Collin Garbarino links to a video intending to scare college students out of the imprudent taking-on of debt to finance their educations. It brought to mind this striking Jordan Weissman report from The Atlantic, talking about how few college presidents take seriously the problem of unemployment among new graduates of their institutions. Excerpt:
Gallup released a survey today probing the various and sundry opinions of some 889 college and university presidents about the state of higher ed, and a few of their results have left me at a complete loss. Specifically, I’m talking the responses charted out below, asking how important employment outcomes, graduation rates, and cost are to the overall quality of an institution.
The good news is that an overwhelming majority think jobs and completion are at least somewhat important. The bad news? Fewer than two thirds think either counts as “very important.” To which I can only ask: If those aren’t tops on your priority list right now, what the hell is?
He’s right about that. True, it’s wrong to see higher education as a factory for producing employment. Education ought to be about imparting knowledge, wisdom, and character. Learning how to read poetry is not going to get you a better job, and maybe not a job at all. But it will make you more human.
That said, it’s really scandalous that more college presidents aren’t aware of the world in which they’re sending their graduates. What kind of bubble do they live in?
That said, Weissman follows with a great short piece debunking the video by clarifying how the crippling student debt picture is probably not what you think it is. Well, it wasn’t what I thought it was. Those graduates who leave school heaving under staggering debt loads? There are fewer of them than you may think, and they disproportionately go to highly-selective private schools.
And meanwhile x 2, Alan Jacobs laments that college tuition has gone up not because teachers are being paid more, but because colleges have gone heavily into debt buying pretty buildings. More:
How about this? Maybe someone could have the imagination to say: By the quality of our teaching. I am waiting for some bold college president to come forth and say, “You won’t find especially nice dorms at our college. They’re clean and neat, but there’s nothing fancy about them. We don’t have a climbing wall. Our food services offer simple food, made as often as possible with fresh ingredients, but we couldn’t call it gourmet eating. There are no 55-inch flat-screen TVs in the lounges of our dorms. We don’t have these amenities because we decided instead to invest in full-time, permanent faculty who are genuinely dedicated to teaching and advising you well and preparing you for life after college. So if you want the state-of-the-art rec center, that’s cool, but just remember that the price you’ll pay for that is to have most of your classes taught by graduate students and contingent faculty, the first of whom won’t have the experience and the second of whom won’t have the time to be the kind of teachers you need (even when, as is often the case, they really want to be). Our priorities here are pretty much the reverse of those that dominate many other schools. So think about that, and make a wise decision.”
I would so very much send my kids to colleges like that. When it comes time to look for colleges, we’ll be searching them out.