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article imageOp-Ed: How to kill America with an overpriced college system

By Paul Wallis     May 13, 2012 in World
New York - Student debt has soared by 60% in the last 5 years. Families are co-signing on loans, dragging a generation into the brutal realities of personal debt. The US is going to pay a hideous, perhaps fatal price for its education blunders.
The New York Times has a huge article about the situation, and it’s gruesome reading.
There’s this, for example:
Economists do not predict a collapse of the student loan system, which would, in essence, mean wholesale default. And if there were one, it would be unlikely to ripple through the economy with the same devastating impact as the mortgage crash. Though now larger than credit card and other consumer debt, the student loan balance remains smaller than the mortgage market, and most student loans are issued by the federal government, meaning banks wouldn’t be affected as much.
You have to wonder whether anyone in the US takes anything seriously any more. The sheer irrationality of America’s fabulously stupid purveyors of perspectives on national disasters is always fun to read. “This disaster won’t be as bad as the previous disasters, and anyway, the government owns this one.” Who taught these morons to read? The trouble is that yet another pointer to future generations of Americans hitting a brick wall of impossibilities isn’t part of this study.
The federal government? Isn’t that the same federal government which is up to its ears in its own debts? It’s nice to know that a crash in student loans wouldn’t be as bad as the loan-based disaster which effectively bankrupted a lot of Main Street, but is that really a recommendation?
Does super-funding an obsolete, overpriced education system make any sense at all?
Let’s start with some very basic bits of information. If you look at the cost base for operating colleges, the big costs are:
*Risk management
*Salaries for educators
The fact that you can now run most of the same courses online at a fraction of the price, as usual in the United States, goes against a lot of vested interests. The education system is also directly plugged in to a huge supply chain. Simply outfitting a college building costs millions. Hiring the people who say colleges should raise their prices is expensive, too.
Meanwhile students are having to redesign their lives around student loans. A lot of people are now struggling to pay these debts, too. The horror of it is that some of these degrees will be almost irrelevant when they’re paid off..
Result of this wonderful schematic:
1. They’re in a sort of “income adolescence” until they’re in their 30s.
2. They get fired in their 40s.
3. They’re on the scrapheap in their 50s.
Great outcome, idiots. Keep those fabulous dungballs of wisdom rollin’ off the hot plates. 20 years of education produces 10 years of productive work and a few dismal decades of scraping along. What a noble concept.
(Reality may be extremely unfashionable in the United States in recent years, but much like a Mack truck going through your cranium at high speed, acknowledging its existence may become unavoidable.)
The real cost of degrees- Debt and a degree which depreciates in value over time
I’ve been writing on employment for years in the US and Europe. The fact is that qualifications have shelf lives, and those shelf lives are shrinking. A degree’s content, in fact, is likely to change drastically over 5 years. IT is the classic example of degrees going belly up in short periods of time. This time frame also means that students are basically paying for degrees which are obsolete to some degree. Worse, “degree depreciation” also means they’re no longer strong career assets in competition with more recent qualifications.
A question for obviously naïve minds- Why have a college system at all?
The demand for skills is on the rampage. Employers can’t get enough skilled people. Society also requires far more skilled people than it did in the past. Lack of skills means the cost of those skills goes up, too, over time.
“Economists” apparently also don’t recognize the cost to society of lack of skills. The simple fact, O naïve inhabitants of rustic social models, is that nations are severely disadvantaged in terms of their competitiveness as a result of their training schemes.
Consider this:
The US, in its 1980s insanity, suddenly began to churn out lawyers, accountants and business degrees on a gigantic scale. This was the culture which gave the financial fools the idea they were supermen. The result was a society of corporations, “businesspeople”, corporate lawyers and a progressive erosion of the strong technological base that had the US 30-50 years ahead of the world.
India and China didn’t have a training base worthy of the name 50 years ago. They’re now mass producing high value commercial skills and goods. Their focus on real world applications for their sciences has seen go from 50 years behind to a very erratic but increasingly common level of near parity in many areas. They’re not there yet, but there’s now absolutely no doubt they will be.
Consider also:
The US, having “won” the Cold War (if the other guy simply drops dead in a boxing match, it’s not considered a win) promptly went back to sleep with its gadgets, porn and deals-based economy. Even 911 didn’t really do much more than provoke a few irritated swats.
It woke up in 2008 with the fact of a highly “educated” culture of fully qualified morons destroying its economy and a ridiculous political system which simply refused/refuses/has forgotten how to practice democracy. This culture is either too stupid or to “clever” to solve its own problems.
America may be the only super power, but it’s also the only nation with these problems on this scale. The perversion of the college system into a gigantic services sector training scheme definitely played a role in creating them. The top echelons of the famously well-educated 1%, for example, proudly presiding over the conversion of America into a failed state, all have college degrees- From decades ago. Their knowledge is obsolete, and so are their ideas.
Supply and demand in education- How to screw up both
The college system is supposed to meet the real demands for skills and supply the nation with what it needs to function in real time. Instead of meeting them, it’s making them worse.
It’s like a Parkinson’s Law of Higher Education - "The ineffectuality of college systems goes up in direct proportion to the cost of degrees.” For instance, this is how to screw up supply and demand:
 Getting a crappy, “For Dummies” education is often the result of a degree. The “clueless college grad” is so old as a joke that it’s almost folklore.
 Employers complain about the lack of appropriate skills the lucky recipients of these expensive degrees have. It seems that nobody bothered to mention that the world has changed since Reagan, because he didn’t notice, either.
 Simply competing in any sector requires current knowledge and systems. Ancient used chariot sales techniques are what keeps killing the US auto industry on a generational basis.
 Even recognizing the relative importance of degrees seems to be beyond policy makers. Why fund degrees for 10 million accountants and one surgeon, for example?
 The nation which was practically built on new ideas and invented modern mass production now apparently doesn’t have one person able to suggest a better, cheaper way of managing college education?
 The lack of grads in disciplines also, hilariously, means a later lack of people to train in those disciplines. Chuckle, chuckle. See an ex-super power on its way to the national equivalent of welfare in a decade or so, anyone?
If you have a system which doesn’t work, you replace it. Dino-academia belongs in a museum and its cost base belongs in an unfussy lunatic asylum.
One thing for sure- America’s gigantic social mistakes are now also in the future tense. Sabotaging college level education is national suicide, pure and simple. America can thank its idiot politicians to a point, but there’s one more question-
Who trained the policy makers, the 1% and the politicians?
Thanks guys. You can now really see how good you were as educators.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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