Are Colleges Dinosaurs?

29 07 2011

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

A friend of mine has some kids who are starting college this fall, and they just got back from an orientation session at the campus, which they loved.  Obviously the kids are talented because it is difficult to get into the school, and only the best students are chosen.  Everything was positive except for one thing: the cost.  As my friend told me: it is going to be very expensive right in the midst of a job change.  Amen to that!  The exorbitant costs associated with college educations have been rising for a long time now.[2]

America’s Middle Class is being priced out of colleges for their kids; and many parents are questioning whether college is worth it, and whether they can afford it.[3]  This is true to an even greater extent when it comes to graduate schools, such as law schools.[4]  As more and more Americans face economic problems during the balance of this decade, which will be true of their counterparts abroad as well[5], many will find that undergraduate college educations and graduate schools are luxuries that they cannot afford.  Many families will be doing whatever they can just to survive.

Lots of parents of those Americans who grew up during and after World War II never went to college.  To these parents, colleges were a gateway to great jobs and wonderful futures and the “American dream” for their children.  Today, like the issue of “home ownership” that was sold as part of that dream too, Americans are reassessing their goals and their capabilities; and their conclusions may not augur well for colleges, universities and graduate schools in the United States and abroad.  Certainly in the case of State-supported schools, where budgetary pressures are dictating that their expenditures be slashed, the twin pincers of parents who cannot afford to send their kids to these schools, and declining budgets, may break the backs of such schools.

Another old friend of mine, who covered Washington for many years as a talented and insightful political and economic reporter and editor, told me recently that colleges are effectively dinosaurs and relics of the past, like newspapers and newsweeklies in this Internet age.  The educational institutions of the future will be online—or so my friend believes—which cost a fraction of what “bricks-and-mortar” educational institutions cost today.  The kids now are computer literate like no generation of the past; and the idea of learning online is second nature to them.

Why spend money on college tuitions and campus living expenses, and professors’ salaries and the infrastructure of college campuses, when everything can be done online for a fraction of the cost?  Why have professors repeating essentially the same lectures year after year, when such lectures can be taped once and shown again and again on YouTube?  Why not eliminate “redundancy” and have the best professors teaching students online nationwide, and eliminate the costs of multiple professors?  Why allow “teaching assistants” (or “TAs”) to educate our kids, when the professors are paid to do this?  Why not eliminate colleges and graduates schools in wholesale numbers—just like libraries and book stores are closing or becoming “bookless” because everything is online?

The bottom line with respect to whether education shifts to the Internet might not be a function of conscious decisions by educators or parents: pure economics in America and globally will determine the results.  Falling governmental tax revenues will dictate drastic cuts like never before; and declining personal incomes and home values and foreclosures, and other family sacrifices, will result in changes to personal life styles that will affect the way educational programs are perceived and delivered worldwide.  It is not surprising that the Washington Post‘s parent sold Newsweek magazine for $1, and kept the Kaplan online schools that have become increasingly “cash cows” for the company.[6]

© 2011, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2] I served on the Board of Directors of the University of California, Santa Barbara Alumni Association, and as a Trustee of the UCSB Foundation, for a combined total of approximately ten years, overlapping the time that both of my kids and their spouses attended UCSB.  See http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html

Tuition hikes were coming then, and I argued vehemently that they would price the Middle Class out of a University of California education.  I am a product of the University of California system, having attended UCSB, UCLA and Berkeley for law school; and the Middle Class has been the backbone of the university.  Needless to say, the cost hikes since I served on the UCSB boards have been even worse.

Also, the same thing has been happening with the law schools, yet law school graduates cannot find jobs today.  What they do is load themselves up with massive student loans, and then are unemployed or forced to take menial jobs, and they default on the loans.  It is “fraud” on the part of the law schools, because they keep touting the “value” of their education.  See infra n.4.

I had a “spirited discussion” about these issues with a very nice female UCSB professor, who was the “faculty adviser” to one of the boards on which I served; and I asserted that UCSB (and other UC schools) were not preparing undergrads for jobs, and that the job market for them would get even tighter.  Her response was that if students want to be prepared for jobs, they would need to go to graduate schools.  I essentially told her that was absurd because neither the students nor their parents could afford it, but this fact of life did not faze her one iota.

I expect before the end of this decade that one or more of the California State University campuses will close because of budgetary problems.  Whether it happens with one of the UC campuses remains to be seen.  This pattern will be repeated elsewhere in the United States, and in other countries.

[3] See, e.g., http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/07/28/african-american-middle-class-eroding-as-unemployment-rate-soars/?test=latestnews (“It’s quite a sign of the times that people are questioning whether their education was worth all the time, effort and expense”)

[4] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1274 (“Is Law School A Losing Game?”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1583 (“The Law: A Less Gilded Future”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

[5] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[6] See, e.g., http://www.businessinsider.com/its-official-newsweek-will-be-sold-to-former-stereo-equipment-mogul-sidney-harman-who-reportedly-bid-1-in-excha-2010-8 (“Newsweek Sells For $1 To Stereo Equipment Mogul Sidney Harman”) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Washington_Post_Company


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31 responses

29 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

A College Education Is The Largest Scam In U.S. History!

This is the assertion made beneath a YouTube video entitled, “College Conspiracy,” which is worth watching even though it is long.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpZtX32sKVE

Also, this assertion is consistent with the views of law students about the costs and value of their legal educations, and the chances of getting jobs after law school—which is discussed at the links cited in footnote 4 of the article above.

See also http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-25/public-college-costs-increase/50919598/1?loc=interstitialskip (“Tuition and fees rise more than 8% at U.S. public colleges”)

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30 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

[Note: What appears below are comments that were posted beneath another article on March 17, 2011 (see https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1516), which are sobering and worth repeating here with respect to those who default on their student and related loans]

Debtors’ Prisons

The Wall Street Journal’s article entitled, “Welcome to Debtors’ Prison, 2011 Edition,” is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

Some lawmakers, judges and regulators are trying to rein in the U.S. debt-collection industry’s use of arrest warrants to recoup money owed by borrowers who are behind on credit-card payments, auto loans and other bills.

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren’t known because many courts don’t keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704396504576204553811636610.html?mod=WSJ_hps_editorsPicks_1

As the American and other global economies decline during the balance of this decade, such draconian measures may be used more and more to collect debts and harass debtors.

See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors'_prison

In the United States, it is unconstitutional to incarcerate someone solely for failing to pay a debt. For example, it violates (1) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, (2) the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment (as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment), and (3) the Eighth Amendment contains the Excessive Fines and Excessive Bail Clauses.

See http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv (Section 1: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) and http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights#amendmentviii (Amendment VIII: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”)

In Florida, for example, the St. Petersburg Times stated in an editorial entitled, “Debtors’ prison—again”:

In a little-noticed trend blamed on the state’s hard economic times, several courts in Florida have resurrected the de facto debtor’s prison—having thousands of Floridians jailed for failing to pay assessed court fees and fines. The shortsighted plan threatens to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. It appears to generate little additional revenue relative to the misery it causes, and it should be stopped.

. . .

Author Charles Dickens familiarized his readers with England’s system of squalid debtors’ prisons. Dickens’ father was imprisoned in Marshalsea for debts and Dickens set Little Dorrit there. But that country saw the light in the mid 19th century and outlawed jail for debtors.

In the United States, it is unconstitutional to incarcerate someone solely for failing to pay a debt. Florida officials get around this by claiming the defendants are going to jail not for their debts but for violating a court order. That is what you would call a self-serving technicality. The truth is that Florida has enthusiastically resurrected debtors’ prison. How Dickensian is that?

See, e.g., http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article991963.ece

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30 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Will Colleges Adapt, Or Be Cannibalized?

While it might be important which college someone attended when he or she applies for their first job, several years later it is essentially irrelevant. An online education may be just as valuable, at least in the future. Indeed, many fine universities worldwide would be wise to offer degrees online.

Also, the present generation of kids includes large numbers of video game “addicts.” Surely, some smart video producers can be hired by colleges and universities to make purely educational courses “fun” too. Or perhaps some will be hired by existing online schools such as Kaplan and the University of Phoenix . . . or maybe they will even start online schools of their own.

At some point, the online schools may hire the best and brightest professors from traditional “bricks-and-mortar” colleges, universities and graduate schools to help them with their educational programs, and to enhance their credibility.

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31 07 2011
UC Parent

I believe there is and will continue to be a place for brick and mortar places of higher learning, but these places will face real competition and eventually the cost bubble financed by the easy availability of student loans will meet its bust. Before that happens though a great many graduates will experience a prolonged underemployment in a suppressed job market leaving them unable to ever pay off the loans.

The bubble has been enabled by the easy financing which has allowed the universities to indulge whims without any normal market accountability. Easy financing plus the internationalization of the student pool has channeled competition into higher salaries for a few tenured professors and an ever expanding very well paid bureaucracy managing this and facilitating that. Much of the teaching load is carried by low paid untenured graduate students and professors.

What’s ironic is that the higher education system is more in control of people with left leaning ideological assumptions than any other part of our society. When allowed the freedom to craft their own world what did they do?

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31 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

With all due respect, for many years the prevailing wisdom was that newspapers and newsweeklies had a bright future too, and that book stores were irreplaceable. However, many newspapers and book stores are gone now, without so much as ripples in the water—with much more of the same yet to come.

In California alone, with increasing budgetary pressures during the balance of this decade, can the University of California and the California State University systems continue to support all of their campuses, much less at anything approaching their present levels? My guess is no, and that the consequences will be just as “startling” as when favorite newspapers closed or became mere shells of their former selves, and book stores closed forever.

They had become obsolete, like the horse and buggy; and colleges and graduate schools are heading in the same direction. As stated in the article above, the cost of online education is a fraction of the cost of “bricks-and mortar” facilities and the bloated faculties that fill them. Something has to give, bigtime, and it will. Higher tuition costs and college living expenses cannot be borne by families who are suffering already, and who will suffer even more during the balance of this decade.

I agree that many graduates will be unable to pay off their loans, and some will be facing the prospect of spending time in “debtors’ prisons.”

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/#comment-1755

I agree with your last paragraph as well.

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6 10 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Steve Jobs’ Legacy

When I first started using the Web, and put up a Web site, the Internet was being referred to as a “dirt road,” and not an information superhighway. Since then, it has grown geometrically and become much more sophisticated; and the current estimates are that out of the 6.9 billion people globally, approximately 2 billion use the Internet today.

See http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

Wow . . . all of us may say or think. How far we have come in a relatively short period of time. We bank with it; we meet our spouses (or significant others) using it; we buy most things via it; information is exchanged, and teaching is conducted like never before; revolutions are begun and continued because people connect through the Web; and elections are won or lost based on the Internet. Yet, few users realize how vulnerable it is to an EMP or other attack, which might bring it crashing down.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/ and http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/virus-hits-drone-fleet/ (“Exclusive: Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046660/U-S-drones-killed-American-Al-Qaeda-boss-infected-virus-amid-fears-terrorists-logging-move.html (“U.S. drones that killed American Al Qaeda boss ‘infected by virus’ amid fears terrorists are logging their every move”); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/

What Steve Jobs accomplished, as great as it has been, would not have been possible without the Internet. I am using my fifth-generation Apple laptop; and over the years, I have purchased lots of other Apple products, beginning with a PowerBook 160 almost 20 years ago. Like many other Apple users, I swear by them. Some of us have even communicated in the past with Steve, who has been receptive to many new ideas.

While the future is exceedingly bright, it is also fraught with enormous problems and challenges. China, Russia and other countries try to hack into the Pentagon’s computers on a regular basis; and they must be treated in substantially the same manner as if an enemy launched missiles against our cities. Fraudsters bilk Americans and others out of billions of dollars; and this will only get far worse with the passage of time. Law enforcement seems paralyzed when trying to address such problems, because they cross jurisdictional lines; and the necessary resources are not there, owing principally to declining budgets.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/lawyers-and-internet-scams/

Steve was a hero to so many people, yet his final verdict may become available shortly, when an authorized biography is released; and in the future when true “insiders,” such as John Lasseter of Pixar/Disney, share their views of Steve and having worked with him and contributed mightily to many of his enormous successes.

See http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/10/05/pixars-john-lasseter-on-the-death-of-steve-jobs/?KEYWORDS=Lasseter

With tributes pouring in from around the world, an article in the UK’s Economist may have said it best about Steve:

[He was] somebody who was able to make people love what had previously been impersonal, functional gadgets. Strangely, it is this last quality that may have the deepest effect on the way people live.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21531529

Indeed, as much as Bill Gates and Microsoft undoubtedly have been very successful, this may be Steve’s lasting legacy, and not that of his competitors. He made computing fun, for lots of us who are not geeks and never will be; and we will always thank him and honor him for that gift.

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1 12 2011
Katherine

Where did you go? I would love to learn from you regarding the situation in the EU.

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1 12 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Katherine, for your comments as always.

I went to four colleges (i.e., UC, Santa Barbara, UCLA, Berkeley, Georgetown), which were excellent.

See http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html

However, like great newspapers—and builders of fine buggies when automobiles came on the scene—this will not save them. We live in a computerized world, as this blog, e-mail messages, and YouTube attest.

At least two of the colleges that I attended are desperately seeking money now, from whatever sources they can tap (e.g., alums, foundations). This is especially true of the State-funded colleges, which are seeing California’s budgetary problems impact them significantly.

With respect to the euro zone and its problems, here are my latest blog comments.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1902

The worst is yet to come, during the balance of this decade; government efforts will prove futile; and it will get very ugly.

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5 02 2012
Robert Christopher

I can see that Higher Education will have short on-line courses for absorbing basic knowledge. When these have been passed, the student would be allowed to attend a campus course for more interesting and challenging work including discussions, workshops and, for scientists and engineers, lab work. It would mean attendees would know at least know the basics and should lead to better discussions. There could also be remedial courses, on an ad hoc basis, BEFORE the online modules ended so that slower students could keep up. This would help with keeping fixed costs down and success up. There could also be guidance on how wise it would be to pursue the subject to a higher level. This extra tailored tuition could be done using internal staff or approved freelance tutors.
Failure at the first stage would cost time more than money, and there would be an opportunity to remix the courses to be taken. You could still pocket a pass and not pursue that subject to a higher level. For example, this would be useful for those needing basic Maths but not wanting to do any more than needed!
This should also be done at 16 – 18 years old (in England, the Sixth Form) for part of the year, if only for practice! It could be done at the second half of the summer term, so school vacations could cover a longer period (and reduce the prices of holidays at peak times of the year! :) )
It would also reflect the changes in work patterns, with many companies allowing working from home for one or two days a week.

In England, The Open University has been doing much of this, without the Internet, for over 30 years!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_University

http://www.open-university.co.uk

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5 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Robert, for your comments.

First, inasmuch as children are learning to use computers at a very young age now, query whether traditional classroom education will be relevant—or necessary—at all in the future? Why spend money on “bricks-and-mortar” educational facilities?

Second, governments will not be able to support them. For example, in California with which I am very familiar, the State is effectively bankrupt, and so is the City of Los Angeles and other governmental organs. State funding may decline and then become nonexistent.

Third, as I have discussed in the article and comments above, with the use of YouTube and online conferencing, why is a college campus needed in the future? Indeed, I have felt for many years that offices are anachronisms. Companies, and certainly small companies, can have “virtual” existences online, and do today.

Fourth, the idea of paying professors to give the same lectures year after year is absurd. Give the lectures once, and record them, period. In the area of rapidly-changing subjects, again YouTube and online conferencing will suffice.

Fifth, newspapers and horses and buggies are testaments to bygone eras. College campuses may become relics of the past as well. Among other things, why waste scarce energy resources getting to them. Today, they are a waste of money; and this will be true to an even greater extent in the future.

Sixth, I have been online for about 20 years, since I bought my first Apple laptop, which is probably a museum piece now. I have three degrees, two of which are law degrees from Berkeley and Georgetown in the United States. I do not need to go to a college campus today for anything. Everything is online, at one’s fingertips.

Lastly, thanks for the links to the Open University. It seems interesting. :-)

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5 02 2012
Robert Christopher

Large parts of some courses might be done on line, but in many disciplines, such as Science, Engineering and Medicine, there is a need for people to be in the same room for discussions, work groups and lab work; and where better than a campus to do it! Video streaming may be possible in some circumstances but, for example, participating in a Low Temperature Physics experiment using a video link would not be feasible.

A half way house, as I suggested, would not be so futuristic and it would reduce costs because the foundation courses would be help students decide which of the more expensive campus courses would be appropriate to take. There would also be an opportunity to check out how things where going: the exam results and the views of the students, tutors and employers of the graduands would need to be assessed before the college campuses were knocked down or converted to something else!

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6 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your additional comments, Robert.

Again, pure economics will decide this, just as it did in the case of the demise of the horse and buggy, and now newspapers. If college campuses have any utility, they will be maintained, albeit in a much-scaled-back form. Otherwise, economics will dictate their elimination.

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1 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Walking Away From Student Loans

An article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Trying to Shed Student Debt”—and subtitled, “Lawmakers Rethink Bankruptcy-Law Ban on Walking Away From Education Loans”—is worth reading:

The growth of student debt is stirring debate about whether the government should step in to ease the burden by rewriting the bankruptcy laws—again.

In 2005, Congress prohibited student debt from being discharged through bankruptcy, except in rare cases, because of concerns that many young graduates—who often have no major assets such as a house or a car—would be tempted to walk away from loan obligations.

Some lawmakers now want to temper that position, pointing to concerns that a significant number of Americans could be buried under education loans for decades. Their efforts, however, would apply only to private loans—a fraction of the market.

In the past decade student debt has surged as tuition and enrollment climbed. At the same time, college graduates’ earnings have declined.

. . .

Terri Reynolds-Rogers, a 57-year-old health-program manager from Palmer, Alaska, declared bankruptcy in 2007, but still has $152,000 in student debt. She said she dropped out of medical school in 1999 to care for her two children after her husband died of brain cancer.

Ms. Reynolds-Rogers’s lenders at one point garnished $950 a month from her wages when she fell behind in her payments. She works a second job as an adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska and expects to work well beyond retirement age. “It’s enslaving,” Ms. Reynolds-Rogers says of her student debt. “At a time I should be looking at the possibility of retirement sometime in the near future, I’m taking on another career if I’m lucky.”

. . .

The federal government now provides the bulk of student loans. Federal loans accounted for more than 90% of all student borrowing in the 2010-2011 academic year, according to the College Board. Nonfederal loans—including those issued by states, banks and credit unions—accounted for 7%. The government expanded its lending after the financial crisis drove up student borrowing costs. However, making federal loans easier to discharge through bankruptcy would be politically thorny, given that taxpayers would pick up the tab if those debts were shed. The Obama administration argues that government lends at lower interest rates than private lenders and is often more lenient about allowing borrowers to delay or adjust payments when they run into financial trouble. However, since the government caps how much money each student can borrow per year, many students take out a combination of public and private loans to fund their education.

. . .

[B]anking-industry groups, including the American Bankers Association and the Financial Services Roundtable, oppose the measure, saying it would tempt students to rack up big debt that they won’t repay. “The bankruptcy system would be opened to abuse,” the industry groups said in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

. . .

Many college graduates are struggling keep up with their debt payments. About 27% percent of borrowers who have begun repaying their student loans are defined as delinquent, having at least one past-due student-loan account, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

As people defer or fall behind on their payments, the total amount they owe grows as interest accrues.

Tracy Paulsen, a 34-year-old lawyer from Wenham, Mass., said she recently moved in with her aunt, has put off marriage talk with her long-term boyfriend and depleted her individual retirement account—all so she can get a handle on more than $200,000 in student loans outstanding, most of which paid for law school. “It’s a noose around my neck that I see no way out of,” she said.

Ms. Paulsen has used an option to delay payment on much of her debt while the interest accrues, which has caused the total amount owed to balloon by tens of thousands of dollars. She has to start making payments within a year, and doesn’t know how she will do it.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303978104577364120264435092.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_careerjournal; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/#comment-1755 (“Debtors’ Prisons”)

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10 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Online Education Is The Future, Period

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20 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Education Will Change Radically

In response to my comments that online education is the future, one well-meaning but naïve commenter wrote:

NEVER be fooled by the idea that college education can be done online. Most basically, such study requires a great deal of self-discipline and independence—exactly what most college students nowadays DO NOT have. Most of a professor’s work involves keeping students from flunking themselves by adjusting teaching methods, assigning writing and reading it to make sure they did the reading and thought about it, etc. Most students can’t educate themselves without constant personalized feedback—and no online program will offer such constant personalized help without charging a lot of money for it. More important, you might be able to learn scientific and mathematical material from a book/screen, but learning anything remotely sophisticated in the humanities requires a constant question-answer interaction between teacher and students, as well as among students. Online material is a great supplement to classroom interaction—but a poor substitute by itself.

In turn, I responded:

First, economics alone is going to drive a dramatic shift to online education. More and more parents will not be able to afford a “bricks-and-mortar” college education as this decade unfolds, especially as State budgets strangle colleges and the Middle Class is decimated economically. Also, young kids are learning the Web at an ever-increasing rate. It is second nature to most of them already.

Second, a friend of mine’s wife has been teaching online for more than a decade, and doing so successfully. She is very skilled in her nursing specialty, having supervised approximately 150 nurses before she retired. Now, she is affiliated with a college in the Northeast; and there is constant interaction between her students and her. In fact, at lots of major colleges and universities, “teaching assistants” actually teach the students, not the “pampered” professors who limit their interaction with students to large lecture halls. Their work can be replaced by YouTube recordings of their lectures, to be replayed year after year.

Third, colleges and universities are not for everyone, and economics alone will dictate who attends and who does not. The truly-motivated will do so; others will drop by the wayside and not be coddled. Our education system will change dramatically and radically.

I agree with you: “[O]nline . . . study requires a great deal of self-discipline and independence—exactly what most college students nowadays DO NOT have.” They will be the losers . . . and the dropouts. Also, the “humanities” will be considered superfluous. Students will need some marketable skills, just to survive.

I served on two university boards of directors, and I will never forget being told by a PhD female biology professor that undergraduate education was not there to teach a marketable skill. This only happened in graduate schools. My response then, as it is now, was that parents cannot afford the extravagance of that lengthy educational process. This will be even more true during the rest of this decade.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such (or by using similar terms), 20-40 years from now. Like the Great Depression of the last century, which did not end until the onset of World War II at the earliest, this depression will not run its course until the end of this decade, or beyond. The effects will be devastating. Everything that many of us know and accept will be swept aside. The human suffering will be unfathomable worldwide.

Sweet “niceties” like student-teacher interaction, and the coddling of students, will become extravagances of a bygone era for most people. They will be trying to survive, and little more.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2160 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly during the balance of this decade . . . and education will not be spared!

If anything, this may be an understatement.

See also http://blogs.smartmoney.com/advice/2012/07/18/student-loans-sink-mom-and-dad/?link=SM_hp_ls4e (“Student Loans Sink Mom and Dad”)

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3 08 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Drop In Number Of Students Accepting University Places [UPDATED]

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Telegraph, which bears out what I wrote in the article above:

I served on the Board of Directors of the University of California, Santa Barbara Alumni Association, and as a Trustee of the UCSB Foundation, for a combined total of approximately ten years, overlapping the time that both of my kids and their spouses attended UCSB.

Tuition hikes were coming then, and I argued vehemently that they would price the Middle Class out of a University of California education. I am a product of the University of California system, having attended UCSB, UCLA and Berkeley for law school; and the Middle Class has been the backbone of the university. Needless to say, the cost hikes since I served on the UCSB boards have been even worse.

Also, the same thing has been happening with the law schools, yet law school graduates cannot find jobs today. What they do is load themselves up with massive student loans, and then are unemployed or forced to take menial jobs, and they default on the loans. It is “fraud” on the part of the law schools, because they keep touting the “value” of their education.

I had a “spirited discussion” about these issues with a very nice female UCSB professor, who was the “faculty adviser” to one of the boards on which I served; and I asserted that UCSB (and other UC schools) were not preparing undergrads for jobs, and that the job market for them would get even tighter. Her response was that if students want to be prepared for jobs, they would need to go to graduate schools. I essentially told her that was absurd because neither the students nor their parents could afford it, but this fact of life did not faze her one iota.

I expect before the end of this decade that one or more of the California State University campuses will close because of budgetary problems. Whether it happens with one of the UC campuses remains to be seen. This pattern will be repeated elsewhere in the United States, and in other countries.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/ n.2 (citations omitted) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10216357/Drop-in-number-of-students-accepting-university-places.html; see also Daphne Koller on the Future of Online Education (“[G]ive [university content] to everyone around the world for free”)

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10 11 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Political Correctness In Colleges And Universities

Ban political correctness

There is much to learn from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” which we are moving toward today with Barack Obama and his Democrats.

In the beginning, all animals were equal. However, as things evolved, the pigs became supreme; and dictated to the others, because they knew it all.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm

Obamacare is a perfect example of this today, with other measures to come.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/is-obama-the-new-nixon/#comment-3138 (“Five Years In, Obama And Bush Poll Numbers Nearly Identical”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/is-obama-the-new-nixon/#comment-3174 (“Animal Farm In America: Authoritarian Lawlessness!”)

Also, our “institutions of higher learning” are more and more hewing to the party line of “political correctness,” which is utterly absurd and violates our basic tenets of freedom of speech and thought.

Orwell’s pigs would be proud.

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9 01 2014
Dale Spradling

Sir, you are guilty of assuming that Higher Ed and its customers are mayonnaise, i.e., one size fits all. For example, you are correct that for some students, online/MOOC programs represent the future of Higher Ed. However, the first results show that these programs work best for older students who have the discipline and the desire to overcome the limitations of online learning.

For your younger and more traditional students, however, online works best for the common-core “History of Rock “N” Roll” courses. But once they get into their major classes, particularly the more technical ones, online is a bust. Think about it. While I’m sure you had some duds during your face-to-face time at Boalt, but would you trade your experiences for some YouTube videos?

Dale

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9 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Dale, for your comments.

First, kids today are learning how to use computers, celllphones (e.g., text messages) and tablets almost as soon as they learn to do anything. There is a whole new world out there, in which parents are faced with the issue of “addiction” to such devices when the kids are very young.

Second, today’s online courses will be swept aside by courses that reach these kids, not “older” students.

Third, libraries as we know them will be replaced by online sources, which will be hastened because of budgetary constraints. Indeed, most law libraries are not renewing their hard-copy subscriptions anymore because everything is shifting to the online counterparts.

Lastly, I agree that my classroom experiences were priceless. However, today’s parents and kids may not have such luxuries, as they are priced out of traditional college educations. Indeed, I would respectfully suggest that “bricks-and-mortar” colleges are like newspapers and the horse and buggy: namely, they are anachronisms that will be considered irrelevant in the years to come.

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9 01 2014
Dale Spradling

First, I’m currently an accounting professor at a state university in Texas.

Second, my comments on face-to-face versus online for younger/traditional students come from recent empirical studies (some involving performance on the CPA exam) on this issue. While there are few who can handle studying complex professional/technical issues, the majority fare better in the face-to-face setting.

Third, younger students use of technology, e.g., smart phones, is ruining academic and professional experience. One bit of advice I give my students is to give up their smart phones and iPads so they can concentrate.

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9 01 2014
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you again, Dale, for your comments.

First, I have no doubts about your sincerity or qualifications.

Second, the studies that you cite relate to “older” students. I know some lawyers with many years of experience who do not know how to use e-mail. Instead, the messages go to their secretaries and are transcribed; and the responses are dictated to the secretaries, and sent back over the Web.

Having been on the Web for more than 20 years, I never cease to be amazed by the ignorance of some people when it comes to relatively-simple technology. Indeed, I was on a semi-working vacation in Ireland more than 18 years ago; and I wrote a legal opinion for the CEO of a major American company while I was there.

I hiked in the mornings, and worked in the afternoons and early evenings; and research was sent from California through my secretary in Washington, D.C., who coordinated everything. The opinion was finished and in the hands of the CEO before I left Ireland; and I had to use dial-up connections to accomplish this.

Today, it is “duck soup” to do all of this; and young kids know it best.

Third, I agree with your third paragraph. However, classroom lectures can be put on YouTube (or its equivalent), and used year after year in many courses.

I am not making a value judgment that is at odds with your feelings. I am simply saying that pure economics and technology will push things in the direction that I am suggesting. Families will not be able to afford what you and I were privileged to experience.

Lastly, I concluded my article above by stating:

It is not surprising that the Washington Post‘s parent sold Newsweek magazine for $1, and kept the Kaplan online schools that have become increasingly “cash cows” for the company.

Since I wrote those words, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos purchased the Post for $250 million in cash, completing the transaction on October 1, 2013. It is my belief that the Graham family was smart in “dumping”—unceremoniously—both Newsweek and the Post.

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9 01 2014
Dale Spradling

I’m out of time today, but just fyi, the studies I mentioned were on traditional younger students. Simply put, online has its limitations when it comes to more complicated and technical material.

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21 07 2015
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.

Dear Timothy, I’m really disappointed in this rather old blog post from four years ago concerning the state of higher education. I’m suggesting a several things: 1) Read John Thelin’s overview entitled A History of American Higher Education. He shows with great clarity how American higher ed has reinvented itself every 50 or 60 years and must do so based on various economic changes and realities. You make good points that higher ed must indeed assimilate to the new internet economy and tech-based realities. But I think people’s forecast of an America devoid of higher ed exists only in their fantasy-induced heads–if history is any indicator.
2) see the documentary (available on Netflix) called Ivory Tower. They take up this idea that colleges are dinosaurs and run with it. Ultimately, the documentary makers conclude that American higher ed is changing, but is not yet obsolete and probably will not be a dino for many generations to come. It’s a very fair movie, regardless.
3) Consider that online learning has its limitations. Nobody has explained to me how to conduct chemistry and physics lab experiments through online learning management and content systems. How could pre-veterinary students dissect animals through a Blackboard or Moodle type of system? Consider as well that in humanities courses, students are required to interact with their peers in real time. While discussion forums on Blackboard and Moodle somewhat mimic this kind of interaction, it’s not the same thing. I’ve graded countless weekly forum requirements, and upward of 90% of students merely repeat previous students’ comments to attain their requirements to make forum posts. In addition, my experiences with online education show that students merely focus on the bare minimum requirements without regarding instructions to actually take their time and to put thought into their work. Online education doesn’t work very well with immature college students, for the most part. Routinely, students complete their assignments (haphazardly) for the first few weeks, but then a vast majority of them disappear and ignore the remaining requirements, usually resulting in an F grade for the semester. Administration realizes this and view online teachign as cash cows, because failing students will pay money to drop the course and to retake it. Online courses for the undisciplined student (who are most students) invite failure.
4) Consider as well that as of 2015, the vast majority of college freshman view internet technology in completely differently when compared to people of our generation. Many 18 and 19 year old students are very surprised that you can “google” questions, and can find data about economics, history, literature, chemistry, medicine, etc. online. Many of my students in the past five years have claimed that they only use the internet to watch youtube videos, stream music, connect with friends via social media, and to cheat on their tests by visiting for-pay “study” websites (that contain faulty and outdated information). Sadly, many students today don’t even own a computer other than the one that they can fit into their back pocket. Relying solely on smart phone devices and tablets greatly limits what a person can access online…maybe this changes soon and the internet evolves to make smaller devices fully capable, but I think we’ll need more students trained in computer technology at higher ed institutions before we reach that great evolution.

Hstorically speaking, many people in the 1950s and 1960s viewed television technology as a means by which higher ed and secondary ed would be revolutionized. Yet the internet is going the way of the television and becoming nothing more than a gigantic advertising medium devoid of educational use except for those specialists who understand its potential for research and data storage. The internet is not only a way to connect and advertise products to people, it’s also become one’s television, telephone, newspaper, stereo, camera, video camera, cable company, and diary. We don’t know how the next generation will interact with internet-based technology. But as it advances, more and more specialists will require training to maintain and to help internet tech evolve. I don’t see many gaining this knowledge through casual means. We’ll always need a highly systematized formal education hubs…or higher ed.

I do admit that American higher ed is in a crisis, which you pinpoint in your blog post. In the 1950s through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the states funded public higher ed (and provided some funding to private schools as well) upwards of 85% of all operating costs, enabling universities and colleges to hire professors, adjuncts, graduate students, and student workers. The cost borne by the student was very low in the form of tuition. Today, based on the market-based and for-profit system of federal financial aid, states have reduced higher ed funding to around 3% of all operating costs (some states have higher contributions, some states have lower). Thus the student is forced to pay upwards of 97% of all operating costs through tuition. Usually, if mom and day cannot foot the bill, they have to take out loans generating millions upon millions of high-debt holders by age 24. The pell grant system has been gutted. All of these changes occurred gradually in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and is ongoing.

In ways, I can understand the push to reduce college funding from state governments. After all, whenever we hear about higher ed in the media, the focus is on student debt while student culture is mired in beer and circus football and basketball spectacles, toga parties, racial song-singing fraternity boys, rape culture, drug culture, and massive cheating scandals. For the uncritical observer, it sounds like four or five years of college is some hedonistic paradise. In fact, some uneducated people in my local community think that the only reason college exists is so young people can party before and after football games. Some appear shocked that college is actually an educational institution for post-secondary graduates.

Because of dried up funds for operational expenses, colleges have been hiring more adjuncts rather than tenure-track professors. Adjuncts make extremely low wages with little or no benefits. Some don’t even have office space on the campuses where they teach 5 classes per semester for $3000 per class. Many of these adjuncts do this in hopes of one day getting a seat as a faculty member. Some of these adjuncts are dedicated and outstanding doctoral-level professors, and many others realize they’re getting screwed and create gimme classes in return. Why not? You generally get what you pay for. If you pay professors low wages, they’ll do low levels of work. I think the same applies for online education. Many online degree mills hire the unhireable, who merely manage corporately-generated and designed courses through Blackboard and Moodle. Don’t you want the doctorate-level professor creating and designing course content?

Another way universities have responded is by increasing the number of exploited laborers, whom you refer to as lax teaching assistants or TA’s. The graduate assistant position constitutes graduate-level training for entry into the faculty after the doctoral degree has been attained. TA’s assist with teaching in exchange for funding to their graduate program. Yet with universities’ increasing enrollments, jettisoning full-time faculty, and relying heavily on TAs and adjuncts, the TA usually find themselves in impossible situations. For example, many TAs draw the freshman level survey courses that all students must take. Their classes sometimes have anywhere from 300 to 500 students in one class with multiple TAs sharing teaching responsibilities. This is shameful and it is not conducive to learning. Some TAs take their duties very seriously, as I did, and this in turn helped me to land one of those rare tenure track positions following the doctorate. Others merely see their position as a means to an end, and the students in their classes are the ones that suffer.

Not all American institutions of higher education are the same. State colleges and universities are probably the worst when it comes to undergraduate education. Other colleges and universities focus and emphasize graduate education, e.g. Rice, Rhodes College, Bryn Mawr, Wheaton, Smith & Hobart, and the like. Many HBCU’s still operate on the emphasis of undergrad education. These schools employ doctorate level faculty and fewer adjuncts and have no TAs teaching classes. These are called “teaching colleges” and most are more expensive than state universities or “research colleges.” Research colleges (called R1) excel in graduate education, training the next crop of post-doctoral researchers.

Read Murry Sperber’s book Beer and Circus to get a clear appraisal of how undergraduate education has been crippled by big time athletics. See his endnotes for further reading.

You claim that college professors are paid to teach. That is true at teaching schools, but not necessarily the case at R1’s. At an R1 institution, the professor is hired and paid to conduct research, and to publish their findings in academic journals and academic presses. This advances human knowledge and has a foundational cultural function. This is why R1 professors rely on TAs, yet the system has become abused because of the lack of state funds for higher ed.

I think you do an awesome job when you write about the law and what you know. Given your law school experiences, how do you think online law education would work? Don’t you need a professor using socratic method to elicit your understanding of legal concepts? How could this be replicated in the online environment given that a law student would read the prof’s question one day, ponder on it, and then answer the next day (or whenever the law student fits their online course into their schedule)? How then would such a trained attorney handle a trial? Would they post their questions to the witnesses through an online forum only for the witnesses to respond at some time down the road when their schedule permits? What if such a trial attorney had an objection to a question? How would such a trained lawyer handle a meeting with the opposition in the judge’s chambers? Real-time interaction enables understanding, builds confidence, and enables students to quickly recognize their shortcomings and lack of preparation that cannot be mimicked in a online course.

Anyway, students taking my classes at the teaching college where I work know and understand why the American system of justice can more aptly be called the American system of injustice. Before making more posts about the state of higher ed and where it’s going, please do some research. I can tell taht you have not read one monograph about higher ed before making this post and instead relied on some newspaper editor’s comments. How does that newspaper editor know? Most of what I read in newspapers is really just superficial information, and I find most journalists to be superficial in their understanding of complex issues.

If you like, you can come down to Louisiana and visit me at my school. you could shadow me for a week or more if you like. I could then send you to a colleague at the state university–LSU–where roughly 30,000 undergraduates get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps then you could gain a firmer grasp on what it is that college professors do and why they are there at their respective institutions.

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21 07 2015
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Kevin, for your very thoughtful comments.

First, I am not suggesting an end to “higher ed,” nor have I ever suggested that.

With the Internet changing the world, and much more yet to come, the form of that education will change . . . . radically, or so I believe. Little kids of 2-3 have their own “phones,” and many if not most will learn from the Web.

Second, an economic calamity of unknown and unlimited dimensions may take place globally, which will affect what governments, schools and families can afford. This may shape education in ways that cannot be foreseen today.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-7485 (“The World Is Defenseless Against The Next Financial Crisis”)

Third, I assume you are correct when you write:

Online courses for the undisciplined student (who are most students) invite failure.

However, that may be a “cost” of online education, which will be accepted. Not everyone will learn, and lots may simply go through the motions.

Fourth, I have been on the Web for more than 20 years; and I use it as a valuable “tool” for everything. What began as a “dirt road” has turned into an “information highway”—which is essentially limitless.

Smartphones are changing the world, when all the information is at one’s fingertips. I studied photography with Ansel Adams; and today all of the fancy equipment does not have to be carried around. Indeed, here is a lovely photo taken by my 12-year-old grandson recently, with his smartphone:

Morro Bay

Fifth, you have written:

Sadly, many students today don’t even own a computer other than the one that they can fit into their back pocket. Relying solely on smart phone devices and tablets greatly limits what a person can access online…maybe this changes soon and the internet evolves to make smaller devices fully capable, but I think we’ll need more students trained in computer technology at higher ed institutions before we reach that great evolution.

I respectfully disagree. Smartphones today can do almost everything that laptops and tablets can do. And in the not-too-distant future, they may be all that people around the world need.

Sixth, you added:

The internet is not only a way to connect and advertise products to people, it’s also become one’s television, telephone, newspaper, stereo, camera, video camera, cable company, and diary.

I agree. And you said:

[M]ore and more specialists will require training to maintain and to help internet tech evolve.

As you know, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. More and more kids today are picking up skills at a very young age—without formal “higher ed” training—which can make them millions. The San Francisco Bay area is full of them.

Seventh, I have been upset for many years that students and their families are getting “priced out” of college and graduate school educations. There are very definite limits to how much parents and the students themselves can go into debt to finance this.

Coupled with the economic “calamity” that may occur in the not-too-distant future, I believe “college educations” will be forced to change. There will be no other choice. “Bricks-and-mortar” institutions are dead, or may be so in the future.

I have contributed to my four almae matres in the past, but believe that any contributions today are tantamount to ‘burning up the money” . . . or “throwing it down a rat hole.”

Eighth, you speak of “how undergraduate education has been crippled by big time athletics.” Based on my experiences, I would respectfully disagree. I grew up a mile west of the UCLA campus in Los Angeles; and I have an undergraduate degree in Economics from there.

When UCLA’s football team is successful, the money covers a vast number of men’s and women’s sports. It is a plus for the campus and its students.

Ninth, you have written;

Given your law school experiences, how do you think online law education would work?

As I have written, I would not recommend the law to anyone. What I learned at Berkeley is not the “real world” law, which has become corrupted by judges and others who “pollute” our legal system daily. Most of my lawyer friends agree, and do not recommend the law to their kids or anyone else.

You added:

[S]tudents taking my classes at the teaching college where I work know and understand why the American system of justice can more aptly be called the American system of injustice.

You are teaching them well. :-)

Tragically, our legal system is broken badly; and I am not sure it will ever be fixed, instead of getting decidedly worse.

Lastly, based on your comments, I assume you are “the best of the best,” and truly dedicated in your work. Your students are lucky to have you.

You mentioned LSU. Southern California lost “Coach O” (Ed Orgeron) to that school; and he is a terrific coach. UCLA alums, such as this one, had to admire what he did to win games and teach students.

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22 07 2015
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.

Dear Timothy, thanks for your thoughtful response to my lengthy post.

I think brick and mortar colleges will be around for a while. Do you see how much building and construction work they’re doing at many of them? Through academic conferences, I visit many state U’s regularly. Nearly all of them in multiple states have aggressive construction campaigns. The documentary Ivory Tower covers this and why it’s occurring. It doesn’t make sense that the public would abandon these brick and mortars. What would go into those buildings? I know the athletic departments at most state U’s are the largest of all departments on campus, but they’re not large enough to need all of the buildings on a campus. If brick and mortars go the way of the do-do bird, what about these gigantic 110,000 seat football stadiums? What do we do there? Ironic that football is killing undergrad education, but it’ll likely save or at least give a lease on life to the brick and mortar institutions.

As for undergraduate education being crippled by big time athletics, that’s essentially Sperber’s thesis to his very well researched monograph on the subject. It’s a great book-very persuasive argumentation with easily 150 endnotes per chapter. Sperber not only analyzes the connection between the poor state of undergrad education, but he also analyzes undergrad culture that cries out for “beer and circus.” Anyway, the point here is that this kind of phenomenon is more recent, say the late 1980s to the current times. I think you graduated from UCLA long before a time when winning at all costs was the goal of both school administrations, presidents, and athletic directors.

As for your statements about athletic funds supporting academic programs, nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, at many state U’s, students are required to pay “activity fees”–some to the tune of $850+ per semester. This all goes to the athletic departments, and the USA Today along with the WSJ have recently reported on this fact. At my alma mater, I remember a $600 per semester “activity fee.” Many thought that it was for our elaborate workout center, but there was another fee for that ($200 per semester). Students and financial aid packages are supporting athletic programs, not the other way around. IN a roundabout way, the government is subsidizing college athletics. See Taylor Branch’s provocative article in the Atlantic Monthly about the NCAA and college athletics. Wealthy contributors make huge donations to athletic departments. While some donate to academic departments, the amounts are much smaller.

I’ll stick to my points about the differences in online instruction and real time instruction. You must try to understand that young people today–most of who I’m referring to are younger than 21–don’t realize all that the internet can do, and consequently do not use the internet for research, for learning. Rather, they use the internet for entertainment. It’s a tool to keep themselves entertained. I’ve found in the past five years of college teaching that I actually have to teach students to use not just the internet, but a computer as well. They’re proficient on their phones, but you cannot access all of the internet’s research potential unless you use a phone. I bring up information via the web in class on the screen in front of all them, and many times they’re amazed. No telling how many times now that I’ve heard students exclaim, “you can find that on the internet!??!!”

Back around 2001, 2002, I knew a few undergrads who had to teach themselves to type because most schoolwork had to be typed and emailed to profs rather than handwritten. By 2008, 2009 if an undergrad didn’t know how to type, it was very rare. The past two semesters, I’ve had countless undergrads tell me that they not only don’t know how to type, but they don’t even know how to turn a computer on…or access the internet on a computer. And even more undergrads don’t know what a newspaper is…nor a newspaper website. This indicates their limited use of internet technology.

As for online learning totally taking over education at all levels, I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Society needs a safe place to send young people during the daytime while their parents are working. Could you imagine k-12 schools operating totally online? What would parents do with their kids during the daytime? Parents already cannot afford babysitters and other childcare services. Society needs brick and mortar schools. Again, how do you teach Chemistry Lab 101 on Blackboard? How do you perform an experiment? How does a student learn art concepts via online education. If we do eventually go over to totally online ed–then we’d have to jettison many academic disciplines and I dont’ think any society is quite ready for that.

Point is, we’re moving so far technologically, that students have moved well beyond the computer and the internet that you and I are still amazed by. I feel like they have to know how to use the internet and a computer because how the heck are they going to find a job if they don’t? How could they possibly work at an office job if they can’t use a computer? And this is important because many students inform me that they avoid internet classes because they don’t know how to use a computer and many Blackboard and Moodle content cannot be accessed on a phone. It’s haphazard on a tablet. Really, our online summer courses struggle to make (only need 15 enrolled to make). When I ask students why they don’t take that required course in the summer, many say “well I hate online classes. I want to see my teacher and talk to them.”

Ivory Tower also dispels the notion that the most successful computer and software engineers don’t have college degrees. Marc Zerkerberger and Bill Gates are exceptions rather than the rule, and I think both have gone back and earned degrees, albeit in other fields. Much of the amazing computer technology that has been developed since 1995 has occurred in your state, in silicon valley, where the Cal system and Stanford have played an integral role.

I remember Coach O well. I’m an Ole Miss graduate and Coach O was our football coach for a while. He didn’t do very well at Ole Miss and they fired him. When O was interim at USC, my brother and I were both pulling for him, and it was truly inspirational that the USC community got behind him the way they did…and that he had success. We knew he was a good coach, but he had little to work with at Ole Miss.

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22 07 2015
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you again, Kevin.

First, you said:

I think brick and mortar colleges will be around for a while. Do you see how much building and construction work they’re doing at many of them?

True enough, but the global “calamity” has not hit yet, much less with full force. As you know, in the wake of 2008, there were unfinished buildings that have not been finished yet. Tracks of land were cleared for development, and they still sit vacant. In China, whole communities sit empty, which will happen here too—as a partial response to your question:

It doesn’t make sense that the public would abandon these brick and mortars. What would go into those buildings?

Nothing.

When things come to a screeching halt economically, it may be much worse than 2008.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-7208 (“The World’s Next Credit Crunch Could Make 2008 Look Like A Hiccup”)

Second, you wrote:

I think you graduated from UCLA long before a time when winning at all costs was the goal of both school administrations, presidents, and athletic directors.

I am not that old. :-)

I had season tickets for the UCLA games at the Rose Bowl, and have attended the games at Cal and Stanford; and I had season tickets for the Georgetown basketball games. Surprisingly, nothing much has changed since my undergraduate years.

Third, you wrote:

As for your statements about athletic funds supporting academic programs, nothing could be further from the truth.

I did not say that. In fact, I wrote above:

When UCLA’s football team is successful, the money covers a vast number of men’s and women’s sports. It is a plus for the campus and its students.

Such funds cover sports, not academics.

You added:

Wealthy contributors make huge donations to athletic departments. While some donate to academic departments, the amounts are much smaller.

And deservedly so . . . yes, I am teasing, partly.

As you know, graduates often remember sporting events, parties and friends, more than what they learned in any classes.

Fourth, you have said:

You must try to understand that young people today—most of who I’m referring to are younger than 21—don’t realize all that the internet can do, and consequently do not use the internet for research, for learning.

The brighter students at most American universities know the difference though.

Fifth, you have written:

By 2008, 2009 if an undergrad didn’t know how to type, it was very rare. The past two semesters, I’ve had countless undergrads tell me that they not only don’t know how to type, but they don’t even know how to turn a computer on…or access the internet on a computer. And even more undergrads don’t know what a newspaper is…nor a newspaper website. This indicates their limited use of internet technology.

They must be real dunces. :-)

Sixth, you said:

When I ask students why they don’t take that required course in the summer, many say “well I hate online classes. I want to see my teacher and talk to them.”

I cannot recall having taken classes with TAs, but I would have changed the class if a TA was the only option. For the most part, I view them as little more than babysitters. If the professors do not want to teach, they should be fired. In fact, the lectures of the best professors in the country can be put on YouTube and used over and over again. Lots of professors are a total waste of money.

Lastly, you wrote:

When O was interim at USC, my brother and I were both pulling for him, and it was truly inspirational that the USC community got behind him the way they did…and that he had success.

UCLA fans and alums were very impressed with him too; and we do not generally speak kindly about anyone from the “University of South Central.” :-)

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22 07 2015
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.

With respect counselor, I still think you’re missing the point. I get the sense that you’re laying blame on higher ed and upon professors because students are lazy, ill-prepared, and overall uninterested students. I call it the rule of thirds–1/3 of college students have no business enrolling in college and their lack of performance validates my opinion thereof. 1/3 of students somewhat do their work and assignments, but will cheat if the opportunity presents itself. 1/3 of students are successful, motivated, driven, conscientious, and prepared. Every class I’ve taught since 2008 can roughly be broken down as such.

As for TAs and professors, the prof doesn’t hire the TA–the prof’s department hires them. Being a TA is part of training because you really, really understand something when you’re forced to teach it. TAs are under oversight, but despite the great training and oversight, there are a handful who don’t care about their students. I’d apply the rule of thirds again for grad students. 1/3 are waders, meaning they test the waters of academia while in grad school, 1/3 are beachcombers, meaning they merely sit on the beach and watch the waders and swimmers. 1/3 are swimmers, meaning these grad students want to conduct research, publish, teach, and contribute original knowledge to the field.

The professor at R1s are not hired to teach. They are hired to publish their research, which increases university endowments and brings high academic honors to those institutions. TAs are on the front line of teaching, yet most of these TAs teach the core-level classes. Few teach upper level courses, which professors usually handle. The system has been abused because of the way administrators make up for the loss in state operating funds, which likens the TA to an exploited laborer in many instances. This is not the professors’ fault. Your statement about profs getting fired if they don’t teach–that’s just a comment that represents your misunderstanding of this issue (and it’s a comment I hear all of the time).

As for the students and parents themselves–they need to do their own research on higher ed before sending their kids to R1s. There are other opportunities out there, such as the teaching college. In Mississippi, for example, Millsaps College and Mississippi College–William Carey University, along with Alcorn and Valley–are teaching institutions where professors are hired to teach. Teaching is emphasized at teaching universities. At R1s, the prof is hired to conduct research in their field and to generated original knowledge in that field through publication. So for the profs who do this–they are doing their jobs and fulfilling the dictates of their contracts. I don’t understand why you’re unable to understand this.

In short, state U’s or R1s are good at graduate education. Teaching colleges like Rice, Wheaton, Carleton, Spring Hill, et al, are places where profs are hired specifically to teach, and these institutions excel at undergraduate education. You’ll find few TAs there with class-leading responsibilities. Yes these are more expensive than most state U/R1s, but that’s an issue to be taken up by citizens with their respective state legislatures. Fund the R1s, and you’ll get a model more closer to teaching universities and colleges. See the Ivy League models, i.e. Princeton. 1/2 of the profs in the history dept. are paid and hired to do research, 1/2 are hired and paid to teach.

Yes, athletic departments have indeed changed since you were an undergraduate. Again, do some research on this because I’m not making this stuff up out of thin air. If you don’t want to read the books I suggested or watch the film I mentioned, then at least read The Chronicle of Higher Education, which contains article after article that is not only critical of athletic department supremacy on campuses, but critical of the R1 model that exploits TAs and shortchanges undergraduates. The Chronicle likewise points out the problems with the financial aid system in this nation that amounts to a neo indentured servitude.

Yes, college students are thick-headed and dense. I think you expect too much from profs. At the secondary level, it’s the teacher’s job to teach and the teacher is responsible if the student doesn’t learn. In higher ed, it’s the responsibility of the student to be teachable and to learn. That’s not ever going to change. That’s the one constant in the near 400-year history of American higher ed–a system of colleges and universities that has adapted and overcome multiple economic calamities and events. Read John Thelin’s book because brick and mortars are very chameleon-like and change with the changing times. If they didn’t, there’d be no land-grants, no R1s, no teaching colleges, no HBCUs, or online diploma mills (which few people respect, btw).

Your comment about what people remember from their college days troubles me a little. I hear all of the time from “concerned citizens” that college-level classes fail to interest students. “Everyone packs the football stadium or basketball arena, and if college professors made their classes interesting, then those classrooms would be packed, too!” I know you didn’t say that–but that’ the song and dance that I hear routinely and it’s misguided and misinformed.

College level course work is not intended to entertain people. It is intended to give students the tools to educate themselves. Yes, sometimes coursework is boring, but it is not the professor’s job, nor the duties of the administration to make college interesting. Rather it is the responsibility of the student to be interested in their coursework. Why would you major in something unless it interests you? This is why I majored in history and philosophy–because it interests me. By the way, the rule of thirds applies here. The brighter students remember their college days and remember their coursework. The kegger kids grow up and remember….well, keggers! (not that one cannot remember both).

My invitation to you is still good. Visit a teaching institution. Shadow me for a week, but it’ll have to be on your dime (we can give you a small honorarium), and provide you a venue to speak to our university community. It just might change your mind about us brick and mortars!

Last thing: it’d behoove universities at all levels to ratchet up admission standards because higher ed isn’t for everyone. The sooner Americans realize this, the more efficient higher ed can be.

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22 07 2015
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you again, Kevin.

First, you wrote:

I get the sense that you’re laying blame on higher ed and upon professors because students are lazy, ill-prepared, and overall uninterested students.

Not so at all. I have never believed that.

Second, with respect to TAs and professors, you have written:

They are hired to publish their research, which increases university endowments and brings high academic honors to those institutions. TAs are on the front line of teaching, yet most of these TAs teach the core-level classes. Few teach upper level courses, which professors usually handle.

In essence, what you are saying is that the professors keep the “bricks-and-mortar” institutions alive, inter alia, by bringing in money and enhancing the institutions’ reputations and prestige. If one assumes that such institutions will disappear—or decline—globally with the passage of time and difficult economic conditions ahead, there is no need for this function.

I believe professors should teach all classes, and NOT TAs. Indeed, I believe TAs should be eliminated, period.

Third, I agree with your comment that “the financial aid system in this nation [] amounts to a neo indentured servitude.” It is a crime, because it hurts both the parents and the students.

Fourth, you wrote:

Your comment about what people remember from their college days troubles me a little.

Because I grew up a mile west of UCLA, I wanted to start at a smaller college, so I went to the University of California, Santa Barbara, which was a wonderful experience. I was president of my class, etc. I transferred to UCLA later because I had done everything I wanted to at UCSB and in Santa Barbara—which was and is a small but lovely town—and I was ready for a much bigger school, UCLA, and Los Angeles again.

At both schools, I was an Economics major. However, the one course that I remember most was Art History at UCSB, taught by Mario Del Chiaro. I got an A in the course; and several years later, my bride and I spent three months in Europe, and traveled 15,000 miles in a little VW Bug. Everything about art history came back to me; and we went from one country to the next, relishing the people, geography and the art.

P.S. I needed the course to graduate; otherwise, I would not have taken it. :-)

Fifth, you wrote:

My invitation to you is still good. Visit a teaching institution. Shadow me for a week, but it’ll have to be on your dime (we can give you a small honorarium), and provide you a venue to speak to our university community. It just might change your mind about us brick and mortars!

I appreciate your kind invitation greatly. I have not been to Louisiana in many years, and just passed through the State when I did. At the moment, I have to start work on one brief, with another one close behind it. :-)

Next, you wrote:

Last thing: it’d behoove universities at all levels to ratchet up admission standards because higher ed isn’t for everyone. The sooner Americans realize this, the more efficient higher ed can be.

President Obama and others in this country view education as an egalitarian process. I have been a Democrat, and then a Republican; however, I have been an Independent for more than 20 years. Neither party represents me; and the ranks of Independents are very significant in this country.

See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/the-rise-of-independents/#comment-3244 (“Record-High 42 Percent Of Americans Identify As Independents”)

As an Independent, I do not follow any “party line,” and am closer to your thinking on this subject. However, if an economic “calamity” hits us, lots of talented students may not be able to afford a college education at all. Others may use it as a way of “sitting out the storm,” like lots did to avoid the Vietnam War.

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22 07 2015
Kevin Johnson, Ph.D.

one last thing I forgot to mention in regard to online education and youtube videos of professor lectures. First, that’s not the end-all be-all of higher ed–the lecture. Higher ed involves interaction, conducting experiments, discussion, public speaking–and done on a timetable. Through the online model or merely watching a host of youtube lectures on…say chemistry or biomedical engineering, or history…can be conducted in a non-formal way that fits in with viewers’ schedules. Without systematized and discipline, higher ed via youtube could result in bachelor’s degrees taking years to complete because the student has no timetable or schedule to operate within.

second, I teach history. I’m an historian. History as an academic field is perspectival. Watching youtuve videos of open Yale courses, for example, gives one only one perspective. It’s better to enroll in a university and take multiple history professors. Moreover, history and all knowledge is in constant change and flux. A youtube vid posted in 2011 about the Salem Witch Trials might not reflect new knowledge about that historical event several years down the road. That’s why real-time instruction is preferable to youtube instruction. And how on earth do you ask the youtube lecturer a question, or to elaborate on an idea? sure, you can post a response, and again it might take that lecturer years to answer that response.

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22 07 2015
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you again, Kevin.

I agree with your first paragraph. Lots of people take years, which seems to suit them.

With respect to your second paragraph, you have said that “it might take that lecturer years to answer that response.” If so, the lecturer should be fired.

An old friend of mine’s wife used to supervise more than 100 nurses at a leading hospital in the Southeast. During this time, she taught online courses at a small college in the Northeast. After they retired to Connecticut, she continued to teach such courses, and spends a month or so physically at the college.

She loves it, and is very proud of getting right back to her students, etc. In my opinion, she was “ahead of the curve” years ago, when she began.

Also, I wrote a legal opinion for the founder and CEO of a major American company when I was in Ireland. I hiked in the mornings, and worked on it in the afternoons and early evenings; and my secretary in WDC coordinated research that was coming in from a very talented law clerk in California. The point being that each of us can work from anywhere in the world today, ONLINE.

Food for thought. :-)

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20 08 2015
Timothy D. Naegele

Grad-School Loan Binge Increases Debt Worries

Student loan debt

The Wall Street Journal has an article that is worth reading, certainly by college students and their families, and by American taxpayers generally.

See http://www.wsj.com/articles/loan-binge-by-graduate-students-fans-debt-worries-1439951900; see also http://www.wsj.com/articles/about-7-million-americans-havent-paid-federal-student-loans-in-at-least-a-year-1440175645 (“About 7 Million Americans Haven’t Paid Federal Student Loans in at Least a Year“)

Such “loan binging” is crazy, for both undergraduates and graduates; and there should NEVER be loan forgiveness. After all, the borrowers—be they students or family members—knew exactly what they were doing from Day One. Mortgage and other borrowers do too.

A college education is not for everyone; and that is certainly true of a graduate school education. Indeed, as economic times get much much worse between now and the end of this decade, jobs will be scarce; and they may not yield enough money to service the student debt.

More students and their families will opt for online education, rather than attending “bricks-and-mortar” colleges, which are dinosaurs.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-7614 (“Doomsday Clock For Global Market Crash Strikes One Minute To Midnight As Central Banks Lose Control“)

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