rule’ – moderation in all things.

  • Clavos

    When there is no profit motive – non-profits (usually) have less of a profit motive – the prices go up much less.

    But that’s not what is actually happening — not when you compare private real universities (not the kind like U of Phoenix) with non private ones. Some state schools are going up much faster than private schools. Remember that private universities have endowments of a much greater order than state schools.

    Except for some junky trade schools like DeVry Tech and Johnson and Wales University Hotel/Culinary school (which is a nonprofit), I’ve never heard of private real universities (as differentiated from trade schools) owned by stockholders.

    You mention the “University” of Phoenix. Anyone stupid enough to think they’ll get an education at a joint like that deserves to lose their money — especially when they can go to a much cheaper community college or even state university. I regret your son’s experience there, but you’re a smart man; why the hell did you let him enroll there? The “degrees” they confer are worthless, and any prospective employer knows that. (Not that the degrees conferred by most of our state universities are much more valuable these days, but they do beat the University of Phoenix and its ilk)

  • Clavos

    But now there’s no way that most people (especially college-age kids) can work their way through college – it’s simply too expensive…

    Bull. I have a stepson who is doing just that as we speak — he works full time at a retail store AND goes to school full time at a college which is part of the state of Georgia’s university system — and he’s on track to graduate with honors with a degree in linguistics.

  • Clavos

    About the only thing that can drive up tuition is financial aid. That allows the college to raise its prices to $(X+G), with G being the government aid or more likely the cost of a student loan guarantee. G is a debt for the student if he does go on to pay it off; it’s a debt for the taxpayer if he doesn’t. Either way, the college gets more money without providing any better service. For-profit or non-profit.

    QFT

    This is, in fact, well known and documented.

  • Baronius

    Clavos – Great. We agree. The problem is, what do you do from here? The other side distrusts your desire to see results if you don’t go along with their plan, never mind that their plan doesn’t have any beneficial results. If you say that, they question your motivation.

    And to be fair, it’s just as unshocking that you and I would see a problem with government intervention as that Glenn and Igor would see government intervention as a necessary thing. So how would we all (if anyone really cared what we all think) move forward? Do you follow a model of persuasion or compromise? If persuasion, what do you do when your opponents don’t believe in your good faith? If compromise, do you agree to make things 80% worse in order to make them 20% better?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    This is, in fact, well known and documented

    Then please link to the documentation – I’d like to see it.

  • Clavos

    @#45:

    Wow, Bar!! You don’t mess around! Those are some excellent observations, for which I have no immediate answers, but which I will gladly mull and return to discuss (if I can come up with something worth discussing) at some point.

  • Clavos

    Glenn@#46:

    From Inflation Data DotCom:

    Yet, the main reason tuition continues to rise is a dramatic change that took place regarding the Federal Stafford Loan more than a decade ago. When Uncle Sam opened the floodgates to government-backed student loans without parent income restrictions in 1992, colleges welcomed the news with open arms. The sudden injection of millions of additional aid dollars only furthered tuition increases. Add to that the government’s continued promotion of the Stafford Loan as a low-cost program, and you have the formula for hyperinflationary costs.

    When the government made it exceptionally easy for students to borrow massive amounts of money, the colleges followed the lead by increasing their tuition rates. This combination led to record-level borrowing. Today the average undergraduate student loan debt is nearing $20,000. Those who go on to graduate school often end up with an additional $30,000. Law and medical students report an average accumulated debt from all years (undergraduate and graduate study) of $91,700. There are alternative options to amassing huge students loans such as attending an online university.

    And from the author of the hypothesis, former Secretary of Education (in the Reagan administration) William J. Bennett:

    The cost of college tuition will continue to rise as long as federal student aid programs continue to increase with little or no accountability.
    That was the hypothesis (now known in education circles as the Bennett Hypothesis) of a column I wrote for The New York Times in 1987, in response to tuition hikes at many of the nation’s colleges and universities.

    Much like the effects of subsidies on health care and the housing market, increasing student aid was insulating colleges from having to make market-driven cost-cutting measures, like improving productivity or efficiency. It appears that this may still be true today.

    Last month, Andrew Gillen at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity authored a new paper introducing the “Bennett Hypothesis 2.0,” an updated version of my original argument. Under the current financial aid system, he concluded, “As higher financial aid pushes costs higher, it inevitably puts upward pressure on tuition. Higher tuition, of course, reduces college affordability, leading to calls for more financial aid, setting the vicious cycle in motion all over again.”

    And something I had not heard before; The Daily Kos offers a hypothesis as to why the pace of student loans issued is outrunning tuition inflation, and is in fact, contributing to the inflation:

    For many years, Academia, the lending industry attached to it, and the US Government failed to inform the public that all of the elements comprising the lending system (lenders, collection companies, guarantors) made far more money when students defaulted on their loans. Nevertheless, this is true fact, and is well documented…The consequences of these types of financial motivations, both for the students, and for the lending system itself are too numerous to describe here, but one very significant result is that during the legislative process, when the schools, lenders, and their lobbyists pressure Congress to raise the allowable loan limits, the Department of Education is one of the only entities available to act in the interest of the students. Instead of voicing concern, or even objections to such proposals, the Department of Education instead remains largely silent, despite their knowledge about the true default rates, etc…Therefore, Congress continues to rubberstamp these legislative efforts, and the schools quickly raise their tuitions to reach the new lending ceilings.

    A slightly different twist to Mr. Bennett’s idea, but closely intertwined with Bennett’s and an exacerbator of the problem to boot.

  • Clavos

    All three links above are bad. These work:

    Inflation Data Dotcom

    William J Bennett

    The Daily Kos

  • Baronius

    Education policy a passion of mine, and there’s no issue on which both parties are as shockingly lazy. Every teacher in the country knows that the system is messed up, every parent is scared to death, and every employer has to worry that the next guy he hires may not be able to spell any better than he does when he’s texting. The Republicans could walk away with this issue if they bothered to. The Democrats don’t do anything except take teachers’ union money and promise them unaccountability. Nobody ever wants to talk beyond costs – which no Republican or Democrat would ever cut. Nobody ever wants to talk about policy.

    I’m a good federalist conservative, but I’m convinced that this is an issue that can’t be fixed at the local level. That’s why I supported the standardized testing in NCLB. I know the classic response to that is, now teachers teach to the test. But (a) that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and (b) if there’s no standardized test, no employer is going to take a gamble on whether a high school graduate can add and subtract. Sure, kids learn in different styles, but if they’re not learning what 8×6 is, they’re not being taught what they need.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    grrr….
    grumblegrumble
    gripegripe
    grrr….

    Dammit, Clavos, I hate it when you prove me wrong! But I won’t allow my pissed-offedness to keep me from admitting when I’m wrong and the other guy is right. You’re right and I’m wrong and please accept my sincere thanks – I just wish that others on BC (on ALL sides) would have the wherewithal to publicly admit when they’re wrong, especially on the big questions.

    One other thing, though – do you really think the ease of access to government loans is responsible for all the above-normal-inflation-rate rise in tuition prices? If so, then why?

  • Clavos

    No I don’t, and at least one of the articles I linked pointed out that costs, particularly in administration, have also escalated during the same period (last 30-40 years). However, I do believe the primary and strongest reason is the wide availability of government money (including loans), and so, as you saw, did the sources.

  • Clavos

    Baronius,

    Once again, I find myself in basic agreement with you (#50). I too, am intensely interested in education, because I believe it is important to the overall health of the nation to a degree that surpasses most of what the government administers.

    However, this time I must disagree with you on whether the “repair” (for want of a better word) of our nation’s school systems should be undertaken by the federal government, because I think the local governments, with the input from parents and teachers (remember the old PTAs? I envision something similar, but more formally organized and with greater standing in school operation decision-making), along with school boards and school administrators are better equipped and more knowledgeable about their local strengths and weaknesses. In this project, I don’t think a “one size fits all” approach will work well.

    The money (Some of it) will have to come from the DOE — more for some districts (inner city, rural districts, e.g.) than for others (Westchester county NY, e.g.), and all districts should have to kick in to the point of some sacrifice so they will value the end result.

    Just some highlights, and one last point:

    We should have started yesterday…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Hm. Okay, thanks. But I’m still pissed off, if for no other reason than on general principle. For today only, that’s my way of compensating for not knowing something I should’ve known.

  • Igor

    It’s hard to believe that anyone but sclerotic old radical rightists would take Bill Bennett seriously, since the guys scholastic creds are paper thin and he’s been implicated in numerous scandals, especially gambling and racism.

    But, on the other hand, there seems to be no limit to the gullibility of BlogCritics rightists when it comes to faux-intellectual pronunciamentos by discredited voices from the dark cesspools of Residual Reaganism. Those things seem to rub the erogenous zones of the susceptible in just the right way to excite old dreams of glory.

    I suppose it seems really novel and adventurous and just nouveau all around if you didn’t have to live through that avalanche of bilge during the 80s, but if you were actually there it’s just a laugh.

  • Clavos

    Igor, you should submit #55 to The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest — It’s a winner!

    You’re an editor’s wet dream, Igor.

  • Igor

    Keep your sex life to yourself, Clavos, nobody here is interested.

  • Clavos

    :)

  • Igor

    Bill Bennett, eh? Well, let’s see, he vaingloriously published a book called “The Book Of Virtues” and quickly earned the title The Bookie of Virtues” when it came out that he was a compulsive gambler, a real plunger, who blew $8million in Atlantic city and became a Preferred Customer there.

    Bill Bennett: the guy who pointed out that if all newborn black babies were killed at birth the crime rate would drop.

    Bill Bennett! Oh, he’s a great one to cite, especially when he points the finger of outraged morality at Clinton for HIS escapades!

  • Baronius

    Clavos – I’d love to see such a thing happen as you describe in #53. But if it could, it would have happened organically. We don’t see a lot of school districts rising to the occasion beyond what you’d expect from the family incomes of their students. Even if it were happening, we don’t have a way of measuring it without standardized tests. That to me indicates that we need something top-downier than usual.

    Igor – Bennett spend some of his own money on gambling, and referred to an essay in the best-seller Freakonomics as an example of amoral thinking, so we shouldn’t listen to what the former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Education has to say about education costs?