Thursday, October 22, 2015

Degrees to be Debased Further

By Professor Doom

     One of the big issues with the corporate structure, regardless of the corporation, is it must eventually debase the corporate product: invariably, the product is reduced to the lowest quality that can sell at the highest price. If corporate officers don’t perpetually seek to either reduce quality or raise prices at every opportunity, they’re inevitably replaced by people who can accomplish one or the other.

     Fast food cheeseburgers, for example, used to be pretty good. But some executive figured out that overhead could be cut if just a bit of filler, just a touch of pink slime, was added to the meat, adding to profits. A few years later, after customers got used to “only slightly” inferior taste, the amount of filler could be increased, further reducing quality…and similarly, the slice of cheese has been slivered down to about 1/3 of what a slice used to be. I encourage the gentle reader, even if you can’t prepare your own grilled hamburgers at home properly, to skip fast food hamburgers for six months. After that break, you’ll almost certainly become nauseated, and quite possibly vomit, if you try to eat the things they sell nowadays.

     But enough of cheeseburgers, we’re here to talk about higher education, which should be completely different than cheeseburgers.

     For most of higher education’s existence, it had no corporate philosophy. Instead, educators simply took reasonable (but not ostentatious) wages to provide education, taking satisfaction from simply helping human beings to improve themselves. Education provided in this manner turned out to have financial value (or at least, quite possibly did)…but this was a coincidence at best, tangential to the purpose of higher education, years ago.

     Higher education has very much been taken over by the corporate mentality. In times past, courses with 5 students in them would be allowed to be held—not profitable, but this was considered a small price to pay in exchange for helping human beings improve. Now, classes with 30 students are too small—not profitable enough, even though tuition has been raised and professorial pay lowered to the point that just one student in the class is usually enough to cover the adjunct’s pay.

     Education, however, is not a cheeseburger. It’s no nearly so easy to tell if there’s a quality product, and you can’t get a refund if it turns out the education is fake (at least, you can’t get a refund at accredited schools—it’s shameful that now unaccredited schools are the legitimate schools that will give refunds, while accredited schools are the ones with stigmas attached to them because they screw students and provide no recourse).

      Even more importantly, it can take years before debased education is revealed. One (state) university was forced to offer 2 “bonus” years of tuition to their graduates, because so many of their graduates were found incompetent…the program had been running for almost a decade before the discovery of the worthlessness of the degree program was finally too obvious to be overlooked (although admin worked hard to cover it up as long as possible, it was obvious to the educators what was going on, within one semester).

     The corporate mentality of today’s administrators in higher education mean they’re forever trying to debase education, to reduce quality even as tuition rises and rises, and so let’s look at one of the more subtle methods:

     The scheduling issues, of course, are because there are more students than class offerings. You can only double the class size so many times before it becomes ridiculously obvious the quality can’t be reduced further that way—many campuses have class sizes of 500 or more students now, we’re at that limit.  
     The school won’t hire enough faculty to offer the classes appropriate to their student base, because that would cut into profits. Corporate thinking won’t allow that.

     So, we’re back to reducing quality. Now, my bachelor’s degree, acquired decades ago, took 128 credit hours. One of the advantages to that degree (mathematics) was it required relatively few hours compared to just about every other degree (at that time). I reckon this was because so many of the credits were for advanced mathematics courses, and very few electives, but the end result was it still required fewer college classes than other degree programs.

      Let’s do some math here, on this 4 year degree. Two semesters a year, so eight semesters for the degree. 128 hours divided by 8 semesters is 16 hours a semester. So, to get a 4 year degree in 4 years, requires 16 hours a semester to graduate on time. I took some summer classes, but not everyone can do that, I admit.

     Most students are told by admin to sign up for 12 credit hours, because 12 credit hours is a full time load, and that’s the minimum to get all that sweet student loan/grant money. It’s unethical to give our kids right out of high school bad advice that keeps them from graduating on time, but giving bad advice increases profits—again, the corporate mentality pops up. Thus, we don’t have many 4 year graduates anymore, as it cuts into profits.

     Anyway, UND is under pressure to produce more graduates, or at least increase graduation percentage. Rather than act with integrity (no money in that!), admin won’t simply start restricting applicants, and won’t just give incoming students good advice. Instead, it will instead reduce the number of hours needed for a degree, the alleged product of higher education:

A minimum of 125 credit hours is required to earn a bachelor's degree…Student Senate passed a resolution on Sept. 13 in favor of reducing that requirement to 120 credits, hoping it will help improve four-year graduation rates.

     Ah, the “quick” 128 credit hour degrees of my youth are now considered relatively extensive…quality has already been reduced so that now 125 is the quick degree, which in turn is now being reduced to 120 hours. The slice of cheese is getting smaller, folks, even as the price of the product goes up.

     Now, I admit, going from 125 down to 120 is only another sliver, just one more sliver from all the other slivers that have been steadily snipped off over the years. But how many more slivers can we take out? It isn’t the credit hours that have been diluted down, after all, the individual courses have also had their content reduced (adding “pink slime” if you will). Students now spend 9 fewer hours a week studying than they did decades ago, while GPAs have soared due to grade inflation (inflation that starts in the public schools, as schools with over 30 co-valedictorians in a single class can attest). It’s hard to look at those two facts and not realize coursework has degenerated, although studies easily show it as well.

     Please understand, when degree programs were first being set up, the various educators and researchers got together and decided what someone “educated” in a particular field really should know, what they really wanted colleagues to know. The courses aren’t chosen randomly. Someone with a degree in, say, Chemistry needed to take a certain number of chemistry-related hours (much of it in a laboratory, although nowadays lab work is much reduced—lab expenses cut into profits, you see), as well as a bit of work in writing, some other sciences…even another language could well be something that the academics of past decided was important for an educated person to know.

      Anyone with a legitimate higher education-related degree should know why degrees are the way they are. Unfortunately, the point of a degree program has been completely forgotten by the Education-ignorant administration that runs UND:

Johnson said he checked with the Office of the Registrar but said nobody knows where the requirement for 125 credits originally came from or what it was based on, though it has been in place since at least the 1970s.

      None of the administrators in higher education have a clue about degree programs. Isn’t it sad that these guys have Education Administration Ph.D.’s and don’t know the basics of why degrees are set up the way they are? All their Ph.D.’s have taught them is to add pink slime and reduce the cheese, apparently. Oh, and raise prices.

     Much like most people don’t even know what a real cheeseburger is supposed to taste like, very few people even know the point of a college education, or understand how or why it had value. Certainly, the people running higher education today have no idea.

      And so we debase down, down, down, with more filler, smaller portions…and a much higher price. The only question remaining is at what point will people get sick of what they’re being fed here?

      Wait, am I talking about cheeseburgers or higher education? Is there a difference anymore?