Monday, May 27, 2019

The Long Overdue Crisis of Confidence In Higher Ed…Being Buried

By Professor Doom

     While I’ve been writing about it for years, and known about it for many years, it’s only recently that the general population has come to realize we have a real problem in higher education. Recent polls confirm this:

A Crisis in Confidence in Higher Ed

     The above link is from Gallup; granted, the last election showed us polls, even from long established as (supposedly) legitimate polling organizations, can easily be pure rubbish (I do have some friends in these organizations, incidentally, and they’ve yet to get back to me on what exactly happened…). In any event, when a poll confirms what my own eyeballs tell me, I tend to believe it.

Confidence in higher education in the U.S. has decreased significantly since 2015, more so than for any other U.S. institution that Gallup measures.

     Hard to believe the decline has only been significant in the last few years, but that is really the nature of the system. Allow me to roughly explain why it took so long:

     Our big schools took centuries to build up a solid reputation. Over the course of decades, I saw wave after wave of administrators come in, figure out how to sell out the reputation to maximize growth, and, once they’ve mined as much as they could, move on…only for another wave to come in and debase the school further. The students had no idea how bad the corruption was, all they saw was they got their easy grades and degrees. They weren’t about to reveal the corruption. BUT…once those students graduated, went into the real world, and eventually achieved positions of some power where they could hire the next generation of college students? That’s when the corrupted train finally crashed—these new managers knew the higher education many of their applicants received was bogus. So, those jobs dried up, at least for most college graduates.

This drop in confidence in the higher education industry comes after Gallup detected a similar decline in the public's view that higher education is available to those who need it,

      This is a weird thing to say. Many schools list their textbooks and course syllabi online. Old (and by “old,” I mean 5 years, mostly with information that was well-known a century ago) editions of those books can be purchased cheaply, or borrowed for free from the library. Anyone who wants a classical education can get it for free, and has been able to do so for a long time. I concede it’s easier when you have a professor available to explain things, but in the modern world higher education is available to anyone who wants it, at least in the U.S.

…a recent study conducted by the Association of Governing Boards and Gallup, finds that three in four trustees (74%) are concerned or very concerned about the future of higher education in the U.S. Their concerns remain focused largely on one main challenge: affordability…

     74% of trustees might be concerned, but I suspect the percentage of trustees who are utterly clueless is quite higher. Affordability? The profit margins on “education” as it is presented today, are huge. Please understand most state schools get free land, free buildings, endless tax breaks, and taxpayer support…and yet we have for-profit schools still managing to compete with the state schools at comparable prices. There are layers and layers of fatty administrators who can be safely cut out, any time our “leaders” of higher ed are ready to really address “affordability.”

When asked about the top issues influencing the public's negative perceptions of higher education, large majorities of trustees cite news or media about college student debt (72%) and news or media about the price of tuition (64%).

    Read the above carefully: it’s not the debt and price of tuition which our “leaders” think is the problem with higher ed, it’s the fact people are learning about it from the news or media. Where do they find these people to rule our campuses?

In the U.S., enrollment across all higher education sectors declined by 1.4% in 2018, consistent with recent trends, and Moody's predicts that an increasing number of private colleges and universities will close on an annual basis in the near term.

     Allow me to clarify what’s being said above: the minor drop in sales of 1.4% will lead to the increasing rates of closure of private colleges and universities. It’s certainly true, the gentle reader needs to understand those schools (as well as many state schools) completely deserve to be closed. They had a huge bounty of student loan money flowing into campus for several decades. A very few schools wisely invested that money, but most just spent every penny on palaces and pay raises for the people at the top.

      They didn’t just spend every penny they had, they spent quite a bit they didn’t have, but assumed they would get it later based on the (incredible) growth trends of the last few decades. These morons didn’t consider that our aging population and sheer limit of how many people you can slam into higher ed, much less increasingly widespread knowledge of higher education corruption, would cause the growth to stop. 

     So, yes, a 1.4% decline in sales, unpleasant for most businesses, is utterly devastating to our epically mismanaged higher education system.

In the past five years, WGU has increased the cost of annual tuition by only $600, while total enrollment has more than doubled, to over 100,000 students.

     I haven’t mentioned WGU in my blog much; it’s a big online school with a “unique” system of generating worthless degrees/student loan revenue. I’ll just wait until the big scandal breaks on what’s going on there before discussing in detail; it might be a while, though, as they are extremely politically connected and very tech-savvy (sponsoring a number of fake “independent” sites which exist solely to say how great WGU is…). Of course, because the school is so big and automated, you could just pop over to term paper warehouse and pick up all the course assignments cheaply if you want a degree from WGU.

     It’s curious that WGU has numerous full time staff to squelch and blow smoke on any student complaints posted online, but doesn’t put much effort into making it not so easy to cheat through the classes, but let’s get back to this mysterious “crisis of confidence” article from Gallup:

In its 2015 report, Gallup demonstrated a clear relationship between student debt levels and graduates' perceptions that their degree was worth the cost. Graduates with more student loan debt were less likely than other graduates to believe their degree was worth the cost.

     The ones who paid the most think they were overcharged. Yeah, no kidding, right? You must believe Gallup here because it lines up with what you already know.

     This was rather the problem in the last election. Polls kept telling us nobody liked Trump, and Hillary was loved by all…but anyone with eyeballs could see far more “Trump for President” bumper stickers (i.e., placed by actual supporters) than those for Hillary, and Trump rallies were getting tens of thousands of people while Hillary could only draw a few dozen attendees (although our mainstream media ignored the former, and used clever camera work on the latter, to disguise her numbers).

      But, this poll just tells me what we already know: the more you pay for something worthless, the more you feel ripped off. Yes, Gallup, I believe you. Now, about those last election polling numbers…

…proving that the significant investment can be worth it for some grads.

     Wow, way to polish that turd. Strong language like “proving” followed up with a double-weasel-word (“can,” “some”) clause ends this report, enough to confuse a gullible reader, I suppose. 

      I still maintain the crisis of confidence, reluctantly discussed by Gallop and nearly dismissed, is being under-reported here. It would hardly be the first time the legitimate results of even major polls were manipulated into being less than the reality anyone with eyeballs can see.



  1. And on top of this are media reports of students fleeing the country because of their student loan debts....

    1. I put together a post on that recently, although there's an older post on my blog on that topic as well (keyword expatriate)

  2. AND...the creation of America and Australia, etc. was...a place for Britain to export people put in prison due to not paying debts! HAHAHA. How the worm turns, eh?

  3. ________________________________________
    RE: “Confidence in Higher Ed”

    Recently, I read a dissertation accepted by a top tier state university for awarding a PhD in education administration. My eyes were opened and I see clearly why in my county’s schools less than 6% can meet reading goals and less than 5% meet math goals. Our school boards hire such “experts” as principals and superintendents paying them premium salaries.

    As a professor, I would not accept that dissertation as a student’s term-paper. Its research questions are vague speculations, review of the literature unpersuasive, discussion of research methodology grossly ignorant, conclusions unsupported assertions, and its recommendations idle conjectures.

    My state cannot begin to improve K-12 schools until it overhauls its system that awards graduate degrees in education administration. An investigative reporter should look into that problem, there’s a Pulitzer waiting to be earned!

    1. Hey, I cover an 8000 level admin course on research methods in my book; you'd be pretty shocked, I know I was. And having reviewed a few dissertations in that field...I'm glad to hear I'm not alone in thinking something is seriously wrong there.

    2. The problem with K-12 lies in the requirement for advanced degrees to teach children how to read. Any high school graduate can do that.

      Education courses are nothing more than Marxist-Gramscianist indoctrination camps.

  4. I would add that employers have been aware of this for over 20 years albeit tacitly. I've had several job interviews that concluded with a request to summarize a Business Week article into a single paragraph. One recruiter apologized to me and said, "You wouldn't believe how poor the writing skills are for some of these college graduates." Actually, yes, I did and continue to believe it.

    It's why a job that required a high school diploma 30 years ago now requires an undergrad degree. One that required an undergrad degree 20 years ago now requires a masters. Not that there's any need for the supposedly advanced skills, but one simply hopes that there's a higher likelihood of a masters degree holder being able to write a semi-cogent memo than an undergrad. Interesting that the employment progression does not follow for Ph.Ds.

  5. The inability to write goes way back in time: in 1973, I worked for a professor who was my neighbor at the University of Arizona. I read student's essays and corrected the English mistakes.

    It was terrible, so many students barely understood basic grammar rules and were poor at spelling words, too. It is now much worse. I remember doing sentence diagrams in elementary school back in the late 1950's. We could diagram very difficult sentences by age 11. I fear that basic grammar rules are no longer taught.

    1. The death of sentence diagramming has had serious consequences for writing skills. I've always thought that diagramming was done away with because it was deemed old-fashioned but as I ponder your observation, it makes me wonder if diagramming died out because the system simply couldn't produce enough teachers capable of understanding diagramming themselves.

  6. American post-secondary schooling long ago began aggravating the same problems afflicting the west whose toll they took on education were once balked. Now the crisis is worse than ever. Credential seeking people want entities that are themselves part of the erosion of civilization to palliate their economic frets & by the time they are credentialed usually they are unteachable. With robust laisser faire capitalism & true republic, neither warped by the false morality of altruism, most people would live well without post-secondary schooling, those who sought it would do so for the old legitimate reasons & so few whose confusion forbad them to think logically their bad examples would keep them innocuously inert not the viciously credentialed masters of our fate they in fact are now. When I read of what prestigious influential figures do that blights the lives of mis-guided but admirably aspiring youth I must wonder if the tories actually won the revolution. Given my knowledge of Alexander Hamilton right from the chute & the role his earnest emulators have ever after played I am inclined to quit wondering.

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  9. Look forward to this Western Governors WGU critique. They started out well and seem on inspection great for the motivated/has completed most of work student. Are the Governors not paying attention?

    1. Well, they're paying attention to the checks coming in...and relying on their considerable political clout to keep it all under wraps--you can bet the GAO won't look at them as closely as the GAO looked at Corinthian.