Flutterby™! : I have a new hero

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I have a new hero

2009-12-01 17:55:15.612251+00 by ebradway 3 comments

I ended up on the WikiPedia article for Jane Jacobs and read her comment about the freedom to study her wide-ranging interests, she said:

For the first time I liked school and for the first time I made good marks. This was almost my undoing because after I had garnered, statistically, a certain number of credits I became the property of Barnard College at Columbia, and once I was the property of Barnard I had to take, it seemed, what Barnard wanted me to take, not what I wanted to learn. Fortunately my high school marks had been so bad that Barnard decided I could not belong to it and I was therefore allowed to continue getting an education.

Another way in which the structure of the University fails it's students. One of the reasons I ended up getting my BS in Applied Math was because the actually degree requirements for math courses was lower than almost any other BS or BA in the catalog. This meant my hodge-podge of 16-years of willy-nilly courses could be combined into a BS in Math by simply filling in a few holes. When I went back to school, I actually had three possible choices, each requiring a similar number of holes filled: Math, Religious Studies and Psychology. Everything else required a huge string of courses and would have taken 3-4 years at 15-20 credits/semester instead of 2 years at 12-15 credits/semester.

[ related topics: Religion Civil Liberties Mathematics Education ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-12-02 04:16:23.729812+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think the tuition situation is worse than you suppose, for this reason: You're looking at the more legitimate schools (and I'd argue that Stanford is on that list of top publicly funded universities, but that's because the money that founded them was embezzled...).

I think the real disconnect is coming from the diploma mills that get students to take out huge amounts of Federally backed student loans to pay for diplomas of dubious value. So the students are making a purchasing decision based on what they think industry wants, and taking out loans they can't afford, and everything seriously goes to pot then.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-12-01 21:25:24.403455+00 by: ebradway

Unfortunately, the government is paying less and less. I'm not sure what the stats are for California, but the reason the UC system just jacked their tuition 32% is because the state isn't paying what they used to. The UC system used to be considered the top public university in the world. UC-Berkeley and UCLA routinely made the top 10 list in research in almost every field and commonly vied for #1 slots with each other. Now they are only in the top 10 in select areas.

The University of Colorado currently receives 7% of it's budget from the State. The President of the CU system has been considering taking it private. Because the University takes the state funds, they have significant limits placed on things like enrollment. For instance, out-of-state enrollment is capped at 45% of total enrollment. CU-Boulder is a popular school for Southern Californians who like winter sports. That 45% gets filled up pretty quick. Out of state tuition is 4-5 times the in state tuition. CU could give up the 7% from the state and easily make it back up in increased tuition revenues by increasing out-of-state enrollment.

Unfortunately, though, the system would have to shift thousands of state employees to private employment. Most of those state employees are unionized. The faculty has some strong leftist tendencies and believe in state run universities.

I've recently been helping my daughter decide what to do when she finishes high school. Originally, I thought I'd be in a faculty position somewhere and might be able to manage comped tuition. But that's not likely. Faculty positions are extra-difficult to land right now and many universities have stopped comping tuition for faculty.

The basic problem is the pace of tuition increases is really close to out-pacing the value of the degree. Especially if one uses their undergrad years to "find themselves". There are much cheaper ways to do that. AmeriCorps, backpacking across Europe, working a Starbucks, river guiding, etc., are all much cheaper than college tuition.

Attending school once one is more established in who they are provides greater clarity. It's easier to look at the course catalog and make decisions like I did: what's the fastest way to finish and of those fast paths, which provides the most long-term benefits. Some of those upper-level proof-oriented math classes were a serious PITA. But I survived and a BS in Math trumps Psychology and Religious Studies any time! I was still able to squeeze in a few fun classes like Eastern Religions and Jazz Appreciation (both filled holes in my transcript).

I really lucked out and finished my BS right before tuition started sky-rocketing. In grad school, the formula changes. If you are reasonably focused (and aren't studying religion or philosophy), it's pretty easy to get an assistanceship which covers tuition.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-12-01 18:11:02.185287+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think this is also a major part of the disconnect between customers that the University system has. We think of an education as something the student gets, and pays for, but really the student is the product, the customer is industry, and, largely, the government is paying for it.