Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The College Degree Scam

For more than two decades, colleges and universities across the country have been jacking up tuition at a faster rate than costs have risen on any other major product or service - four times faster than the overall inflation rate and faster even than increases in the price of gasoline or health care (see the chart to the right). The result: After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439% since 1982.

It is not an accident that I date the Empire's decline to the early 1980s. Even as the cost of college soars, it remains true that there are considerable advantages in having a degree in terms of earnings (above, right). If we look at the BLS unemployment numbers, Table A-4 indicates that in December, 2010, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for those with a Bachelors degree or higher was only 4.8%. Clearly, there is significant advantage in having a degree if you want a job—any job, good paying or not.

All this leads to the exceedingly happy situation we have today, to wit— To get a job, any job, your chances improve significantly with a college degree

The cost of a college degree has risen 439% in the last 28 years
Obtaining a degree is far beyond the means of most young people
To get a degree, and thus have any hope of getting a job, the large majority of young people must become debt slaves (see my post Student Loans — Gateway To Debt Slavery)
These are the choices for most young people—skip college or become a debt slave. This is the college degree scam. Do you remember the last time Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes? I quoted part this interview in my post The Bernanke Interview — A Tale Of Two Societies.

Pelley — The gap between rich and poor in this country has never been greater. In fact, we have the biggest income disparity gap of any industrialized country in the world. And I wonder where you think that’s taking America.

Bernanke — Well, it’s a very bad development. It’s creating two societies. And it’s based very much, I think, on– on educational differences The unemployment rate we’ve been talking about. If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is five percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s ten percent or more. It’s a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society and a society– which doesn’t have the cohesion that– that we’d like to see.

The Bernanke failed to mention that college tuition has risen 439% since 1982. He failed to mention that to get that degree which may lead to a job, the average American must put himself in hock to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. And so on.

But then there is alternative #2—skip college. The exorbitant cost of a college degree, including the dubious educational benefits of having it which I described in An Epidemic Of Ignorance, has engendered talk about the benefits of not going to college. In fact, that's the main point of the CNN Money article I quoted at the top.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here, leaving you with these thoughts: only a society that is far beyond the pale would debate the merits of higher learning. Only a society in a hopeless downhill slide would put a college education beyond the reach of most of its young people.

We live in a society that eats its own young. How sick is that?


Antidote to Government's Education Monopoly

Americans are beginning to understand that the government-run assembly-line education system is not working. As I point out in the upcoming "Kids Aren't Cars" film series, thousands, of not millions of kids are being failed by a system that is geared more towards satisfying adults than educating children.

How else can a recent Detroit Public Schools graduate be unable to read her own diploma? How else can tenure - the job security law for unfit teachers - be explained? How else can budget busting pension systems be explained?

When collective bargaining was brought into American schools in the 1960s, it was a revenue stream and power base for Big Labor. Suddenly, union bosses became more interested in building political muscle than educating children.

At that point the battle between unions and school boards became more focusing on salary, benefits, pensions and working conditions for adults, and less about students. Kids are only pawns in the self-serving union game.

As we point out in "Kids Aren't Cars," this has poisoned the education environment. We witness ugly fights in communities during union contract negotiations. Unions lead recall campaigns against school board members who don’t vote the union way. Teachers throw up their hands because the union will take their money by hook or by crook, while showing no interest in their input.

It’s sad to have rural school unions adopt the mantra of blue-collar unions that rely more on muscle than brains. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis told a story to a radical labor group where she said she is not a "teacher" but an "education worker." It's unfortunate teachers' leaders don't see themselves as professional and conduct themselves accordingly.

There is some hope. The growing school choice movement provides parents a way out of Lewis' schools and into schools that do whatever it takes to make sure kids are prepared for life beyond graduation. It's too bad the same can't be said of Lewis' Chicago Public Schools. And it's too bad they fight like mad to block parents from having options.

National School Choice Week, coming up January 23-29, showcases the success stories and the organizations fighting to empower parents with choices. Unions are terrified of school choice because they know they'll lose their monopoly and they'll be uncompetitive.

As "Kids Aren't Cars" shows, unions have created much of the problem. Will politicians rely on them to be part of the solution?


British schools' secret reports on how parents look as they build database "to fight truancy"

Education chiefs keep database on hair, height and build

Town hall bosses are ­compiling secret ‘Big Brother’ databases on the appearance of school­children’s parents. Education officials say they are keeping the sensitive information in case they ever want to identify a parent for legal action. Forms are being given to staff asking them to comment on height, hair, and build, which involves assumptions on whether a parent should be considered overweight or untidy.

Last night James Welch, legal director of human rights campaign group Liberty, said: ‘Councils should not be making secret notes about innocent parents. What on earth has it got to do with getting kids to school?’ The form is described as a ‘parent identification form’. A whistleblower said it was being circulated by the ‘school attendance improvement service’ at Leicestershire County Council. It has been handed out to truancy officers – who are under instruction to fill it out whenever they come across any parent.

The form is based on the parents’ physical descriptions on the first occasion they are met. Different sections are understood to ask questions on build, height, eye colour, glasses, hair, facial hair, accent, and any marks or scars.

The stated reason for the records is the possibility that if a parent was being prosecuted for their child’s truancy and there was a question over identity, the form could be checked.

But the whistleblower said the scenario the council painted of having to identify a parent in a court case ‘very rarely occurs’. The source said: ‘Not only are the truancy officers being asked to complete this form on every parent they meet – without their knowledge – the info is being held for who knows how long?’

Critics fear the real reason the database is compiled is so the council can make judgments on parents based on their appearance. And they suspect councils across the country could be adopting ­similar tactics.

It is the latest in a series of alarming ‘Big Brother’ schemes launched by schools. Last year, a council admitted spying on a family using anti-terror laws to find out if they were really living in a school catchment area.

In a separate incident, cameras were installed in toilets at a Teesside school to deter vandalism, graffiti and bad behaviour and it emerged that one in three secondary schools was forcing children to swipe fingerprints just to register in class or take out library books.

Last night, Leicestershire County Council said: ‘We do have a form which is used on occasion to describe parents who do not send their child to school, as part of a prosecution process. ‘This helps with identification when warrants for non-attendance of pupils are delivered to parents as part of the court process.’

The whistleblower said drafts of the form, issued to staff for their comments late last year, included sections on whether a person was ‘fat’, ‘bald’, ‘stocky’, had ‘receding’ hair or if they looked ‘untidy’. Staff were asked to make a judgment on a parent’s ethnic origin, and list any ‘marks/scars/ abnormalities’. And under a section titled ­‘features’, one box asked if the ­person looked like a ‘punk’, wore a wig, or if their hair looked ‘untidy’.

The council insisted the form ­currently in circulation is different to the one obtained by the whistleblower, which was never used. But officials did admit they were now keeping details of what ­parents looked like.


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