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Author Topic: Book Says Many U.S. Universities Are Waste Of Money  (Read 16671 times)
jonesey
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« on: July 29, 2010, 4:31:16 PM »

From The New York Times:

Quote
Spending as much as $250,000 on a bachelors degree from world-renowned U.S. universities such as Harvard University and Yale is a waste of money, a new book asserts.

"Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids - And What We Can Do About It," urges parents and students to consider colleges that spend on teaching instead of sports and which encourage faculty to interact with students instead of doing research, taking sabbaticals and sitting on campus committees.

"Undergraduates are being neglected," author Andrew Hacker, who co-wrote the book with Claudia Dreifus, told Reuters in an interview.

"Higher education has become the preserve of professors ... (who) really have lost contact with the main purpose of higher education, which is the education of students."

They list 10 colleges they like, where teaching is the priority and where students get value for money. No Ivy League college makes their list.

The book recommends colleges focus on education and strip away sports programs, trim bloated administrative budgets and spin off research and medical facilities. The authors say tenure should be abolished, that there should be fewer sabbaticals and that more attention should be paid to getting students intellectually engaged.
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neutralname
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2010, 5:04:34 PM »

Interestingly, the book has prominent blurbs from Jonathan Kozol and Barbara Ehrenreich, so it is being framed as a left-leaning socially aware approach to higher education.  But I don't see why, given the description of the book's claims in NYT.  The analysis of the problems sounds very familiar, and the solutions don't sound convincing.
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lurquita
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2010, 5:08:27 PM »

Yep.

And who are the authors?  Two academics, one of which works at Columbia University.

We are our own worst enemies.  Either we shoot each other down with "some academics love to whine" and "if you don't like it, fight for justice where you are, find a new job, or leave the profession" and other like.  Or it's the languid pronouncements ("Fifteen hours a week of navel gazing... and I get PAID for this") or it is a straight up back stab to the profession like this one.

I love how the two moron authors piously decry the amount of student loans that folks have.  They do not seem to register that maybe junior faculty have loans too. 

Sure, they give some lip service (or so it seems) to attacking the sacred cow of sports budgets and "bloated administrative salaries" but that isn't what's going to call attention.  It's: The Kids Are Being Robbed. 

We are the new fall guy.  Can't do much about Wall Street or any of the real culprits, but pillory professors?  Yeah, sure, why on earth not?

The authors are domestic partners in New York.  What do you all bet that they are both tenured?  I'm too pissed to check into it and find out.

Ugh.

Lurquita

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cranefly
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2010, 5:08:43 PM »

Higher ed has traditionally been about research, with students going to learn mostly independently. It's never been an extension of high-school. The argument that Harvard isn't worth it falls flat when you think about the doors that the name opens for you.
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lightningstrike
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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2010, 8:37:22 PM »

. . . . l. The argument that Harvard isn't worth it falls flat when you think about the doors that the name opens for you.


This more or less sums up my follow-up.  If going to college was really about education, then, yeah, Harvard isn't worth it.  But that's where the article becomes useless and shows that the authors have their heads up their *****.  The article assumes that kids go to college to get educated. In reality, they go to college to get a passport to opportunity.  Students spending a quarter of a million $ on Harvard is not for the education one can get at Harvard.  It is for the Harvard passport that gets you where you want to go, the elite club. Whether they learn anything or not along the way is not important to  college students (and their parents). 
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2010, 10:13:58 PM »

I first read about that book in a big article in the magazine "MORE." It was so annoying. It was saying that you could get a great education at Ole Miss or Evergreen State College or Raritan Valley Community College. Does she think we(parents, students, readers) are all stupid? I don't really think that there is much overlap between the Harvard applicant pool and the colleges the author finds a better value. The greatest thing is that there are many choices and people can go and do whatever they want. There is a situation for each child that takes into account many many factors. I was so annoyed to see another article about that book-like this is big WOW news for everyone. I am equally annoyed because I am collegekids'mom-and not at the schools those authors like best.

I don't expect to see fewer applicants to Harvard and Yale in favor of her choices.

My kids just got done with college. The schools were so fabulous, the profs incredible, and the experiences life changing. Dare I say that spending my money on those colleges was the best thing I have ever done? Well, it was. I love those colleges. So, there. Money out window, happy consumer. It was my absolute pleasure, and the schools were completely and utterly different from one another-just like my kids.

It's cool to trash tenure and they are riding that wave too.
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aandsdean
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2010, 10:50:24 PM »

Good post, collegekids'mom.

My parents sent me to an expensive SLAC.  Full-pay (now, granted, in the early 80s full pay was between $9,300 and $12,500/year during the time I was there).  I remember my mom saying more than once, "best money we've ever spent."

I have to agree.  My undergraduate experience was really great.  The education was wonderful, and the experience was just excellent.  I made dear friends, and learned a huge amount about a bunch of things far beyond the classroom.  I was extremely well prepared for grad school.  I'm still finding out, 25 years after graduating, what I learned there.  The whole process changed my life--cliche, but totally true.

My alma mater remains an ideal for student experience that I shoot for in my own work.

Given that I now have a strippo Ford pickup truck in my driveway that didn't cost much less, and even more given that we've just flushed about $40,000 down the toilet selling our house in previous town, I've got to say that the $43,000 or so my folks spent to send me to college was a steal. 
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prufrock
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« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2010, 10:52:14 PM »

Yup.  Higher education is the preserve of professors.  It's effing paradise

Alternative headline: Many Books Are A Waste Of Money. 
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watermarkup
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2010, 12:00:11 AM »

Personally, I think the authors have a great idea. Why are there only 200 universities in this country? Why are there no alternatives at all to the elite private universities they earned their degrees from and the gigantic public research universities that are featured on the sports pages? If only state governments and private institutions would found colleges where professors taught more than one or two classes per semester, and spent most or all of their time on teaching rather than research, then many more students could attend college. You know, there must be hundreds  of students who can't afford the Ivy League. Why has no one thought of this idea before?
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totoro
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2010, 12:22:56 AM »

We've already discussed the article they wrote on another thread. Dreifus is an NYT journalist who is an adjunct at Columbia by my understanding.
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arizona
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2010, 11:55:36 AM »

I think it depends on how you define "value." I think that my education at FancyPants U was worth every cent. But I didn't go there because I thought the degree would help me make a lot of money. I went because I was passionate about learning for its own sake, because I wanted to be taught and challenged by experts who were passionate about what they studied, and because I wanted to be surrounded by engaged and talented peers. The idea that professors can't be serious about research AND teaching--or that the two are somehow unrelated--is rather insulting and does not jibe with my undergraduate experience.
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shastymcnasty
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2010, 12:23:31 PM »

We've already discussed the article they wrote on another thread. Dreifus is an NYT journalist who is an adjunct at Columbia by my understanding.

Yes.  Here's the link to that thread http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,70389.0.html

In the article by the authors of the book that was printed the Chronicle a few weeks back, they claim, "We believe all Americans can do college work, so universal enrollment should be our nation's goal."  After reading this, who could possibly accept anything else the authors have to say?

 
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lurquita
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« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2010, 2:04:41 PM »

We've already discussed the article they wrote on another thread. Dreifus is an NYT journalist who is an adjunct at Columbia by my understanding.

Yes.  Here's the link to that thread http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,70389.0.html

In the article by the authors of the book that was printed the Chronicle a few weeks back, they claim, "We believe all Americans can do college work, so universal enrollment should be our nation's goal."  After reading this, who could possibly accept anything else the authors have to say?

 


Oh, yes, them.  Of course.

Well, the public reads this (or at least the sound bites) and accepts it.

L.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2010, 1:02:27 PM »

I am astounded at how many educators on this page are perfectly happy with the idea that a college education doesn't really have to be about becoming educated.   I don't agree with everything these authors have to say (enough about abolishing tenure. . . ), but their overall insight that too many institutions' resources have been channeled into flashy nonsense that is not crucial to the business of educating students seems perfectly sensible.  Administrative bloat, the cost of tuition, the treatment of adjuncts, the loan burden so many students have:  these are patently grotesque problems in higher education.

I went to one of those high-profile Ivy schools.  I was very lucky that my parents had the money to pay for my tuition without much financial strain, but I've never had the heart to tell them that it was, in fact, a waste of their money.  Yes, the name of that school on my diploma has eased some paths for me, but I regularly lament the fact that I went to a school where not single tenured professor had any idea who I was by the time I graduated.  I didn't really start learning in a mature fashion until I went to graduate school.  I think the place is a scandal (at least for undergraduate education).

And I'm not sure that the authors and some of the participants on this thread are talking about the same kind of institution.  I'm going to poach something from the other thread discussing these two authors:

. . . . My sense is that the authors are targetting -- for better or for worse -- super big R-1 schools that have classes of 400+ that cannot engage their student bodies in a meaningful way.


I don't sense that they are attacking professors at all institutions, but specifically schools that allow a few superstars to teach virtually nothing and crank out another book that about 10 people will actually read.   Their other critiques, yeah, they're hardly news, but if this ends up  shaming some institutions into reexamining their fiscal priorities, that will be salutary.
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cranefly
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« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2010, 5:10:20 PM »

I am astounded at how many educators on this page are perfectly happy with the idea that a college education doesn't really have to be about becoming educated. 

I don't think any of us are perfectly happy with the idea. I think we're being realistic about what a "waste of money" entails. Do they educated? Perhaps not. Does that mean that it's a waste of money? That's a different argument.
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Oh yeah--Professor Sparkle Pony. "Follow your dreams, young genius, and you will meet with success!" Students eat that up.
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