Skip to comments.The Economic Crisis In Higher Education (See a BA Degree Worth over $30,000 a year ?)
Posted on 08/05/2007 12:25:01 PM PDT by SirLinksalot
Is a bachelor's degree in English (or history or philosophy or political science or any other subject in the liberal arts) worth over $30,000 a year? As the sticker price asked by more and more private colleges crosses that threshold, many families are asking that question.
The liberal arts education I received enriched my intellect (though not my pocketbook), but if I had a college-age child today, I couldn't justify paying over $100,000 for a bachelor's degree. It boggles my mind when I learn of a 22-year-old owing over $50,000 with only a B.A. to his name.
Apparently, I am not alone in my opinion. Enrollment is declining at many private colleges. Many families balk at paying such daunting fees. Increasingly, the significantly lower expenses of attending a taxpayer-subsidized state college or a rarity like Grove City College (2007-2008 annual cost under $18,000) present the only affordable options for middle-class families. It seems clear that the over-$30,000 per year colleges must find creative ways to reinvent themselves if they are to prosper or even survive.
This is easier said than done. Colleges tend to be some of the most change-resistant institutions in the country. Over the past quarter-century, the pace of change in American business has been breathtakingly rapid, producing massive changes in structure and practice. Many new companies and industries have emerged, while many companies that thrived in the 1980s have ceased operations or been merged into other companies. By contrast, if you were to sit in a liberal arts college classroom today for the first time in 25 years, you would notice a few superficial changes in the classroom (the presence of personal computers and a couple of other high-tech gadgets) and a modest updating of the curriculum (e.g., the addition of a computer science department), but otherwise, everything would seem comfortingly familiar to you. However, the winds of change are about to blow through American colleges.
Market forces, in the form of declining enrollments in the face of increasingly unaffordable tuition costs, will compel colleges to undergo major changes, just as other businesses have been forced to change.
Yes, I wrote "other businesses." Most college professors don't like to think of their schools as businesses. In fact, at many colleges today, it is the fashion for liberal arts professors to denounce business as a sordid, morally and intellectually inferior activity - even when their own college's business department has more majors than any of the liberal arts subject areas. These intellectuals need to curb their ideological or romantic opposition to business both for the good of their colleges and for the sake of preserving their jobs. Like it or not, a college is a business, and if a college doesn't give its customers (students) good value for their money (a degree that pays a decent return on a $120,000-plus investment), then the college's customer base will shrink. If the customer base shrinks too much, the college/business may close and those anti-business professors will have a chance to learn how much their own sheepskins are worth in the job market today.
Unfortunately, the needed attitude adjustment hasn't penetrated some faculties yet. For example, I know of a college in the over-30-grand category where proposals to establish majors in areas with excellent employment prospects, such as broadcast journalism, are routinely shot down by committees of professors in the traditional liberal arts curriculum. On what grounds? That the proposed majors are "too vocational." The rule of thumb seems to be that if an academic curriculum makes one readily employable, it is unacceptable. That is a shortsighted, suicidal position to take today when American families seem increasingly less willing to pay for a liberal arts degree and then watch junior have to sell insurance to earn a living.
The trend is not in favor of the private liberal arts colleges. A century ago, 80 percent of college students attended private colleges; today, 80 percent attend the less expensive, taxpayer-subsidized public universities. Several hundred private colleges have folded in the past few decades.
Economically, colleges can't continue to pay the salaries of tenured professors who have only a handful of students majoring in their discipline. Unless a college has a rich endowment, such economic inefficiencies are an unaffordable luxury, and these colleges may have to cease offering these unpopular majors altogether. Instead of employing two or three full-time professors in a department with six majors, colleges may need to downgrade such majors to a minor served by one full-time professor supplemented by an adjunct part-timer or by having students take courses at another college in the area or perhaps taking courses offered over the Internet or by private enterprises such as The Teaching Company.
One way to repackage the liberal arts curriculum would be to move away from majors such as history, sociology, political science, and philosophy to something like "Asian studies." There will be abundant employment opportunities in business, government, nongovernmental organizations, missionary work, etc., for students educated in an Asian language and a comprehensive understanding of the history, belief systems, social structure and traditions, etc., of Asian countries. It makes more sense today to offer courses in Chinese language than in French.
It will be fascinating to see how higher education evolves to cope with current economic realities. Change is in the air. The status quo will go.
Additionally, the privates colleges and Ivy league type places don’t have a monopoly on the information they impart. It’s available for free at most any decent public library. Just gotta have that sheepskin to impress prospective employers.
I have always wondered where those who majored in such esoteric areas as — Gender Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Africa-American Studies evantually end up after graduation.
Is there a study that tracks the career of such graduates ?
RE: Its available for free at most any decent public library. Just gotta have that sheepskin to impress prospective employers.
Some Colleges and Universities are even offering their lectures for FREE on the internet. See this from MIT as an example :
“Market forces, in the form of declining enrollments in the face of increasingly unaffordable tuition costs, will compel colleges to undergo major changes, just as other businesses have been forced to change.”
No they won’t because colleges are not subject to market forces. They are protected by government subsidies and student loans.
It would be a sad day to see today's universities succumb to market pressures and eschew the well-rounded universal education that is their legacy in favor of a vocational approach. But since nobody seems willing to pay for well-educated generalists, that move seems inevitable.
This is the complete account of the Death of Antioch College ( written by Washington Post columnist, George Will ( from the link I cited above ) ):
During the campus convulsions of the late 1960, the film “To Die in Madrid,” a documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was shown at a small liberal arts college famous for its dedication to all things progressive.
When the narrator intoned, “The rebels advanced on Madrid,” the students cheered.
Administrators at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, had been so busy turning undergraduates into vessels of liberalism and social improvement they hadn’t found time for teaching them the rebels in Spain were Franco’s fascists.
That’s why it’s heartening that Antioch will close after the 2007-08 academic year.
Members of its Board of Trustees says the decision is to “suspend operations,” and they talk dottily about reviving the institution in 2012.
There is a minuscule market for what Antioch sells for a tuition, room and board of $35,221 - repressive liberalism unleavened by learning.
Founded in 1852, Antioch was, for a while, admirable.
One of the first colleges to enroll women and blacks, it was a destination for escaped slaves.
Its alumni include Stephen Jay Gould, Coretta Scott King and Rod Serling, whose “Twilight Zone” never imagined anything weirder than what Antioch became when its liberalism curdled.
In 1972-73, Antioch had 2,470 students. In 1973, a protracted and embittering student and employee strike left the campus physically decrepit and intellectually toxic.
By 1985, enrollment was down 80 percent. This year, there might be 300 students and a faculty of 40.
In 1993, Antioch administrators became international punch lines when they wrote rules to ensure all sexual conduct would be consensual:
“If the level of sexual intimacy increases during an interaction, the people involved need to express their clear verbal consent before moving to that new level.”
Although laughable, Antioch wasn’t funny.
Former public radio correspondent Michael Goldfarb matriculated at what he calls the “sociological petri dish” in 1968.
In his first week, he twice had guns drawn on him, once “in fun” and once by a couple of drunken ex-cons, “whom one of my classmates, in the interest of breaking down class barriers, had invited to live with her.”
A true Antiochian still, Goldfarb says: “I do think I was made stronger for having to deal with these experiences.”
Steven Lawry - Antioch’s fifth president in 13 years - arrived 18 months ago.
He told Scott Carlson of the Chronicle of Higher Education about a student who left after being assaulted because he wore Nike shoes, symbols of globalization.
Another left because, she told Lawry: “They all think they are so different, but they are just a bunch of conformists.”
Carlson reports Lawry stopped the student newspaper’s practice of printing “announcements containing anonymous, menacing threats against other students for their political views.”
Antioch officials invited Mumia Abu-Jamal to deliver the 2000 commencement speech, which he recorded on death row in a Pennsylvania prison, where he lives because 26 years ago he shot a Philadelphia police officer first in the back, then three times in the face. The invitation was a way of saying what?
In an essay in the Chronicle, Cary Nelson, Antioch Class of 1967 and now a professor of English at the University of Illinois, waxes nostalgic about the fun he had spending much time away from campus, receiving academic credits.
What Nelson calls “my employee resistance to injustice” got him “released from almost every job I had until I became a faculty member.”
“My little expenditure was never noticed” when “I used some of Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty money” to bus anti-Vietnam war protesters from Harlem to Washington.
Given this idea of “work experience” in the “real world,” it’s not surprising the college never produced an alumni cohort capable of enlarging its risible $36 million endowment.
“Ben & Jerry could have named a new flavor for us,” says John Feinberg, Class of 1970 and president of the alumni board.
His lament for a forfeited glory is a suitable epitaph for Antioch.
Unless Congress comes up with some rescue package or takes over this school and others going its way, I think this article is on to something.
Which is exactly why the colleges are willing to take most middle-GPA students. If the kids had to pay cash up front, themselves, it wouldn’t be happening at all.
A degree in anything can make you a lot of money...it just depends on the person who got the degree. I know of a lot of English majors that are doing quite well right now.
“Additionally, the privates colleges and Ivy league type places dont have a monopoly on the information they impart. Its available for free at most any decent public library. Just gotta have that sheepskin to impress prospective employers.”
Harvard in particular and some of the other Ivy’s and elite universities have endowments that are so large that any student that they accept can afford to attend the college.
At Harvard any student coming from a family earning $60,000 or less gets a free education and families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 a year get a tuition cost reduction.
The average undergraduate at Harvard receives $33,000 in financial aid which is about 70% of the cost of the education per year.
They usually end up in government.
one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of conservatives don’t like the idea of government schools, but they don’t have as much of a problem with government colleges. Get the government out of ALL education!
“What do you call an English major after he graduates?”