Tag: university

The real cost of college

February 15, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More
The real cost of college

Bob Samuels puts the numbers on the table. Here’s what a student (and his or her parents) are really paying for when they fork over huge chunks of tuition to a prestigious college.

[T]he reasons why the numbers never add up in higher education is that universities and colleges use a false and misleading method to determine the cost of undergraduate instruction. Many institutions calculate this important figure by taking the total cost for all undergraduate and graduate instruction, research, and administration, and dividing that cost by the total number of students. Schwartz argues that this common method for determining cost is misguided because it assumes that all students will be taught by professors and that there is no difference between the cost of undergraduate and graduate education. In other words, when a university or state calculates how much it has to spend to educate each additional student, it includes in the costs, the full salary of a professor, but everyone knows that at research institutions, professors only spend a small percentage of their time teaching undergraduate students. According to Schwartz, parents are really paying for the cost of undergraduate instruction plus graduate instruction plus research plus administration. To be precise, undergraduates are subsidizing the cost of research and graduate education, and no one admits this fact.

I think that he leaves out another big factor in his informative post. Many people pay big money for prestigious colleges because they want their children to attend school alongside other people who can pay big bucks to go to a prestigious college. Why is that important? Why isn’t their only one goal to become smarter, which many people do by self-study? In Spent: Sex, Evolution and Consumer Behavior (2010), Geoffrey Miller explains that universities are often in the business of “educational credentialism.”

Harvard and Yale sell nicely printed sheets of paper called degrees that cost about $160,000…. alumni of such schools . . . work very hard to maintain the social norm that, in casual conversation, it is acceptable to mention where one went to college, but not to mention one’s SAT or IQ scores. If I say on a second date that “the sugar maples in Harvard Yard are so beautiful every fall term,” I am basically saying “My SAT scores were sufficiently high (roughly 720 out of 800) that I could get admitted, so my IQ is above 135, and I had sufficient consciousness, emotional stability, and intellectual openness to pass my classes. Plus, I can recognize a tree.” The information content is the same, but while the former sounds poetic, the latter sounds boorish.

Miller also has a lot to say about conspicuous consumption in his book, and it should be another factor for why so many colleges can get away with charging immense amounts for education without justifying those amounts. It doesn’t hurt the universities financial condition that the ability to pay exorbitant tuition is a plus for many parents. It is boorish to announce one’s high salary at a social function, but it is quite acceptable to drop the following in conversation: “Tuition is coming due for my two kids; one is at Harvard and the other is at Yale.” Mission accomplished, because you just announced to the world that your kids both have the minimal intellectual and social requirements for entry at those institutions (and they got those genes from you!) and that you have the financial wherewithal to pay for all of that tuition.

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College classes free, for anyone

October 24, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More
College classes free, for anyone

If you’d like to attend college classes over the Internet at a wide variety of prestigious colleges, consider visiting Academic Earth. According to the about page,

We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars. Our goal is to bring the best content together in one place and create an environment in which that content is remarkably easy to use and where user contributions make existing content increasingly valuable.

The participating universities include Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, and Yale. I just finished watching an informative lecture on “The Origins of the Financial Mess.” I’m wondering what I’m going to view next. Maybe I’ll watch some more of Shelly Kagan’s 26-part series on the topic of “Death.”

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New edition of Darwin’s Origin with a Creationist Intro

September 17, 2009 | By | 9 Replies More
New edition of Darwin’s Origin with a Creationist Intro

While watching this video, try counting Kirk Cameron’s lies. Just incredible. What does it tell you when someone is so utterly insecure about his own arguments that he lies about his opponent’s positions?

Richard Dawkins has a post on this new wacko edition of Darwin’s Origin, and a suggestion that concerned citizens go pick one up and chop out and throw away the 50-page intro.

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A required course is worse than an elective.

February 19, 2009 | By | 9 Replies More
A required course is worse than an elective.

I wrote the initial draft of this post using my Ipod’s Wordpress application, tip-tapping away as I sat in the very class that inspired it.

A required class is worse than an elective class. A simple and inevitable process ensures this. Making any college course a requirement for graduation ensures that more students will enroll in the course. This enrollment will necessarily include disinterested students- kids who would never take the class if they didn’t have to. These students will only meet the minimum standards to achieve graduation.

A mass of disinterested students sucks the life out of a classroom. Responses must be pulled like so many teeth, and more people sleep and scribble on their desks than take notes. Out of boredom, a few play games on their laptops or write blog entries on their iPods. No one makes the effort to go over the required readings. No one shows up to class if they have a choice. Usually, attendance is made into a requirement itself.

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Would you like to go to college for free?

January 9, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Would you like to go to college for free?

Would you like to get smart cheaply?   You can now “attend: selected courses at prestigious college courses for free, while sitting at your computer.    The participating universities include MIT, Yale, McGill and UC-Berkeley.  This is a great opportunity if you’d like to get serious about the topics of the selected courses.   The participating colleges videotaped […]

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It takes conflict among colleges to make education interesting to the media

August 22, 2008 | By | 3 Replies More
It takes conflict among colleges to make education interesting to the media

If the media really wanted to know about the kind of education offered by America’s colleges, they could visit any of hundreds of fine colleges hundreds of days each year. It’s a rare day, however, when any corporate media outlet takes interest in education of any sort. Unless, of course, the media itself concocts a […]

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How dangerous plastics freely work their way into your house

May 1, 2008 | By | 13 Replies More
How dangerous plastics freely work their way into your house

I was in a bad mood after I wrote a post summarizing a recent Harpers Magazine article demonstrating that the United States government is working hard to keep its citizens from knowing whether numerous commonly used chemicals are dangerous. After all, our government is supposed to be there to protect us yet it appears that […]

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Terrorism Begins At Home (or “Kill or Be Killed!”)

February 15, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More
Terrorism Begins At Home (or “Kill or Be Killed!”)

Is anyone else struck by the irony that Homeland Security so often erodes First Amendment rights? Homeland Security has become obsessed about listening to personal phone calls and seizing people’s cell phones and laptops when they travel.  Ironically, there is no security for the victims of gunmen who shoot up college campuses and city council […]

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