Higher ed. II

For the first time in 1,086 posts, we have a continuation of the same topic. With the thought-provoking responses from Saturday’s entry, and a lively conversation with Lars about it on the back porch last evening, I figured it was worth another beatdown.

The cost of college in the past 30 years has gone up tenfold. Health care has only gone up sixfold, and inflation has only gone up threefold. Not only is it a scam, but the college presidents know it. That’s why they keep raising tuition. – James Altucher, New York–based venture capitalist and finance writer

So, we have the third bubble in recent years. First the dot-com disaster, then the housing/mortgage market — and now this. The college bubble. Indeed, according to an informative article in New York magazine, record numbers of high school students are entering college, but over half leave without graduating, taking mountains of debt along for the ride. Still, people keep enrolling like there’s no tomorrow. Someday, it has to end. And I predict it will end badly. Hmmm…university bailouts, mayhap?

Honestly, could it have something to do with forcing 17-year-old kids to make enormous life and career decisions while they’re still living with their parents and have never once ventured out into the real world? I know there are exceptions — lots of them, even. There always are. But we’re talking percentages here that should really shock and awe. This is not to say that grownups can’t entertain career changes; it happens all the time. But to pledge two hundred grand for a four-year experiment? Insanity.

I had an incomplete undergrad experience back in the 70s, and paid for the privilege for the next 10 years, while I learned what I really wanted to be and do and hold dear. If only I’d reversed that order. But, everyone was going to college, and I wanted to sing on Broadway, and no way could I ever be a successful performer without a college education, right? [Insert names of countless artists who did just that.]

Who knows what would have happened if I’d just dropped everything after high school, moved to NYC, and started chasing the dream. Maybe nothing. Maybe something big. No matter, because what ended up happening to me (Seamus and Lars) was hands-down the biggest blessing and greatest “achievement” of my life. I don’t want to be anywhere else right now.

Thing is, you see…it took me a good 30 years to evolve to this point, and the collegiate experience was absolutely nothing more than, as BoomR alluded to yesterday, a means to an end. Truly, it has no more import than a blip on the radar screen. Have you thought about how many of your college courses were absolute jokes, taught by well-meaning profs who probably hadn’t stepped off campus in years? Music ed. majors know exactly what I’m talking about, and I’m sure people from other disciplines can relate as well. Irrelevance ran unabated throughout my undergraduate AND graduate experiences — especially at the doctoral level, shoo-eee. And I still paid top dollar to listen to it all. Am I mental?

I believe the crystal castle of tenure, the war for enrollment numbers, corporate greed, inequitable endowments and the inability for small schools to compete are all swirling around in an oversized Osterizer right now, and the cocktail is bitter and dangerous. When will American families put their collective feet down and give up the Howard Beale rebel yell? It’s like we’re sheep, led about on a leash and forced to eat whatever nasty gruel the farmer puts in front of us. How do I know this? Baaaa.

It’s too bad the Thiel Fellowship targets only 24 people. There are millions of young minds out there with great ideas. If they hone their skills at university and feel good about it, and end up with gainful employment because of it, then I’m the first to congratulate. It’s getting out of the system without facing immediate financial asphyxiation that worries me. How long are we going to stand for it? Can we learn something from countries that subsidize post-secondary education? Of course, the entrance guidelines are much more stringent. And my oh my, doesn’t that bring on a whole ‘nother kettle of discussion fish…

Happy Monday – and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BOOMR! Does it feel any different than 51? :P

3 thoughts on “Higher ed. II

  1. BoomR

    Thanks, luv! And nope…same old creaky joints as before! I’m starting the day by going to my chiro! LOL :-)

  2. Kodye

    I was going to post something about how I agree with everything you said, but then it makes me remember the thousands of dollars I lost going to college for 1 semester, and dropping out because I wasn’t ready to make a choice about what I wanted to do with the REST OF MY LIFE at the age of 17. And that makes me sad. Who would of guessed that a 17 year old would be more worried about partying, going to concerts, and enjoying their senior year than really learning about themselves and what would be a good career for them? Crazy.

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      My point, precisely. There’s not a year that goes by that I don’t sit and listen to my high school students openly worry about what they’re “going to do next.” When I ask them, many give me a worried, exasperated response, like, “I’m not sure, but I know I have to get moving on it.” Thinking that scholarships are going to get you through 4 years is, for many students, a pipe dream (unless you’re on a full academic or need-based ride, or going to a Division I or II school on an athletic scholarship). And that doesn’t even address your initial point that most 17-year-olds have no clue what they want to end up doing when they’re 60.


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