Lower Education

One hopes that one day a majority figures out just what a scam “higher education” has become:

Government figures show that of students who entered four-year colleges in 1997, just 54% had earned a degree six years later. A professor wrote about this issue in The Atlantic earlier this year, arguing that it’s immoral to tell all students they can go to college, then crush their dreams by failing half of them. But the problem has deeper effects than hurt feelings: the 54% graduation rate means that around 46% of all money used to finance college tuition results in no degree.

Which means that financially speaking, the spectacularly high dropout rate boils down to a spectacularly bad investment. Though there’s no specific data, one can imagine the countless millions that are wasted financing educations that never come to fruition. We could try to predict which students would be part of the 46% who don’t finish, then encourage those students not to go to college. But to do this would mean a lot of students who might graduate never get to give it a shot. That wouldn’t be fair. So what we can do instead is identify the 5% or 10% of students who are the least likely to graduate, and not send them to college.

The problem is, the current system provides no way, and no incentive, for doing that. In fact, the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) doesn’t take into account an applicant’s academic record at all. The rationale behind this is reasonable and admirable: we don’t want federal student aid to be restricted only to the best and the brightest, many of whom come from backgrounds that made it easy for them to excel. But doesn’t it make sense, on some level, to withhold aid from the students who have shown during high school that they’re clearly not equipped to make it through four years of college? Doing so would be a big step toward recouping some of that wasted 46% of lost financing.

Our liberals, from Obama on down, are pledged to making college more “affordable” – which isn’t the same as “less expensive” and has zero to do with “more effective”. What it means is “making it easier for ever more kids to enter the schools, thus providing an ever increasing pool of money for those bastions of liberal/left orthodoxy, the colleges and universities of the United States”. One only has to consider that people affiliated with the University of California gave $2 million in political donations in 2008, with 93% of that going to the Democrats, to understand that Democrats have a vested interest in making college more “affordable”. The more “affordable” it is, the more election swag they’ll get. Overall, $51 million was donated by people in education in 2008, with 82% of the total going to Democrats. This is a sweet deal, and whether or not kids are getting educated doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference. We’re talking money and power here, understand?

Now, don’t get me wrong – college has its purpose. We certainly want our doctors and engineers well educated in their trade before they take a knife to us or design the new bridge – and, on the whole, we get good results from our engineering and medical courses. But outside of those areas where results are very concrete and easily measurable, we’re not really getting all that much.

To be sure, having a degree can help, especially if its a degree from a prestige university – but mostly its a help in getting someone ensconced in government or corporate bureaucracy. This is because of a combination of “old boy” networks and hiring manager laziness – given a choice between a guy with a degree from Podunk U and Harvard, the hiring manager will take the Harvard applicant simply because Harvard has a good reputation and so even if the new hire turns out to be a bonehead, the man who hired him can credibly say, “hey, how was I to know? The kid has a degree from Harvard!”. So, too, with the choice between the Podunk U graduate and the kid with the high school diploma or GED – the hiring manager will make it easy on himself, rather than actually try to determine who has the better skill set.

But suppose you are one who doesn’t have a hankering for climbing the bureaucratic ladder? Maybe a person likes constructing things, and so would like to start up a construction business. Perhaps another likes the hustle and bustle of a sales job and so looks into opening up an appliance store. And then there’s the person who has a bit of artistic talent and thus wants make sculptures for people’s gardens. On and on it goes – a whole bunch of things, mostly very useful, for which a college degree would be mostly useless. And therein lies the rub – we’ve got this education system which is a one-size-fits-all-everyone-goes-to-college bit of nonsense. And even in that nonsense it fails miserably given the number of kids who wind up illiterate after spending years in the education system.

In my view, public education in America is a racket – and higher education the most corrupt part of it. We’re pouring huge sums of money into institutions which give a new definition to “getting richer by degrees”. Kids are burdened with absurd student loans, taxpayers are burdened with grants for un-needed education programs (can anyone think of one reason the US taxpayer should in any way, shape or form provide assistance to law schools?), tenured radicals pollute our political system, bloated education bureaucracies provide sinecures for liberals who then lobby for more funding, ad infinitum. Time to cut out the cancer – time, that is, for conservatism to take a hand at education reform.

The best thing we can do is to terminate the idiotic student loan program and opt instead for a series of grants based on income level and academic achievement. And the grants will be “X” dollars and no more – the schools will still want the money, and so they’ll be forced to cut their prices to match the grants, and this will make college more genuinely affordable to those middle and upper class kids who would not be eligible for the grants given to poor kids. After that, we can come up with a host of other reforms (free medical school – if you commit to serving 6 years in a poor area of the country, eg), but we can gut this education scam right out the gate by getting rid of the student loans and other government programs which have only inflated the cost of education and provided funding for Democrats and their supporters.