A big thanks to Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit for the link!
This is my column in today’s Greenville News. A topic I’m passionate about, in no small part thanks to hearing Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit.com, speak on it at Clemson University. Visit his website: www.instapundit.com.
Here’s a link to Glenn’s book: http://www.amazon.com/Higher-Education-Bubble-Encounter-Broadside/dp/1594036659
Here’s the link to my column, with text to follow.
My oldest son is now a high school senior. Therefore, we have been looking at college options in South Carolina. He is a born and bred South Carolinian who doesn’t really want to leave his home state. He has a sense of family, and a sense of place.
I have made several observations while reading brochures, comparing prices and traveling to different locales in the search for the right school for him to attend . First, this is a beautiful state with some magnificent centers of learning. I had no idea how many majors there are now, how many opportunities to study abroad, how many honors colleges and possible career paths! When I was in school it was, you know, wheel making and Mammoth studies. But I digress.
Whenever we have toured a center of learning (and I won’t name them specifically) my wife and I have heard great things about the way our son will mature, will be exposed to opportunities, will ‘develop as a human being.’ (Which I thought was kind of a given, being a human and all.)
We’ve been assured that kids who attend those schools make great progress, and become fully actualized, able to impact the world in a diverse, cutting edge, technologically savvy, multi-cultural, sustainable, tolerant and environmentally friendly manner that would be the envy of anyone in the world.
I had no idea that college was all of that! You see, silly old person that I am, I thought that our colleges and universities were supposed to help students learn to think clearly, accumulate knowledge and enter useful graduate programs or find meaningful, gainful employment in the world. I didn’t know it was all about ‘development.’
But since it is, let me tell you what I’ve developed. I’ve developed a little bit of cynicism about the four-year university. Why is that, with such magnificent institutions? Well, a couple of things come to mind. First, marketing. My son is constantly introduced to images of lovely dorms and cable television embedded in every treadmill in the shiny gym. He is told about how the sushi bar is a great place to use some of his meal program money and how certain dorms allow opposite sex sleepovers during the week. He learns about the fun of the Greek system and the delights of the town.
And what his bitter, cynical, sometimes wise father knows is this: college graduates currently have a 50-53% unemployment rate, and nationwide, the college drop-out rate is around 40%. That student loan defaults are rising and retirees are having their Social Security checks docked for old student loans. (Which cannot be erased in bankruptcy, by the way). What I know is that across the country, administrative burden is killing education (much as it is in medicine), that all too many fascinating majors lead to low-paying work in the food service industry and that the whole experience generally comes to around $20,000/year for a state run four-year university in SC.
What I have to ask our state educators is this: have you read about the plight of students? Are you concerned that many students can’t find work related to their degree, if they find work at all? Are you at all troubled that without serious scholarships they may enter life with tremendous debt, or that their families will bear the debt? (And that the ones going to graduate school or professional school will be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt?)
I challenge the higher education officials of South Carolina to do what Texas did and develop a 4 year degree for $10,000. I want them to encourage more college-bound students to use technical and community colleges for part (or all) of their educations. And I dare the educators of this state to be honest about the realistic job prospects associated with some of their fascinating, but fiscally shaky, programs of study.
I love South Carolina. My son does too. He wants to go to school here. And so do many of his friends with less material blessings than my family. But our state, indeed our nation, had better pay attention to the plight of its students. We need to stop marketing college as a four year resort vacation and start having compassion for the kids we send off in the tired old belief that college guarantees a good future.
Because it doesn’t anymore. And educators have to either admit the truth, or make college relevant, and affordable, once again.