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View Diary: Student Loans: a bubble waiting to burst (214 comments)

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  •  You don't teach at a college (12+ / 0-)

    I do. Let me tell you a little about our graduates...

    1.) they're there not because they're smarter or better workers than the average person, but because they have the privilege to afford college. Often this is due to student loans which will drive them into debt.

    2.) they're not in college to learn how to turn widgets into cogs. We teach them crazy stuff like how to read Russian Novels, how to critically think about economics and ethics, how to assess sources for bias, how to become fluent in five languages, and how the Holocaust came to happen, by what means, mechanisms, and xenophobic patterns.

    3.) many college graduates complete degrees with no particular competence; many have coursework and/or diplomas filled with "F's" and "incomplete work," plagiarized work (I think that's at, what, 50% or higher these days) and cheating.

    4.) many colleges, particularly the for-profits, will sign off on just about anyone. Same goes for many credential type programs.

    I am biased toward college graduates for many things, but unless it is imperative that someone has a degree for a particular job -- like they want to become a Physicist or a Molecular Biologist or a Linguist -- I'm unclear that most jobs need college degrees whatsoever.

    Prior to my BA, I was an excellent manager for a very good-sized company, as well as a Realtor, for example. I kicked ass. The end. I went back to college for personal interest and wound up becoming a teacher.

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    by mahakali overdrive on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 11:13:38 AM PST

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    •  I don't disagree with any of your points (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mahakali overdrive

      But if it's truly correct that most jobs don't "need" a college degree, then your points would seem to indicate that we should not have a lot of people currently in college there at all.

      2.) they're not in college to learn how to turn widgets into cogs. We teach them crazy stuff like how to read Russian Novels, how to critically think about economics and ethics, how to assess sources for bias, how to become fluent in five languages, and how the Holocaust came to happen, by what means, mechanisms, and xenophobic patterns.
      Are these economically useful skills? Why should any college student pay money to read Russian novels (can do that at home), think critically about economics (is this learning economics, or merely "thinking critically" about it... again, you can just buy a book!), fluent in five languages (most jobs require English, maybe a little Spanish... the marginal value of speaking five languages is close to zero), etc etc.
      Prior to my BA, I was an excellent manager for a very good-sized company, as well as a Realtor, for example. I kicked ass. The end. I went back to college for personal interest and wound up becoming a teacher.
      I don't think we're saying different things. I'm just saying that on balance all other things being equal, I'd rather have someone trained in ethics and read in Russian novels than not.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:05:24 PM PST

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      •  Thinking skills (7+ / 0-)

        People love to mock the silly courses offered in colleges and universities, particularly in Humanities departments, and conclude that studying or teaching these things is worthless.  It's not.  What these classes teach is a whole range of what can be called "thinking skills" -- organization, history, and many kinds of analysis, among them.  These are real skills, portable from the original class, and undeniably "economically useful."  

        They may not be required for all kinds of jobs, and everyone may not be well suited to learning these kinds of skills, but they are very very real.

      •  It's a complicated position I suppose (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        atana, nchristine, Cedwyn

        Yes, I think we need less people in college because many are there due to employment demands, not genuine educational desires. In turn, because many students don't really want to be in college and rather just feel they have to be to be economically competitive, they tend to do less well or be in situations that are less helpful (multiple jobs, outrageous loans, lack of innate motivation) to get strong grades. In turn, because a higher number of students are inadequate in college, Professors have to dumb down their classes or grade inflate. In turn, this devalues what it means to receive high marks. It also leads to the inevitable employer's complaints that colleges don't adequately prepare students for work, which then makes the job market yet more competitive, which in turn leads to students conversely seeking higher degrees, particularly those who really can't get jobs, many of whom probably never wanted to be even undergraduates in the first place!

        All of this is costly too, so it leads to outrageous student debt. Often, this leads to students simply dropping out partway through a degree but still stuck with the debt. Or, many who graduate with the debt wind up having to work unreasonable hours (law sharply comes to mind; this happened to my sister-in-law) working like 100 hours a week to make up for that debt.

        It's a mess. It's a bad cycle.

        I'm advocating for college because I love college, and I know that it does fantastic things for students when they want to be there and are engaged. When they're there because they feel they have to be, many have the same shitty attitude towards it that they have toward High School.

        Where to fix this cycle?

        There are many places it could be improved. I think the whole discussion thread in this diary is chock full of exemplary suggestions.

        But as long as employers look at a degree like a prerequisite rubber stamp, and worse, college administrators also do, and as long as we have a huge student loan bubble looming, and then these privatized, pro-corporate, predatory colleges and likewise loans, all of it is a freaking nightmare.

        Again, I realize that my point is very complicated and could seem like I'm arguing for multiple and even contradictory things. But I am not: I just have an extremely comprehensive view of how this works, systemically, and that troubles me very much.

        Like you, I'd rather hire someone trained in reading Russian novels. I am a huge fan and teach such sorts of things specifically! But if I were an employer looking for someone to fill an admin assistant position, I wouldn't expect that or the loan burden that comes along with it. Likewise for dozens upon dozens of other jobs. And that's just for the Liberal Arts! Tech training in 4-years is even stranger in many cases since the nature of these skills is not static, although the degree itself is.

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        by mahakali overdrive on Sun Dec 09, 2012 at 12:51:07 PM PST

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