Sorry for the delay on this post, but life has been busy with work, the holidays and other issues. I now want to talk about how the policies of Progressives have caused problems in higher educations. These problems are again mainly tied to the money provided to these institution by the government, which allows the government to set an agenda that the colleges must conform to. Again let us start with a little history to see where we started and where we are.
Back in Colonial times if you went to college you had to pay for that privilege yourself. This meant that only the well off, those that were sponsored by others, or those that worked to put themselves through College attended. If you did not enter into college, you learned some trade either from your family or by apprenticeship. This started to change in the 1860’s when the government gave land grants or money to every state to start colleges that were design to teach agriculture and mechanical arts.
This push to for new colleges was continued in the 1890’s when these colleges got additional annual grants to promote certain programs. This continued and basically moved into the model where the government designate what will be supported, approves the plans for those programs and audit the expenditures. Public service, performed by these colleges was also encourage, through the use of these funds that were provided. Up to this point the money flowing from the government to the colleges was direct, this changed during the depression.
It was at this time that direct federal aid to students was started. Both forms of funding were increased during WWII by the federal government. This was to pay for both research into new technology and training programs for army and navy trainees. After WWII federal funding decline, as solders completed their education under the Sevicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill. In the 1950’s we see the first generally available student loan and grant program with the passage of the National Defense Education Act. This was then supplemented in the 1960’s with the Higher Education act, which created basically the programs which most students use to fund their college educations. This all sounds great, but in actuality it has created several problems in society that are just now coming to roost.
First since most students do not have to pay for their education directly, instead they either have direct grants or student loans. This has created a disconnect between price of a college education and value of that college education. This disconnect has allowed colleges to increase tuition at a higher rate then inflation as seen by this chart (I was not able to find the original source of this chart). Looking at this chart you will see that college tuition has risen faster then medical cost and home prices. This disconnect has also allowed colleges to justify certain actions, which a free market, where students were paying for their education, would not allow. For example hiring professors that promote particular political or social views, which they would not be able to do without this disconnect, because most students or their families would rather spend their money at institutions that shared their views then those that do not. You also see colleges restricting freedom of expression of the students by such means as hate speech rules and free speech zones. Add to this the government and schools requiring students to take certain classes that are designed to promote a certain world view. This is all happens, because we have broken the link between the money and the education. Without that link parents and students are less likely to shop around for a college that dose not have those restriction and instead they would select those institutions that better fit their world view.
Also, because of this disconnect and the basically unlimited student pool to pull from, these colleges can raise their prices without regard of market forces. We have at this time moved from a model that we started with where colleges were fighting over the students, to one where the students are basically fighting over the openings that the colleges have. Or in other words we have gone from a buyers market, to an extreme seller market. Since a sellers market moves the power in the transaction from the buyer to the seller, in an extreme seller market you basically have a the same conditions as a monopoly.
Since most of the money for this seller market is coming from the government that makes them the true buyer. And since they are the biggest and most powerful buyer in this market, it gives them a lot of control, that they should not have. Basically the power over the colleges that the students should have has been moved from them to the government. This means what is taught and the policies at the college are dictated by those in Congress, who really have no interest in making sure the student gets the most value for their money. Instead they are interested in making sure special interest are taken care of, so the special interest will take care of them. It is for this very reason that there is only one college, that I am aware of, that will not take money from the government. That college is Hillsdale, they believe that their independence and ability to teach they way they want is more important then government money. It is also one of the most conservative colleges in this country.
Now college education in and of itself is not bad, but what we have now is the following. Colleges have no reason to control cost, and policies in place that make it hard to do so. This means that some students are being stuck with college loans which they are required to repay at the start of their life, that can be in the 100’s of thousands of dollars. We also have students getting degrees which have no real world application, or if there are real world application the students find the pay to not be sufficient or the jobs too few. To make matter worst a lot of people find out later in life that the dream job they thought they wanted, was not for them. So that expensive degree that they got now, has less value to them as they go an explore a new field. Basically these students are starting their life off with an expensive college education, that they have to pay off before they can really enjoy life. In some case by the time they do so, they are starting to be more concerned with retiring at that point. Or even worst they find out what they thought would be their dream job, is something they do not enjoy and are looking at spending more money to acquire new skills and training in a new profession. All this because they did not have the life experiences necessary to make a better informed decision.
I think what we need to do is flip the system upside down. What I see is that, after high school a student will get a low skill job in the field they believe they would like to work in. Once they have gotten a feel for the job and the company has gotten a feel for them, they will start learning the skills necessary to move up in their chosen field. They will continue along this path as they move up in their selected field. At any point if they decide it is really not for them, they can leave and change field of study with most if not all their education paid for. The employer of the individual could also contribute towards the education of the employee, thus making sure they were getting an employee that was better suited to their particular needs.
This would also solve one other problem I see with colleges today. See the colleges have the student take basically general studies during the first two years, because they realize that a student does not really know what they want to do and this gives them a chance to try new things. The problem with this is that student is paying the colleges for two years of study, which will have little or no value in the future employment. I am not saying that these areas of studies are not of value, but they can and should come later when the student is better able to pay for them and when they will most likely have more personal value to them.
Making these changes would solve many problems. For example it would allow recent graduates a chance to grow and learn without tying them to huge debts. It would make them more independent and better prepared for the jobs with more responsibility, because they would not only have their college education, but real world experience in their chosen field. And finally it will help with the problems in the business world that I will be tackling starting in my next post in this series.