By Professor Doom
Admin: “When the economy is bad, people go back to school and retrain. So this is good news!”
--administrator’s response to the economic crash of 2008
One thing I’ve heard many times while working in higher education is how it runs counter to the economy—the better the economy, the lower the enrollments. I certainly believed it when I was younger and very trusting of admin, but I’m old enough now to start thinking about things. We’ve had tremendous growth in higher ed, year after year…too many institutions have more than double the student base of twenty years ago, and that’s too much growth to really point at the economy. Across the country, enrollments have been steadily increasing for decades now…surely we haven’t had a consistently terrible economy for the last 40 years?
This trend of growth has reversed recently, in a class of schools that should do well in a terrible economy, or at least better than most other schools: the community college. At first glance, these cheap schools of higher education should attract students when money is tight…but that hasn’t been the case.
Granted, it’s clear a “bad economy” doesn’t really enhance enrollment, but still we have to wonder what’s going on with community colleges to make people avoid them. A recent article attempts to address the question, but misses details:
Some educators see other factors besides a recovering economy as a reasons [sic] why their enrollments are low.
Any serious look at our economic numbers reveals that the economy isn’t improving. If our government honestly believed their own numbers, the Fed would have raised interest rates years ago, instead of current rates which, literally, are the lowest interest rates have been in the entire history of planet Earth.
First, a quick look at the enrollment drops:
Community College Enrollment
Now, a few percent in one year is a minor worry…but year after year drops like this are frightening to a college administrator. I’ve seen private schools close down with a 10% drop in enrollment, and considering how horribly mismanaged a typical community college is, these types of numbers should cause many a community college to drop. Well, they would but that they’re massively supported by tax dollars extracted from taxpayers who are, regrettably, deeply ignorant of what a scam most of these places are.
Although the article subtitle says we’ll hear from educators, the article begins with a Poo Bah’s thoughts:
“After the great recession, we’ve seen a restoration of new jobs, but manufacturing jobs remain off and aren’t restored to pre-recession levels,” said Dan Phelan, president of Jackson Community College in Michigan. “You would think if that’s the case, there’s got to be more people interested in taking classes and enrollment would be better, but that’s not the case.”
Indeed, there’s obviously something wrong with the economy, a problem not likely to be fixed by an endless stream of bogus government economic numbers. When the only jobs available are pushing buttons on the register (although those are leaving because of increasing automation), driving trucks (although those are leaving because autonomous vehicles are coming soon), and yard work, it’s tough to justify getting a college degree.
Ok, to be fair, there are great jobs available in computer repair, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, and such…but few community colleges are willing to pay for instructors with such obviously marketable skills.
The article actually bothers to quote a (bogus) official government number:
The unemployment rate increased slightly from a low of 4.9 percent last month, however, the low rate is traditionally a sign that the economy has recovered and people are back work, said David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges.
Yeah, sure it’s 4.9%. Even the CEO of Gallup, an organization that knows statistics very well, admits that the unemployment numbers are as bogus as can be:
There's no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.
Another administrator offers a suggestion why nobody’s going to community college even though the economy is weak:
“The whole system is just opaque,” Carnevale said. “Nobody can see clearly how to use the postsecondary system to get a job. It’s confusing, cumbersome and it’s expensive.”
This is a perfectly accurate representation of what’s going on at community college, and it’s no fluke the system is set up this way. If these 2 year schools would offer 2 year programs in precise job skills, instead of “general studies” degrees and endless coursework on empty topics of no marketable value, I bet students would show up. The trouble is, admin have set the system up to be opaque, deliberately. Trust a guy who spent over a decade at a community college, students can spend years on campus without figuring out that nothing useful, job-wise, it taught on campus.
Community colleges are government enterprises, and that means they do everything backwards. If a business wants to increase sales, it has, well, a sale…it lowers prices. Considering very little of the tuition money actual goes to the teachers, there’s room to do so. Instead, community colleges have responded to dropping enrollments by raising prices:
“The Michigan college increased tuition by 7.5 percent two years ago and raised it again by 8 percent this year,…”
What larger sign would you need of how clueless the “leadership” of these institutions is?
Much like for-profit schools, a big chunk of revenue comes from government money, especially when it comes to abusing the Pell Grant program, which is of particular interest to criminals; I’ve written before of how this program attracts nomad students, roaming from school to school to get these poorly documented grants. The leadership realizes they need to expand their marketing to this group:
Jackson is also one of the institutions offering the Second Chance Pell Grant program that allows prison inmates to receive federal money to pursue a college education.
Hey, I totally believe we should educate prisoners, or at least offer them the chance to get such an education…but knowing that some 25% of a community college’s student base could be Pell scammers (i.e., criminals) doesn’t give me a warm feeling at targeting prisoners (many of whom might well be criminals) like this.
Sadly, the article lies: no actual educators are asked about why community college enrollments are dropping. While regular readers of my blog know my conjectures, namely the huge academic fraud, tremendous plundering by admin, and the use of Education as a joker to (questionably) teach courses, to name a few. And, of course, the fact that legitimate jobs-training programs are in scarce supply on community college campus, since admin is very unwilling to hire appropriately skilled teachers, who would command professional-level pay, instead of the sub-minimum wage pay admin can give to adjuncts to teach Gender Studies and other comparable courses.
I really wish the article had spoken to educators instead of administrators, as I suspect quite a few would point out the same issues I have.