1)A study by York College suggests that many graduates are unprepared for the working world. The study cites the expectations of business leaders and HR people as including “the ability to communicate and listen respectfully, motivation to finish a task and attention to appearance.” While the study indicates that many graduating college seniors may lack these attributes, they do possess certain other ones:
There’s a sense of entitlement that we’ve picked up on. Where people think they’re entitled to become, let’s say president of the company, within the next two years. They’re entitled to five weeks of vacation.
York says it is now trying to teach “professionalism” in addition to whatever else it already teaches. But sitting into an auditorium and listening to some executive, a few weeks before graduation, strikes me as less about teaching professionalism and more about teaching how to simulate professionalism in an interview.
2)On the other hand, this article, by a very experienced professor of political science, suggests that the modern American college experience tends to breed dependency among students. (via Maggie’s Farm) So, putting this together with the last item, I guess universities can develop dependency and irresponsibility in their students for 3 1/2 years and then have an intensive program to try to cure it for the last 1/2 year…getting paid for both phases, of course.
4)Glenn Reynolds, a law professor as well as a distinguished blogger, writes that higher education’s bubble is about to burst:
Buyers see that everyone else is taking on mounds of debt, and so are more comfortable when they do so themselves; besides, for a generation, the value of what they’re buying has gone up steadily. What could go wrong? Everything continues smoothly until, at some point, it doesn’t.
Yes, this sounds like the housing bubble, but I’m afraid it’s also sounding a lot like a still-inflating higher education bubble.
For years now, students have been encouraged to attend college not so much for the reason that knowledge is valuable in its own right…nor for the purpose of acquiring specific practical knowledge which will be of value to them in their careers…but to obtain a credential. “A college degree means a better job.”
A bubble exists, as I noted in this 2003 post, when things–tulips, shares of stock, college degrees–are valued for the circular reason that they are valued, rather than for any intrinsic worth. Although bubbles always collapse, the length of time they are sustained, and the amount of damage they do before they collapse and when they collapse, varies widely.
Speaking of bubbles, hedge fund manager Steve Eisman, who is well-known for having anticipated the housing market crash, has some strong words about the for-profit segment of the education industry: “Until recently I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive and morally bankrupt as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The for-profit education industry has proven equal to the task.” (When Mr Eisman refers to “being involved with” an industry in this sense, he surely means shorting it.)
And here’s San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who despite his city’s large budget deficit wants to establish and fund college savings accounts for all kindergartners. (To be precise, for all kindergartners in the public schools.) What if when the kid gets out of high school he doesn’t want to attend college but rather wants to start a business or go to welding school? Will “his” funds be available for those purposes? The linked article doesn’t make it clear, but I doubt it.
Gavin Newsom largely represents the kind of people who harp endlessly on “self-esteem.” Has he ever considered what the exclusive focus on college as the key to success does to the self-esteem of those whose path lies in another direction? Again, I doubt it.
A salesman of my acquaintance was fond of the phrase “in sales as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.” Too many of the people selling higher education are going around with a pocketful of pre-canned presciptions–“Hey, I know what you need. You need several more years of education!”–without making any serious attempt to fit the prescription to the patient’s real needs.
Too much human talent is being wasted, and too much debt is being incurred, on behalf of educational flavors and activities lacking both economic and intrinsic value.