23.12.08

THEY'RE BEGINNING TO CATCH ON. Via Minding the Campus, an article titled "Why College Is A Waste of Money" in a service called The Daily Beast (it has nothing to do with roller coasters or big-game hunting).

But there are plenty of four-year colleges willing to take the money of anyone who can pony up -- whether that money comes from parents, the government, or that student's paychecks until he’s old enough to buy a discounted movie ticket. These colleges have seats to fill and bills to pay, and sure, they'd all love to be Harvard, but they'll take what they can get. And student lenders? They have absolutely no incentive to encourage responsible borrowing because they will get paid back -- you can file for bankruptcy 400 times, and your student loans will still be there, with interest and penalties accruing daily.

The people financing these college investments -- parents and taxpayers -- have a right to demand that 46% of their money isn't sunk into the education of a student who drops out after a few semesters.

George Leef extends the argument.
Despite all the hype about the wonderful intellectual and economic benefits of a college education, the reality is breaking through---for many young people, college is a poor use of time and money. The reason why the percentage of Americans 25 to 34 who earn college degrees is starting to fall is that families are figuring out that a college degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for a good life. The statistic that the higher education leaders find so alarming is made up of a lot of rational decisions that go something like this:
Mom and Dad: Son, your sister graduated from XYZ State two years ago and has beenearning $24,000 per year as an aerobics instructor. You're no better a student thanshe was. We know that several of your friends are going there, but don't you think youmight prefer to learn electrical work or something like that?

Son: Well, that makes sense. I don't really like school work that much, and from whatI hear, electricians make good, steady money.
It isn't the least bit surprising---much less dangerous to the nation---that we're seeing some decline in college graduation rates. For a lot of marginal, disengaged students, embarking on the quest for a BA simply doesn't make sense.
Both articles suggest that young people who would like to give higher education a try start at their community college. That's not a bad suggestion, although, as the dean at Anonymous Community notes, the mission, and the job description, are different.

I understand that a cc may not be what you had in mind when you went to grad school. I also don't care. We take our work seriously, and we want colleagues who take it seriously, too. Our students deserve no less. I've seen candidates who did everything short of holding their noses during interviews; every single one of them was immediately DOA. If you believe that a cc is somehow beneath you, don't apply.

The second, related to the first, is curiosity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the candidates who talked less about themselves and more about the college generally did quite well. If you're just giving Prepared Talk #14, you'll be less impressive than if you're actually engaging the group, and engaging is a two-way process.

Obviously, that involves doing some homework prior to the talk. What's the teaching load, both in terms of credits/courses/hours/preps, and in terms of level? I once heard a math candidate generously offer that she was willing to go as 'low' in the curriculum as Calc I once in a while, in a spirit of shared sacrifice. Most of the job involves teaching either remedial or college algebra. She didn't get the offer.

The same can apply to the English applicant who only wants to teach literature, as opposed to composition, or nearly anybody who refuses to teach gen eds. In the cc universe, those courses are most of what we do; if you aren't excited to do them, you probably shouldn't work here.

In my world, too much dissertation talk is a clue that you really have something else in mind. Talk about teaching is much better received, particularly if it references both the scholarship of teaching and learning and your own actual teaching experience with students similar to ours.

That explanation is spot on, although it points to two deeper problems that higher education has yet to tackle, namely the attempted coup of the college of education in higher education ("the scholarship of teaching and learning") that has already applied that thinking to the disadvantages of the common schools, and the Ph.D. as a research degree (perhaps people who would like to earn a comfortable, if not spectacular income teaching economics general eds have no reason to stay one step ahead of Selten and Tirole in the chain store paradox) where many of the higher education appointments are not at research departments.

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