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 and  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.,, and can be contacted directly at; 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

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., (“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., (“Is Law School A Losing Game?”) and (“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., (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[6] See, e.g., (“Newsweek Sells For $1 To Stereo Equipment Mogul Sidney Harman”) and

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