Sunday, June 17, 2018

“4 Year” Community Colleges Highlight Administrative Incompetence

By Professor Doom

     Soaring tuition costs are forcing people to reconsider going to university, but we still have this ingrained belief that you need a “4 year degree” to get a good job.

      Community colleges, the “cheapo” option of higher education, are starting to satisfy this need. Hey, I’m all for lower tuition, so I should be for this even though I’m justifiably quite hard on community colleges. Heck, if some clown offered 4 year degrees out of his garage I’d be ok with giving him a fair shake, but the government has something of a chokehold on how degrees are granted, so that’s not an option, alas.

      Now we have community colleges in many states granting 4 year degrees. While this does somewhat make one wonder why bother with universities, the responses to this new phenomenon really highlight just how incompetent our “leaders” in higher education are:
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     What kind of degrees are being offered now at a CC? The above article cites an example:

Starting in fall 2019, students at Ohio’s Sinclair Community College will be able to enroll in a four-year degree program in unmanned aerial systems…

     Hey that sounds nice, until you realize that “unmanned aerial systems” means “drones.” This new technology is pretty amazing. I can absolutely see someone studying 4 years to learn how to make these tiny flying machines. Is that what they learn here?

They’ll learn mission planning, maintenance, laws, data analytics and more.

      None of that sounds like their students will learn how to build drones. That’s a shame. Instead, they’ll learn how to operate them.

      Um…they sell these things in stores. The laws are covered on an insert in the box, a quarter page of text, as are maintenance instructions. Seriously, everything you could need to know about maintenance you can master in a few hours at most. “Mission planning”? C’mon now, even the most advanced military drones don’t require years of training to figure out how to plan a mission.

      Does this even remotely sound like enough material to require 4 YEARS of training? I know, there’s an “and more” there, but I just don’t understand why it didn’t occur to the admin at the CC that they could fill all this material into a 3 month course and probably have 11 weeks left over. You can join the military and be flying and maintaining the most advanced drones on the planet in less than 4 years, after all.

     Bottom line, it’s clear they’re just taking some fad people will sign up for, and slapped together a program stretched out to maximize the revenue from the student loans.

      A nearby university offers something more involved:

Just up the road, Youngstown State University offers a somewhat similar four-year degree, in mechanical engineering technology — but tuition there is double Sinclair’s.

     I rather suspect the graduates of the engineering program know quite a bit more than how to fly a drone anyone can buy for a few bucks. It really is striking that community college couldn’t strip out the harder material, just offer a 2 year program in drone operation, and call it a day.

      Our leaders in higher education have Ph.D.’s in “Leadership Curriculum” and other strange fields…it seems like they could have come up with something better than the university, instead of just changing the words around, hacking off the hard material, and lowering the price.

     Halving the price while stripping the content, while still taking just as many years, doesn’t strike me as much of an achievement. Simply lowering the price by half under these circumstances just doesn’t cut it.

     Other places do better with different 4 year degrees:

…will have spent about $2,000 a year to go to the community college. Tuition and fees at Loma Linda cost more than $33,000 a year, according to College Factual, a website that tracks college costs…

     That said, a 90% reduction in price, while an extreme example, illustrates that there really is room for improvement in our “4 year degree” programs already on offer at universities.

  In California, 15 community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in health and technology subjects such as biomanufacturing and health information management. In Georgia, students at two-year schools can get their bachelor’s in nonprofit management and respiratory therapy.

One California student, Elvia Esquer, is a mother of two college-age children who has worked as a medical coder for 22 years near her home in San Diego. She is going to a community college, San Diego Mesa College, to get her bachelor’s in health information management. 

     Perhaps I’m just picking on the Ohio CC, as it’s clear other community colleges are offering 4 year programs on topics more advanced than what an interested hobbyist can learn in an afternoon.

      Now, universities aren’t happy at all with this muscling in on their territory, but listening to their shrill protestations really highlights what higher education today is all about:

“We live in a state with limited resources for higher education,” Youngstown State’s provost, Martin Abraham, said. “We’re continuously cutting back — not increasing funding — for higher ed. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to set up a competing system for the same set of funds.”

--hey, at least his title isn’t twice as long as his name, that’s quite the rarity.

      Wow, they’re continuously cutting back? How did student loan debt get to over 1.5 trillion dollars, then? Why is tuition perpetually rising? Why does nobody else ask these questions when this Provost spouts these talking points?

“There’s a reason the tuition structure is different at a four-year university versus a two-year university,” Abraham said. For example, he said, Youngstown State’s career fair attracts 70 companies to campus every year...

      Aren’t the schools in the same state supposed to be on the same team, with a shared mission of educating the state’s citizens to create a more powerful state? That’s what they say, but it’s clear the provost doesn’t believe any of this, instead he sees a problem with an upstart competitor who can offer the same product for much less.

      If this supposed educator was really on a mission to help people in his state, he’d invite the community college graduates to the job fair as well, right? The state schools really are on the same team and should help each other out, and providing employers with more candidates would be a plus as well. But the provost sees none of this, and only fears a competitor endangering his (overpriced) monopoly.

      I assure the gentle reader, this provost isn’t the only admin in higher ed so incompetent he has no idea what his job actually is.

      He continues his display of total confusion:

 “That’s economy of scale. It drives up the cost of our education,…

      (pause for laughter)

      I can’t make this stuff up. Our leaders in higher education honestly think “economy of scale” means the price per unit should go higher as you increase in size. This is the kind of idiocy you learn when you get an administrative Ph.D.

     To illustrate my point that this provost isn’t alone in his total confusion, the article quotes another utterly clueless leader:

And C. Todd Jones, president and general counsel of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio, said the argument that baccalaureate degrees are unaffordable is a “red herring.”

"Financial assistance makes degrees affordable, particularly for low-income individuals in our state," he said. There's no reason in terms of costs for creating a community college baccalaureate degree, he said.

     How do you even find someone this ignorant to be president of an administrative association? Seriously, anyone with even vague knowledge of higher ed knows student loan debt is insane right now, that “financial assistance” is mostly a trap into perpetual debt servitude, especially for low income individuals.

      This dude actually thinks there’s “no reason in terms of costs”? Again, I couldn’t imagine this level of stupidity if I tried. If community colleges can offer the same thing for half the price, this in and of itself is a reason. What’s *wrong* with our system that it chooses leaders who can’t understand this basic idea?

      The gentle reader should keep this in mind when he sees another tuition increase, because our education system really is ruled by people who think “we’re bigger, so it’s economical to cost more” and “customers see no benefit to having a lower price.”

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