The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Everything But Ideas

After noting one of the very few growth areas in this virus shutdown era is for the job of College Diversity Officer (these people are jumping from University to University as if "diversity" is the colleges' and the nations' number 1 problem) Heather McDonald writes:
Many college presidents are terrified that the coronavirus pandemic will devastate their schools’ finances and enrollment. Anyone who cares about a revival of serious learning can only hope that they are right.

Higher education today resembles a massive Ponzi scheme. Colleges desperately recruit ever more marginal students who stand little chance of graduating. Before their inevitable withdrawal, those students’ tuition dollars fuel the growth of the bureaucracy, which creates the need to get an even larger pool of likely dropouts through the door to fund the latest round of administrative expansion. Administrative positions at colleges and universities grew at ten times the rate of tenured faculty positions from 1993 to 2009, according to academic consulting firm ABC Insights. By the 2013 school year, there were slightly more campus administrators nationwide than faculty; spending on the bureaucracy was equal to spending on all educational functions, including faculty. Tuition rose to cover those bureaucratic expenses, regardless of whether families could afford to pay it. Tuition at private four-year colleges grew 250 percent from 1982 to 2012, while the median family income rose about 18 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to ABC Insights. Since the 2008 recession, tuition at four-year public colleges rose 35 percent.
Stated simply, McDonald alleges (based on solid data) that 25 percent of all incoming freshman are unprepared academically and emotionally for university curricula and drop out after one semester. In the main, these students' tuition is funded by government guaranteed loans, "scholarships" that are not about scholarship, and in more limited instances, family finances. Higher ed vacuums up the money and then allows the students, who were not qualified in the first place, to bounce.

Even worse, with the exception of some professional curricula (e.g., engineering, the sciences, accounting and finance, law and medicine), college course work does little to prepare students for life after college. This worked well when Trump's booming 2017 - 2020 economy had more jobs than job applicants, but with the COVID-19 shutdown of the economy, that's no longer the case. I wouldn't want to be a Comic Arts major graduating in May when there's really very little to smile about at the moment, and barista jobs at Starbucks are on a long-term hold.

After noting that there are now more college administrators than professors at America's colleges and Universities, McDonald writes:
The higher-education establishment will fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo in the face of the coming economic dislocation. The president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities predicted blandly: “We are likely to see a new world order of higher education—more global, more online, more focus on return on investment, and overall more student-focused”—as if higher ed is not already defined by an anti-intellectual “student-centered” model. The only focus that should matter is on knowledge. Until we see deans of inclusion and belonging on the unemployment lines, we will know that colleges continue to abuse their economic and reputational privileges.
But there's something even worse than all of this. For those college programs that are not focused on professions (and even for many that are), students are propagandized by a teaching establishment that is overwhelmingly left wing and anything but "diverse." Maybe some of the College Diversity Officers should work on that.

Nah ... better to maintain diversity in everything but ideas.