Higher Education: The Coming Collapse?

Member Group : David Kirkpatrick

The following is supplied by Michael Terry, a longtime acquaintance, in Grants Pass, Oregon. Originally the thought was to incorporate it into a mutual work but his thoughts were of sufficient value and length to stand alone, with minor editing. I can add my own comments later. Let it be noted, however, that I am in basic agreement with the following:
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Recent articles have suggested the imminent collapse of higher education because the abuses in finance and promises by and from the federal government and Department of Education can no longer be self-sustaining. Some of the triggering events of the collapse will move elementary and secondary education to reform themselves in ways much greater than simply the argument of choice.

In no particular order, the following will have to be addressed by reform:

* College goes not guarantee higher lifetime earnings.

* The debt burden (fostered in large part by the government) moves the breakeven point many years further into the future.

* Capital plants are a dinosaur, and except for academics teaching future academics, why waste money going to a facility. It will be done online. I would predict better and more rigorous certification for such schools however, which hopefully can be divorced from the bankrupt operations that have ownership of the physical plants.

* Specious arguments about profit and not-for-profit schools, graduation rates and defaults on loans are equally bad, except the notoriety goes to the for-profits.

. * Why does it take five to six years to graduate with a simple B.A. or B.S.? (Ed. note: In England’s Oxford., Cambridge and elsewhere,. three years is sufficient).

* Most college curricula have little value apart from the problem of debt versus value. Basket weaving, the joke of years past, would at least allow a trade/craft to be learned.

* Trade schools become more complex as technology in all fields becomes more complex. Why waste time on going to a college that cannot teach that which is needed?

* Numerous earlier commentaries have been written on the problems inherent when the teacher is not paid directly by the student. The same applies to the school.

* Fields that require graduates and graduate degrees are proportionately too difficult for the average high school student to enter. Years of schooling were inflated as earnings deflated. An eighth grade education once required 12 years. Then it became 12 plus 2 in a community college. Now it is 12 plus four in a weak college program, and in the future a Master’s will be needed to equal the 8th grade of 80 – 100 years ago. (Ed. note: The Federalist Papers of the late 1780s, successfully supporting the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, were directed at the ordinary citizen and were published in newspapers in New York. Today they are often considered a challenge for not only the general citizenry but even for college students.)

* Problems in the economy may prohibit many from even entering the work force on any level, at least for the coming cycle of freshmen in high school and college. How are they to survive when the parents have their own financial problems?

* Apart from the cost consequences of organized labor and government sponsored labor to teach, the extra costs of teaching cannot longer be sustained. I was long of the belief that schools (assuming they could teach a child to read by 3rd grade) offered little more than a way to learn socialization and were enforced baby sitting. Athletics, clubs arts and all other after-school activities will be sharply cut down or eliminated. What will fill that void?

* In short, reform will change from choice in learning to choice in living. This collapse will be a lot messier than the others over the past 18 months or so, because, as with choice, everyone has an opinion.

* There will be nothing abstract about these debates.