Friday, August 1, 2014

90% of Community College isn’t College

By Professor Doom

I’ve been looking at another community college to demonstrate, once again, my claims that much of higher education is bogus are quite valid. Anyone who cares to look at the course offerings at LACC can see this…and it’s odd that I seem to be the only one in higher education making the effort.

Last time I showed that “College Algebra”, what once was a remedial course, is actually a second year course at LACC. This is rather surprising, since in many other parts of the country, it’s still a first year course. Shouldn’t someone ask why the same material just keeps getting redefined as ever more advanced? Educationists are forever bleating about how they’re improving education, but objectively that isn’t the case.

So, let’s count up all the courses at LACC and see just how much of it is actually college level material, as compared to material that’s already offered in the high schools.

There are 131 sections of math classes on LACC campus. I promise you, the lower level courses have many, many, more students than the upper level sections, but let’s just look at the course offerings.

118 of those 131 classes, 90%, are pre-college level. Note that this is the same as  the 90% “high school and lower” course rate I found at another community college. You really think it’s a coincidence? Primarily, community colleges take hapless teenagers in, swirl them around for years in useless coursework, then flush them away once the loan and grant money runs out. One could argue it’s well over 90%, since each class has an associated lab further taking up “higher education” resources.

7 of those 131 classes, well under 10%, are first year courses. Hawaiian Punch is often criticized for being “10% real fruit juice” and thus 90% crap. Community colleges are 90% crap…where’s the criticism here?

6 of those 131 classes, not even 5%, are actually 2nd year courses, and probably would count as such at a university. This 2 year college has been in existence over 80 years, and not even 5% of the students there make it to the second year of college. Imagine a high school where 95% of the students don’t start taking senior classes until they are at least 98 years old, to get a nice image of how ridiculous this is.

More realistically, LACC has lowered their course offerings to the 3rd grade, rather than do the real education of raising students to the college level. Would a high school with a 95% failure rate still be around? Would a high school that redefines “can read at a high school level” to “can read at the 6th grade level” really get away with yearly receiving hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer support? And yet a community college that does such things can do so, without criticism.

I conjecture the primary reason for the lack of criticism is the people just don’t know what’s going on there. I’m doing what I can to fix that, of course, and it’s a simple matter for anyone to look at the course offerings and see I’m not lying.

People are sold on going to community college, but realize, more than 90% of community college students, quite obviously, never actually do any college work or have even a slight chance of gaining any college level skills. These students, more accurately the taxpayers, pay exorbitantly for college credit. All that taxpayer money that goes to “higher education” instead funds wildly overpaid administration while students shuffle around taking the same crap their parents already paid dearly for their kids to learn in public schools. Why doesn’t accreditation or some other agency have a problem with this sort of double dipping?

Anyone that’s bothered to look can tell most of higher education is fraud. Community college, especially, is a trap for a great many students, who simply don’t know what they’re signing up for. It sure is cheaper than university…but just how much do you think all that 8th grade material will be worth when applying for a job? Students that have taken 2 years of coursework at LACC could easily still require 4 more years of coursework before they could get a 4 year degree at a university.

So, please, be wary of going to community college, or sending your children to it. You totally can get an education there, but you must be very, very careful to pick the right programs and courses. Administration is not your friend in this regard and has set up a massive array of chaff courses to both confuse you and waste your precious time and money. They get paid salary that is 5 to 30 times as much as you, gentle reader, to do so.


  1. With regard to the slow but sustained collapse of standards, there's more involved than the cupidity of administrators. There's a widespread feeling that credentials are necessary to get ahead (I know, I know) coupled with the congenital incapacity of many (most?) CC students to handle *what used to be regarded* as genuine college-level work. The drive towards credentials (even patently meretricious ones) has its origins in the collapse of blue-collar work over the last four decades or so. In other words, it's an *endemic* social problem, not merely an educational one.

    1. I saw first-hand how students, over a period of years, could only handle lower-level material.

      When I started teaching in 1989, it was not unusual to have closed-book exams. I judged the level of difficulty of my exams by actually writing them myself as if I was a student in my own course. If I could finish it in one-third the time I allotted, then it was reasonable (i. e., I would, say, take 20 minutes for a 1-hour exam).

      By the time I quit my position, exams were all open-book unless they were practical tests in a lab or shop. That 1:3 ratio changed to 1:5, so a 1-hour exam for my students would take me 12 minutes to complete.

      I wasn't the only one to notice how that ratio was different. My Ph. D. supervisor did the same thing and his ratios for his undergrad courses were about the same as mine.

      As for standards and credentials, administrators would like to squeeze as much revenue out of a particular topic where possible. It's at a point that each subject would become a course in itself with its own certificate at the end. For example, a comprehensive course in vector algebra could be subdivided into several with one being in cross products, another in dot products, and, say, one more in determinants.

      To be able to do that, one simply dilutes the content of the course, reduces the difficulty of the material, and add a lot of padding or fluff material in order to fill the time.

      That way, instead of charging students to take one course, one can charge for 3. That's hardly surprising as I've seen something similar done for papers. My first grad supervisor took a data set and, rather than producing a good publication, he wrote at least 3 of lesser quality by subdividing those data and publishing papers with each portion. That way, he looked like he was being much more productive.

    2. Oh, the "divide your paper into 'least publishable' amounts" trick has become much more sophisticated. Now, you enter into "paper agreements" with colleagues at different schools. You write a paper, your colleagues write a paper...and you all put each other names' on each others papers.

      So, you put in the work to write one paper, but publish at least 3 papers (assuming the agreement is with 2 other professors).

      It's a great deal. One guy I know ships in Chinese postdoc students, looking for an American Ph.D. "I'll give you the degree, but you have to write a paper and share the name with me and my friends."

      He's at Dartmouth now, I think, and has, literally, hundreds of published papers. Anyone doing the math on how much time he must spend writing would wonder at all his other activities...

    3. While I was working on my first master's degree more than 30 years ago, I remember reading of someone who was cranking out papers like doughnuts, many, if not all, citing him as the principal author. It turned out that he plagiarized other people's publications, stuck his name on them, and published them as his own.

      He came to the attention of certain authorities when he was producing papers at a rate close to one a week.

      The more I hear about stunts like this, the less enchanted I am with academe. I remember how I wanted to be a university professor. Now I'm not so sure it would have been in my best interest to become one. My ethics and standards of professionalism would soon be overwhelmed by how things are really done.