By Professor Doom
“An Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living.”
Studying higher education as much as I do, I have no choice but to question what I am doing. I see the massively rising student debt, I see the Poo Bahs raking in ever more money, see them crying about the lack of money in the system…and I ask myself if I can perform honorable work in a system run by so many (not all) dishonorable people.
I believe I can, for now, though I concede in the past I’ve worked for schools where I could not say as much. When I knew wasn’t doing honorable work, I still did the best I can, while seeking to move on.
The title above, then, isn’t from me, but from someone who, finally, is starting to see that there may be a problem with higher education today. The title to his article is not much different from my fake quote:
How does this guy sleep at night? I mean, it’s one thing to sell terrible hamburgers or the like, but a college degree represents a major commitment, and the tales of people who’ve been destroyed by “the college experience” are legion…how does this guy sleep at night, I again ask?
But the devil that sits on my shoulder is whispering “fees and loans, fees and loans”. Students who borrow the full whack to cover their tuition and living costs will end up £45,000 in debt.
As is often the case, I’m looking at things in the UK…or some reason, the media in the US just ain’t got the time to look at what we’re doing in higher education here. I’ve been following higher ed “across the pond” and basically the UK is adapting to the US model. They’re only a few years behind…I can’t help but worry for the youth over there, they’re about to get some hard core raking over the coals soon.
Independent predictions estimate that only 5% will repay their loans in full and nearly three quarters won’t. The loans get written off after 30 years (although if they’re sold to private investors, this might change), but they’ll be paying monthly until then, and struggling to deal with low wage growth [pdf] and rising rents.
Again, the UK is early in the game. Around 27% of student loans in the US is in default, but that’s realistically an under-estimate. The huge default rate is mostly covered up because there are so many ways to put off paying the loans. I see people in their 40s and older “going back to school” because they haven’t paid off their loans from when they were 18. You don’t have to make payments if you’re in college, you see.
It really is nuts: the first bout of college didn’t pay off and left the victim with debts. Why would the second round be any better? But that’s why the default rate is “only” 27%.
They might get middle-class jobs but not necessarily middle-class lifestyles.
This is the problem I keep coming to, myself. We’re indebting these students so deeply for “high paying jobs.” Most students won’t get those jobs, that’s just the facts. The students that get the jobs, still aren’t being helped by their college education, as the loan payments eat up the “higher pay” the job provides.
This is not honorable. We should not be doing this, in general.
How does this guy sleep at night? Not so soundly, I reckon:
All of this circulates like sharks in my head when I speak to prospective students. It’s like I’m trying to sell a car that could well turn out to have a faulty engine.
The next question, of course, is why does he do this?
Emails from management regularly remind us that recruitment numbers aren’t as healthy as they could be,
And this was the problem I had when I was at a skeezy school. “Recruitment numbers,” goodness I remember having to go to meeting after meeting about this. I’ll help the guy out with some advice: recruitment numbers are never good enough for admin.
My skeezy school set a record for growth for one year, across the country. Did admin say “ok, now we can focus on quality”? Heck no, the only thing admin ever wants is MOAR, and so I still went to mandatory meetings to learn the next plan to sacrifice quality in return for ever more quantity (more accurately, ever more checks from students).
The plague destroying (much of) high ed in the US has infected the UK: the schools have come under the control of people who are not educators. I remember recruiting, years ago, much like this guy. Professors don’t do that much anymore in the US, and it’s taken over by admin here.
Part of the takeover is the corporate-speak, and the professor here knows what he’s hearing may as well be native language of demons:
We’re encouraged to improve our “conversion rate” – the percentage of people who come to an open day and then actually study with us. I have no idea how (and they don’t tell us), but this is developing into our collective sales target.
Conversion rates, sales targets, retention rates, ROI per students, full time enrollment…these are the things you hear all the time at a school that has lost its way. There’s no discussion of helping students, job placement, improving education, or anything that won’t directly add to the administrative salary.
As I mentioned before, recruiting isn’t done so much by faculty in the US, admin took it over. The professor explains why:
If I was a well-informed and calculating student, I’d study elsewhere, but my job partly depends on persuading people not to. I just hope (for my sake, not theirs) that our prospective applicants can’t see it in my eyes.
The professor is an educator, a scholar…he’ll ask himself if he’s doing honorable work, and will understand when the answer is “no.” That makes it hard for him to hurt other human beings.
Thus, the need for administrators to take over recruiting. Admin will never examine if what they are doing is honorable work, because that might lead to the poor kid coming right out of high school having a chance of avoiding a lifetime of debt slavery.
Admin can’t allow that.