Saturday, April 25, 2015

Study: Quickie Degrees Are Worthless

By Professor Doom

    Any look at the graduation statistics of our community colleges (and to a lesser extent, universities) shows graduation rates fluctuating between “miserable” and “atrocious”.

     Administration in higher education has responded, but never with integrity. Instead of simply not trying to sell higher education to anyone with a pulse, they’ve watered down much of education, introducing coursework and degrees that produce easy graduation and many sweet, sweet, student loan checks….but no useful skills or knowledge.

     This hasn’t been enough. Most new college students are not really high school level, and these new marginal students were shuffled into remedial programs that were great for accumulating those sweet, sweet, student loan checks…but don’t lead to degrees. Administration has responded here by introducing social promotion to college, so that, in many schools, college “courses” are packed with students that can neither read nor write nor calculate at the 9th grade level.

      And it’s still not enough.

      Another popular administration plan has some merit: speed up the degree process. Granted, this method isn’t as good as the others for getting those sweet, sweet, student loan checks, but at least it gives students fast degrees, and that’s worth something, right?


     Despite the fact these fast degrees are useless, I still find myself approving of them. I’ve seen so many students trapped the system, swirled around for 5 years or more, and then spit out, deep in debt, with either a worthless degree, or a bunch of worthless credit hours.

     A fast degree is better than that, right? Much less opportunity to get deep into debt, and hopefully, once the student has his worthless degree, he’ll escape the mythology of higher education and move on with his life, three, maybe four years younger than he would be if trapped in the system getting a “normal” degree.

     “…eight years after graduation individuals who obtained short-term certificates had earnings essentially indistinguishable from those who completed no degree at all.”

     It’s interesting that they managed to study these quickie degree recipients for 8 years, and managed to get this result. I would look long and hard at statistics of folks getting “normal” degrees and compare those who didn’t even go to college at all…I strongly suspect that quite a few of the graduates would find themselves worse off—slightly better earnings for the lucky, but both graduates and non-graduates set back by ever growing student debt.

     Short-term certificates are rapid degree programs offered at many community colleges that are designed to provide certification in some basic field in less than a year’s time (programs taking more than a year are deemed long-term certificates). They are commonly offered in relatively simple technical fields such as medical billing and business information systems.

      It’s very clear there’s a hierarchy of fraud of in higher education. For-profit tops the fraud, I totally concede. But, mercifully, the American public (and, to a lesser extent, the Federal government) has caught on to the fraud. For-profits are finding it hard to attract suckers into the system, even heavyweight University of Phoenix has 50% of the student base it did a few years ago. When most HR departments toss applications from UoPhoenix right into the trash, word gets around not to bother going there.

     For-profits are the top frauds of higher education, but a close second are the community colleges, the primary source of those quickie degrees. Again, this only makes sense, both in terms of offering such degrees, and in terms of worthlessness. Community colleges, for the most part, are dealing with the weakest students, the ones that have no chance in a university setting…and no chance in anything like serious college work. If you can’t sell ‘em college work, there’s no point trying to get them to buy remedial work, either, since the only point of remedial coursework is preparation for college.

 “Dancer”: “I’m just here to make some money until I get my medical degree, I’m only one semester away from graduating.”
 Faculty: “Medicine, very nice. What field?”
Dancer: “Massage”
Faculty: “…”

--I grant that some students going into quickie degree programs have to suspect things are not on the level, but many are desperate to grab any straw that might save them. It doesn’t excuse administration from selling them straws that they know full well are attached to nothing that will help.

      So, stuff ‘em into quickie degree programs. It’ll take years before these students realize they got nothing from those programs.

Today, about one quarter of all community college degrees are short-term certificates.
--so the report is really saying that one quarter of community college degrees are ripoffs…and that really is a low estimate, because most of the 2 year degrees are worthless, too. I’m all for reducing the cost of higher education, but it’s clear the community college model as it stands today isn’t the way to go.

     And, of course, it makes sense that these programs are worth nothing. Community colleges are designed to offer the cheapest education possible, so they really can’t afford to hire people with real job jobs…it’s simply unreasonable to expect people with no skills to actually be able to teach students anything useful.

     This was the case even in fields, such as nursing, where a two-year associates degrees or long-term certificate did result in major earnings gains of 30 percent or more. In the handful of fields that did see a salary gain, such as protective services, the boost was limited to only about $1,000 per year.

     It really is possible to have valuable 2 year, jobs-related, degrees, but doing honest work just isn’t good enough for community college administrators. They know full well quickie degrees are worthless, and they know why. But rather than do the honorable thing, and simply stop selling bogus, worthless, degrees and coursework, community colleges will just keep right on selling the things.

     Did I mention those sweet, sweet, student loan checks? 

     For profit schools made a fortune raking in those student loan checks, but now that everyone knows about them, they’re drying up and blowing away. Do the administrators at community colleges not see what will happen once people figure out what’s going on there as well?


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