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US AFRICA EDUCATOR Edition 2
Truth in Higher Education: For Some But Not for All
For the 15th of April, there were more than 30 offers in the Writing/Editing/Translation service section of Craigslist, which are open offers to defraud the educational system by writing students’ papers, taking their tests, or doing their research. Some offers follow:
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It’s a shock isn’t it? Or maybe it isn’t. Perhaps we are used to it now, money buying everything; politics, positions, recognition, and university degrees. But the above offers which continue day after day on Craigslist indicate that the dishonesty in higher education is reaching down to secondary education. Students pay for others to take their exams, write their papers, even do their artwork. Underneath the willingness to cheat is a pervading sense of entitlement by not only students but also by parents.
As noted in US Africa Educator Edition 1, the problems of our educational system have been laid bare by the hard statistics of student loans. For those of you that did not read the first article, it exposed recent student loan repayment statistics that about 40% of student debtors are not repaying on a loan amount of $200 million. There are millions of students entering higher education that when finished are unable to pay back their student loans from the employment they receive at university. Why?
There are other facts and statistics that undermine the reasoning supporting the continual push by society for nearly all high school students to go to college. Following are some assessments
coming in from the real world on the educational system by responsible critics some from the academic world others from the world of work where education is expected to give an edge. In Academically Adrift Limited Learning on College Campuses, a study written by Richard Arum and Josip Roksa published by the University of Chicago Press provides analysis of the actual impact of universities on critical thinking skills of their students over time. Its research drew on transcript data, the Collegiate Learning Assessments, and survey responses from more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions from their first semester and again at the end of their second academic year to determine improvements in work-related skills from two years of university education. The analysis revealed that 45 percent of these students demonstrated no significant improvement in a range of skills–including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing–during their first two years of college.
Another hard-hitting assessment, which while not statistical, reflects the employment thinking of one of America’s greatest technology firms, Google, undermines the value
of higher education in developing work skills. In a June 2013 New York Times article, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google stated: “one of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they didn’t predict anything.”
Three issues noted above, unpaid debt, limited impact of two years education on many skills including critical thinking, and the assessment by Google that a degree and high test score are worthless in determining how well a candidate will do in their organization, point to the problem with the higher education system and how it is failing to accomplish what it as an industry proclaims it does for its clients, students.
Before going further, I will say college is meant for some, particularly for the having a talent for a particular subject and the drive to utilize that talent well, but even those should get more optimal results from the experience and not just believe what they are told that they are ‘getting.’ Even for these students, the educational system, as it is, can provide more at less cost. I remember well a talented PhD. economics student at Cornell, whose interpersonal skills were extremely limited and his best effort at communications according to housemates was singing songs from popular musicals in the shower.
This article is not for those that still believe wholeheartedly that the university system provides what it says it does. Rather it is to open up a discussion for those that are concerned and worried about whether they will get value for money and time by enrolling themselves or as parents enrolling their children in degree programs. It is meant to seriously question the narrative that has been
promoted for so long. It also hopes to help parents and students to know that the best bargain in degree programs come only after hard work in researching likely outcomes and honesty in what a student truly wants and can actually achieve. Just follow your dream is not good advice.
The question one has to ask is whether one is willing to risk the $85,000 to $170,000 which the range of a four-year degree (in 2014) for degree credentials. Will it bring employment expected at the quoted salary ranges? Or will it result in the student when grown, being one of the more than 40% that cannot pay off their loan or the more than 50% of students still at home at age 25 after graduating? There is a lot of difference between $185K and $10K if one is simply passing through what has been called the Factory Model of Education. It is well worth taking a good look the $10,000 degrees now being offered at many universities. If the goal is professional education that can be acquired at any positively accredited college or university, why pay the premium for the infrastructure investments many universities have made based on achieving a more aesthetic campus and the high salaries of tenured professors many of which are dedicated to research and pass the teaching part on to their graduate students or part-time Adjunct Professors (PhD’s that get paid about $3,000 a course).
In fact the abuse of these individuals is a sad commentary on the corruption at many universities. This inequality exemplifies the treacherous grounds of continuing from degree to degree assuming more is better. I know some of these $30,000 a year PhD’s, and it is a grim life. They often teach the curriculum while their betters, tenured and over $100K wander the surreal world of ‘modern’ research, particularly in the liberal arts. As detailed in Princes of Africa, a student can get the library of a liberal arts education which for generations was the education of the elite for the price of a Kindle Fire and time spent downloading the classics for free. For those wanting more Africa in the curriculum, Princes of Africa has developed an African Companion to the ‘Great Books’
which broadens it. And rather than enrolling in several courses costing thousands of dollars each, a modest support to a mentor can help the student achieve what he/she or their parents desire in less time and in a more customized approach. A well cultivated Kindle allows one to carry the most exhaustive Great Books library and more in one’s jacket pocket.
A prominent commentator on the truth of higher education, Charles Hughes Smith, estimates that using what he calls the Nearly Free University and what are commonly called Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) he estimates that the true cost aside from what he calls the Higher Education Cartel rent seeking and artificial credential scarcity should be about $4500. I recommend all of his books but especially The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy: The Revolution in Education and Get A Real Job Build A Real Career Defy Bewildering Economy. They are available in cheaper Kindle additions. Also should you want to understand his position on education
before buying his books, he has a very well-known blog: ww.OffTwoMinds.com. He follows both the economy and education assiduously.
For many students whose parents pay astronomical amounts for prestigious schools do not do so for the education but rather for the social connections. If that is your reason, it is understandable if you get employment that justifies any loans that may be taken out by yourself or your parents. However, Ivy League schools do not ensure you lifetime work. Note that two of the peddlers on Craigslist come from extremely good schools, Princeton, and Stanford. Why are they peddling their superior education? Most likely because the
Emerging Economy erased their work via technology or off-shored to brilliant South Asians or Chinese. Many highly educated people are struggling now because of the wrong education. This phenomena is addressed in Mr. Hughes second book as well as several others.
In the future, the US Africa Educator will address the University problem and approaches to getting real benefit from the University system at an economical cost. There are many fallacies in the promotion of doing university the way the cartel recommends but please understand these are the people that have increased the cost of university by 1.000% in a generation.
The US Africa Educator has commenced its commentary by; first, it is hoped, by creating doubt in the University or Bust Narrative. It will then focus on K-12 and how the public school system with its many benefits and opportunities can be optimized such that it allows the flexibility to make it in the new world of the emerging economies. Having been in hundreds of classrooms of all
sorts, it has its goal to help students and parents optimize the years in public schools. There are wonderful resources there, not only good teachers but powerful learning software. Its diversity of coursework will help students prepare for a future of lifelong learning and exposure to contents that while not being critical to the professional objective will bring skills needed in a Do It Yourself Universe as well as the value of simplicity, modesty, and humility.
Your child may become a Doctor or enter some other wonderful profession but wouldn’t it be useful if he knew what was required to maintain his house, vehicle, as well as learning how to manage their resources. Doctors are famous for bad investments. Perhaps that can be avoided by a few courses in financial investments and simple bookkeeping. Besides the world changes, in the USSR and other socialist economies, being a Doctor was one of the lower professions. A fighter pilot was paid much more. Also given the predilection of high tech companies to import experts at lower salaries, suppose a different kind of country added 100.000 Doctors (best of the best) from China, South Asia, and other countries to the estimated 825,000 plus active Doctors now? After all about 25% of US Doctors were educated abroad.