Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Case for NOT Saving for College

Jeff Bogle's "The Case for NOT Saving for College" (Huffington Post) tells middle-class parents that trying to put away $1200 a year for their kids' future college education might be less worthwhile in the long run than spending that money now on teaching them: exploring the world, learning new things, and expanding their horizons TOGETHER through travel or educational projects and programs.  I think the argument speaks to how much the focus on delayed gratification at the heart of middle-class thinking often prevents us from spending time here and now with our kids so that we can pass on our knowledge and values to them.  It also says a lot about how suspicious people have become regarding the value of higher education, which seems increasingly to benefit the banks.  As Bogle writes near the end of his piece:
Maybe this can be read as a case against college itself; I do think it's terribly overrated for professions outside the highly technical. But there can be a lot of value in education -- probably more value when one is educated at 28 as opposed to 18 -- but value nonetheless. Really, this is a case against the relatively new idea that we must -- MUST -- stash money away for our children's higher learning expenses. That we are doing them a disservice if we don't or cannot. I contend this idea is a bit of a marketing ploy by the financial industry desperately searching for new ways to get inside our wallets. 
Read the full post here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Few See Better Future for Higher Education

"Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era," written by a group from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, presents polling data that suggest that most people have surrendered themselves to a "diminished" future for themselves and their children.  The authors sum up their findings by writing:
When asked about the future of employment, college affordability, job security, retirement, and other tenets of American prosperity, more than twice as many respondents have a negative vision of the future compared to those with a positive one. Just 19% agree that overall job, career, and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation. Six in ten Americans believe they will not recover from the effects of the recession, a sobering assessment of the American recovery. (20)

The vision of the future for college is especially grim, given that "six times as many people feel the ability of young people to afford a college education is a thing of the past" than believe it will be affordable (10).  That suggests that parents may be discouraging their kids from going to college and may already be pushing them toward trade schools.

Part of why people may hold such pessimistic views is highlighted by the Rutgers news release on the study, titled "Rutgers' Heldrich Center Study Finds Three in Four Americans Touched Personally by Great Recession."  With so many people having personal or close contact with job loss and financial insecurity, it is little wonder they are pessimistic.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Law School Bubble Begins to Burst

Ethan Bronner's "Law Schools' Applications Fall as Tuition Rises and Jobs Are Cut" (The New York Times, January 30, 2013) points to why Law Schools are at the bleeding edge of cuts in higher education that seem inevitable in all sectors of the bubble we are in: Law Schools cannot keep afloat by enrolling international students.  As Bronner notes:

The drop in law school applications is unlike what is happening in almost any other graduate or professional training, except perhaps to veterinarians. Medical school applications have been rising steadily for the past decade.  /  Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said first-time enrollments to master of business degree programs were steady — a 0.8 percent increase among Americans in 2011 after a decade of substantial growth. But growth in first-time foreign student enrollments — 13 percent over the same period — made up the difference, something from which law schools cannot benefit, since foreigners have less interest in American legal training.
Looking to foreign students to keep the money flowing in professional degree programs, however, is like looking to tar sands to keep us supplied with oil: both point up the unsustainable situation in which we find ourselves.  Eventually other countries will build a competing higher education system that will dry up that flow.

The $10K Degree

In "My Valuable, Cheap College Degree," Arthur C. Brooks presents his own personal experience with distance education to lend support for the idea of the $10K Bachelor's Degree.  A graduate of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., Brooks was obviously very self-motivated and assembled his degree piecemeal, in much the way that supporters of MOOCs imagine that future college grads will be able to do:
I took classes by mail from the University of Washington, the University of Wyoming, and other schools with the lowest-priced correspondence courses I could find. My degree required the same number of credits and type of classes that any student at a traditional university would take. I took the same exams (proctored at local libraries and graded by graduate students) as in-person students. But I never met a teacher, never sat in a classroom, and to this day have never laid eyes on my beloved alma mater.  
Read the rest online at The New York Times.