Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Will an Ivy League degree make you LESS employable?

 In a recent Wall Street Journal essay, R. R. Reno, Editor of First Things, wrote that he had stopped hiring graduates from elite colleges.  He noted that he had watched a Zoom meeting of students at Haverford College (Reno's alma mater), where students displayed "a stunning combination of thin-skinned narcissism and naked aggression." 

Haverford, like most elite private colleges, is a "progressive hothouse." If students are traumatized by racial insensitivity in that liberal bastion, Reno observed, "they're unlikely to function as effective team members in an organization that has to deal with everyday realities."

Reno acknowledged that not all college students are radical activists. Nevertheless, most have allowed themselves to be intimidated by allegations of racism or some other transgression of the unwoke. "I don't want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up."

Reno went so far as to say that some politically conservative students at elite colleges suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. "Others have developed a habit of aggressive counterpunching that is no more appealing in a young employee than the ruthless accusations of the woke."

America's elite colleges charge students more than $25,000 a semester. Do they add value? Reno thinks not. "Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused." He doesn't think these snooty schools are teaching students to be courageous adults or good leaders.

I am totally on board with Mr. Reno.  I attended Harvard almost thirty years ago, and it was clear to me even then that I should keep my views and opinions to myself.  I can't say Harvard traumatized me. I had worked as a practicing lawyer in the rough-and-tumble world of rural Alaska.  I knew within a few months that most of my Harvard professors were slinging bullshit--very expensive bullshit.

But I pitied my Harvard classmates who had taken on mountains of student debt and got very little in return.  I have no doubt that some of them are still paying off their college loans.

So if you have an opportunity to attend an Ivy League school or some elite joint like Bowdoin, Amherst, or Swarthmore, you should read R.R. Reno's essay. You don't want to wind up with a diploma from a fancy college that costs you $200,000 and find that you picked up habits and world views that make you unemployable. 


A gathering of the woke





Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Road Rage can kill you: Fear, not anger, should guide your actions when you encounter a discourteous driver

Violence is on the rise in Baton Rouge.  Last year's homicide rate--114 killings--set a new record, and we will probably break that record this year. 

Some of these killings occur near my neighborhood--the venerable College Town subdivision, where LSU professors and retired professors live. 

Two days ago, Joseph Tatney, age 40, was shot and killed at Benny's Carwash, where I often go to get my Subaru cleaned.  Jamal Jackson, 19 years old, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

According to one version of events, Jackson was driving on Interstate 10, and Tatney tailgated him in a fit of road rage.  

Jackson pulled into a carwash parking lot, but Tatney followed him.  Words were exchanged, and Tatney punched Jackson twice. Jackson allegedly retrieved a handgun from his car and killed Tatney. 

We live in scary times, probably as dangerous as the mythical Old West. Our highways are especially perilous, with drivers distracted by their cell phones and young people weaving through traffic at 90 miles an hour. Road rage is increasingly common.

I admit that I am occasionally enraged by rude drivers. I get particularly ticked off when I am tailgated by some neanderthal driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck who can see that I can't go faster because I am behind another neanderthal driving 40 miles an hour in the fast lane.

But anger on the highways is the wrong emotion, whether you are an enraged driver or the target of a driver's road rage.

 Poor Mr. Jackson was understandably upset when he got tailgated and assaulted by a stranger. But now Jackson has been charged with murder. The gun he reportedly had in his car did not keep him safe.

As for Mr. Tatney, we don't know what triggered his purported road rage. But whatever it was, it was not worth his life.






Sunday, June 6, 2021

Don't say "I quit" unless you really mean it: Munker v. Louisiana State University System

 In 2015, Dr. Reinhold Munker was a tenured professor of medicine at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport (LSU), where he conducted research in hematology and oncology.

Apparently, Dr. Munker's work environment was not ideal. After a staff meeting of faculty in the Hematology and Oncology Department, Dr. Munker approached Dr. Glen Mills and Dr. Gary Burton and allegedly accused Burton of not wanting him to do research. 

During this encounter, Dr. Munker said, "Well then, I'll resign, and I'll go to Minnesota or Washington where they appreciate me, and I can do research. I was brought here to do research."

Dr. Mills responded by saying, "I accept your resignation. I'd like a letter at the end of the day giving me your resignation date."

After that, a series of email messages suggested that Dr. Munker's colleagues did not consider Munker's remark to be an official notice of resignation.  

In one message, Dr. Mills said, "I prefer you to stay, but if you wish to leave then we will work out your departure date."

Dr. Jay Marion, Dr. Munker's department chair, also wrote an email message stating that "I wanted to clarify that I have not 'initiated' [Dr. Munker's] job termination or 'removal from tenure' as he suggests."

Nevertheless, three days after the verbal exchange between Dr. Munker and Dr. Mills, Dr. Munker received a hand-delivered letter from the director of human resources notifying him that he was being terminated "effective at the close of business today."

Dr. Munker sued, but a Louisiana trial judge dismissed his case. The judge ruled that Dr. Munker's statement that he intended to resign constituted a resignation:

I do deem his statement, oral statement that he will resign being sufficient and that the University did take him at his word and issued . . . a written acceptance via email that his resignation was accepted and effective on a particular date.

Dr. Munker appealed the trial judge's decision, and a Louisiana appellate court reversed.

"Contrary to [LSU's] argument," the appellate court ruled, "the correspondence indicates that neither [Dr. Munker], Dr. Mills, nor Dr. Marion considered [Dr. Munker's] statement 'I'll just resign[,]' to be an official resignation of employment."

The appellate court sent the case back to the trial judge and assessed costs against LSU.

Apparently, this dispute had a happy ending because Dr. Munker is now a is Professor of Medicine at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he treats patients and conducts cancer research.

I will say right now that my sympathies are entirely with Dr. Munker. The Louisiana Court of Appeals was correct to rule that the correspondence among the parties shows that neither LSU's employees nor Dr. Munker considered Munker's informal comment to be an official notice of resignation. 

In my view, LSU was wrong to seize on one casual remark as an excuse to terminate a tenured faculty member.  That decision led to three years of unnecessary litigation.

Still, Munker v. Louisiana v. Louisiana State University System is a cautionary tale for anyone who works at an exasperating job--and that is a lot of people. Usually, the best approach is to keep one's frustrations to oneself while quietly looking for a new job.  

In other words, don't say you are resigning unless you really mean it.

References

Munker v. Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University System, 255 So.3d 718 (La. Ct. App. 2019).


 


Friday, June 4, 2021

Is Monday is the new Friday? Let's get back to work

When I was fifteen, I "hoed peanuts" one summer, weeding the peanut fields of Caddo County for one dollar an hour.  Oklahoma summers are brutal, and temperatures were above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks at a time.

Hoeing peanuts is hot, tedious work. If a government agent had offered me $1.25 an hour not to hoe peanuts, I would have accepted that offer.

Thus, I sympathize with American workers who prefer enhanced unemployment benefits to frying burgers for $8 an hour. Who would willingly take a pay cut for the privilege of working a menial job?

Nevertheless, I think it is time for Americans to go back to work. Why?

First, it is well known that the likelihood of getting a good job goes down the longer someone is out of the workforce.  And that is true whether you are a fast-food restaurant employee or a lawyer. 

People lose work skills if they are unemployed for an extended time, and long periods of joblessness are hard to explain to a prospective employer.  A "gap year" is easily explained; a "gap decade," not so much 

Second, the longer you stay away from the workplace, the more likely your employer will discover that it doesn't need you. In fact, I think a lot of employers realized during the pandemic that they were overstaffed.

Finally, unemployed people miss out on the nonmonetary benefits of going to work.  Employed people learn all kinds of skills that are transferable to other jobs. They learn time-management skills, people skills, and various mechanical skills as well. 

Besides, you are more likely to meet Mr. or Ms. Right if you have a job--another nonmonetary benefit of working. Who wants to form a long-term relationship with someone who watches television all day?

You may be saying to yourself that it is easy for me to urge people to get back to work because I am retired.  And that's a good point. 

But I have made my living as a writer, and I still write every day, and I still work as a volunteer editor for a couple of research journals.  I think I am healthier--both physically and mentally--due to having daily work tasks.

Besides, I never took up golf.

Do you want to tell your mom that you are in a serious relationship with Jeff Lebowski?



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

"Spanish is a loving tongue": So white people shouldn't be teaching Spanish?

 "Spanish is a loving tongue," so the song tells us,  "soft as music, light as spray." 

Indeed, Spanish is a lovely language, and I keenly regret not learning to speak it when I was young. I told myself I had no facility for languages, but I realize now that I was merely slothful.  

I was surprised to learn, then, that Jessica Bridges, a doctoral candidate at Oklahoma State University and a woman who taught Spanish for nine years in Kentucky, stated publicly that she stopped teaching Spanish because she is white.

As reported in Post Millenial:

[Bridges] decried the horror that children she taught had to "learn Spanish from a white woman. I wish I could go back and tell my students not to learn power or correctness from this white woman. I would tell them to stand in their own power. "White isn't right," she said.

I am confused. Does Ms. Bridges believe only people of color should teach Spanish? 

If so, I disagree. 

First of all, the people who inhabit the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) are Europeans, and although many Spanish people have a multiracial heritage, they are basically white people.

So how does it promote racism to have white people teaching Spanish?

Secondly, in my opinion, the transmission of knowledge should not be segregated by race, which is what Bridge's decision not to teach Spanish implies.

After all, the English language developed in Great Britain, chiefly inhabited by white folks. Should only white people teach English?

I think we would be a better country--a more inclusive country--if all Americans were bilingual--facile in both English and Spanish. I also believe our universities would advance diversity and equity more effectively if they would require their students to learn Spanish instead of obsessing on critical race theory.

Further, in my view, our universities should teach American history so that all students learn to appreciate the Hispanic contributions to our American heritage.

For example, educated Americans should know that the nation's oldest continuously inhabited town--St. Augustine--was founded by the Spanish.

They should know that the Spanish settled the upper Rio Grande Valley twenty years before the English set foot on Plymouth Rock.

And they should appreciate the fact that many of California's major cities have Spanish names--names given to them in the eighteenth century by Father Junipero Serra, born in Spain.

But to argue that white people shouldn't teach Spanish is--in my opinion--kinda silly.


Hey, buddy, are you teaching Spanish?


Thursday, May 27, 2021

With less than 100 students, Judson College will file for bankruptcy and close

 Judson College, a Baptist school for women, announced that it will close its doors in July and file for bankruptcy.  

Only 12 new students enrolled at Judson for the 2021 fall semester, and only 80 current students committed to returning in the fall. As a Baptist news story commented, "Operating a college for fewer than 100 students is not financially viable."

Judson will not be the last private college to close this year. Most private colleges are slashing their tuition in a desperate attempt to lure more warm bodies into their classrooms, but that strategy won't save all of them.

During this academic year, private four-year colleges discounted tuition for first-year students by an astonishing 58.4 percent. And the average discount rate for all undergraduates is 48.1 percent.  

In fact, very few students at private colleges are paying the sticker price for tuition. Ninety percent of first-year students got financial aid from their colleges this year, and 83 percent of all undergraduates got a discount.

Basically, private colleges are running a gigantic half-price sale. But discounting tuition won' save a struggling college unless it can entice enough new students to offset their lower tuition.  And that ploy won't work at a time when the supply of higher education significantly exceeds demand.



Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Want fries with that burger? Don't go to a college that doesn't at least teach you time-management skills

 Looking back over half a century on my college years, I remember absolutely nothing about the courses I took--130 vacuous credit hours. 

I can't say it was my college's fault. I had no clear idea about what I wanted to do for a living. I changed majors twice and took courses almost at random.  I took religion courses--enough for a minor. I took my university's first course in African American studies, and I got an A.  I even took two classes in the college of agriculture: horse production and livestock feeding. I must have had some vague idea about going back to work on my father's farm.

But I understand now that my college years were not a complete waste. Why? Because I learned to manage my time and weave my way through the bureaucratic maze of academia, and those skills are not to be disparaged.

In my first semester in college, I took five courses: mandatory ROTC, biology, history, freshman English, and a class in swimming. And I had a part-time job as a student custodian. 

I had to get up on time in the morning, get to classes held all over a sprawling campus, and study enough to pass the written exams. I had to figure out a way to amass enough of the courses I needed to graduate. I had to get my ROTC shirts pressed, and I had to learn to do my own laundry.

After getting my undergraduate degree, I gradually discovered that the world of work is often dull, colorless, and even meaningless. To make a living, I had to manage my time and learn the bureaucratic rules of the workplace.  I can see now that I learned those skills by spending four mind-numbing years at a university.  

But maybe colleges are not teaching time-management skills anymore.  According to Inside Higher Ed, a recent survey found that about one-fifth of recent graduates say their college education did not prepare them for their first job. Less than one in four graduates said they learned people-management skills while in college, and only a third said they learned time-management skills

These findings are scary. A college degree is becoming more and more expensive with each passing year, and most students now take out student loans to pay for their studies--loans many will never be able to pay back.

The very least we should expect from our universities is to teach students how to manage their time.  A young person who graduates from college with burdensome student-loan debt and no time-management skills would have been better off working at McDonald's.  

At least McDonald's teaches its employees to show up for work on time, smile, and not overcook the french fries.   


Do you want fries with that college degree?



Thursday, May 20, 2021

Abolishing the Campus Police: Is That a Good Idea?

 Davarian Baldwin, a professor at Trinity College, published an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, arguing that colleges should abolish their campus police forces. This is a terrible idea.

Baldwin began his article by mentioning two examples of alleged police brutality by campus police officers. One of these incidents took place in 2019, and the other in 2015.  There are approximately 4,000 colleges and universities in this country. Are we going to close down campus police forces because of a few atypical events?

If I understand Professor Baldwin's argument aright, he believes campus police officers often target nonwhite community residents and that their primary function is to protect the university's institutional interests. "The campus police function as the most visible form of urban renewal to clear city blocks and signal to investors, students, researchers, and their families that the area is open for business," Baldwin wrote.

But what about campus crime? This is Baldwin's response to a hypothetical skeptic who asks, "What if someone gets raped?"

[D]espite the widespread existence of campus police departments across the country, sexual violence and substance abuse among students remain prevalent. This policing failure could be, as some have argued, a matter not of capacity but priorities. Even with jurisdiction far beyond the main quads, the primary function of campus-police officers is to serve the university's interest. Bringing greater attention to white-on-white student crime would undervalue the institution's brand. In contrast, images of highly armed security forces storming city blocks reassures branding and business interests.

I find that argument difficult to follow. Is Professor Baldwin saying that campus police forces subordinate campus safety to universities' commercial interests? If so, I think he is wrong.

I don't disagree with everything Professor Baldwin wrote. He criticized universities that participate in a Department of Defense program that distributes military equipment to police departments, and I agree. The campus police do not need armored personnel carriers. 

But that is a minor issue. Only about 100 of the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities obtained military equipment from the Department of Defense.

I also agree with Professor Davis that campus police officers sometimes behave abusively.  The UC Davis police famously pepper-sprayed passive students in 2013, and very little was done to punish the offenders.  (If you want to see that incident, you can go to Youtube).

But university campuses have become virtual cities.  Some of them have 50,000 students or more on their campuses plus thousands of employees--professors, administrators, and staff people.  These people deserve on-site police protection.

Campus crime is an ongoing problem--something Congress recognized when it passed the Cleary Act more than 20 years ago.  That law requires colleges and universities to keep records of campus crime events and make those records available to the public.

Colleges and universities also provide campus housing for their students, and they are legally obligated to protect dorm residents from crime. In Mullins v. Pine Manor College, decided in 1983, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a verdict against a small, private college after a first-year student was abducted from her dorm room and raped.

More recently, the California Supreme Court ruled that a university has a duty to protect students in the classroom from other students that the university knows to be dangerous. In that case, a mentally ill student stabbed and nearly killed an undergraduate woman in a chemistry lab.

In my view, these incidents and hundreds of other criminal acts that have taken place on college campuses over the years argue in favor of a campus police force.

If Professor Baldwin's argument is that some police are poorly trained and mistreat community residents, let's talk about that. 

If the argument is that campus police sometimes behave abusively, as they did during the UC Davis pepper spray incident, let's talk about that. 

But to argue that the nation's 4,000 colleges and universities should abolish their campus police forces makes no sense to me at all.  And I bet it makes no sense to Mom and Pop, who send their sons and daughters to college in the expectation that the people in charge are committed to keeping their children safe.

We need better police officers, not fewer.










Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Bloomsburg University axes all its fraternities and sororities: Do you really want to be a Frat Boy?

A few days ago, Bloomsburg University sent out a campus email message announcing that it will no longer recognize its campus Greek organizations.

The message was short and sweet:

Effective immediately, Bloomsburg University is terminating its fraternity and sorority life and severing ties with all national and local FSL organizations currently affiliated with the University.

Bloomsburg is not the only university to lose patience with its fraternities and sororities. Earlier this year, the University of Miami suspended three fraternities and permanently removed another for allegedly hosting large parties in violation of the University's COVID rules.

But it is fraternity hazing that has frustrated college administrators more than any other issue. Hazing is illegal in all fifty states, but college Greek organizations continue hazing their pledges.  

From time to time, pledges have died from abusive hazing--usually from alcohol poisoning or injuries suffered while inebriated. 

In fact, Justin King, an 18-year-old student at Bloomsburg University, died in 2019 when he fell off a 75-foot embankment after attending a fraternity rush party.  His mother is suing her son's fraternity for recklessly serving him "life-threatening amounts of alcohol." And Bloomsburg University kicked the fraternity off its campus.

So, if you are an undergraduate male at an American university, do you want to join a fraternity? 

Maybe the answer is yes. Perhaps your father and grandfather belonged to a particular fraternity, and you want to carry on the family tradition. Perhaps your friends are joining a fraternity, or you think being a frat boy will help you meet girls.

So go ahead and join a fraternity. But if you do, please heed two pieces of advice:

First, do not participate in hazing, either as a pledge or a fraternity member.  Hazing is a crime in most states, and you could go to jail. And if a pledge dies because you poured grain alcohol down his throat, his family will probably sue you for wrongful death.

Second, don't engage in casual sex at a fraternity party if your sex partner is inebriated.  You may think drunken sex is fun, but universities have been charging male students with sexual misconduct because they had sex with female students who were incapacitated by alcohol.

Of course, not all drunken sex occurs at fraternity parties, but Greek social events often involve excessive drinking followed by casual sexual encounters. You don't want to be kicked out of college because you had sex with an inebriated partner.

I know men who were in fraternities during their college years, and many say they formed valuable lifelong friendships with their fraternity brothers. 

But I also know men who fell into a pattern of alcohol abuse after boozing their way through college with their frat pals. And some of them picked up the nasty habit of using alcohol to prey on vulnerable young women.

If you are thinking of joining a fraternity, I urge you to watch Animal House, that classic 1970s movie about life in a college fraternity.  You may think the film is a lot of laughs, and it is. But in real life, the characters in that movie would go to prison for some of their fraternity antics. And that would not be funny.

Consensual or non-consensual?








Sunday, May 16, 2021

Idiocracy: Giving people free hamburgers if they get the COVID vaccine

 I was a kid during the polio epidemic of the 1950s, and the disease terrified me.

I knew two kids who wore steel braces on their legs due to polio, and I saw pictures of children with their heads poking out of iron lungs--very scary!

Then Dr. Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine, and grownups sighed with relief. All parents had to do to protect their children from polio was have them vaccinated.

But we kids were as frightened of the vaccine as we were by polio. 

Syringes in the 1950s were enormous. In those days, the needles were used again and again, and eventually, they got dull. The needle on a polio syringe looked as big as a number 2 pencil from my second-grader perspective--an unsharpened number 2 pencil!

In my town, children got their polio vaccines at school. I was in Mrs. Vaughn's second-grade class, and she lined us up for the long march down to the principal's office. 

I heard children ahead of me screaming in terror at the prospect of getting stuck with a big needle. In some cases, kids went postal, and teachers had to call parents to help physically restrain their children.

But, by God, all the kids got vaccinated, and eventually, polio was eradicated in the United States.

Why was America successful in wiping out the polio scourge? Because getting the polio shot was not optional. Mr. Bailey, the school principal, did not ask me if I wanted to be vaccinated.  I would have told him no. And Mr. Bailey didn't give me a little prize as a reward for having a nail-sized needle stuck in my arm.

So I was surprised by the news that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is offering New Yorkers a free hamburger if they get the coronavirus vaccine.  I watched a video of Mayor de Blasio munching on a burger while cajoling his constituents to get their COVID shot.

Conservative commentators are making fun of Mr. de Blasio for his hamburger gambit, but I'm on the Mayor's side. If New Yorkers won't get vaccinated unless you give them a hamburger, I say give them a goddamned hamburger.

And if they hold out for a cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate shake, I say give them whatever they demand. Hell, give them a Tesla!

But what have we become as a nation when we have to bribe Americans to do the right thing? So far, the coronavirus has killed half a million people in the United States. Why wouldn't everyone do their small part to help stop the COVID pandemic?  Do we really need to give out hamburgers?





Sunday, May 9, 2021

Elon Musk says MBA degrees are overrated: Does it make sense to go to graduate school?

 Elon Musk says MBA degrees are overrated, and he should know.  Musk doesn't have an MBA, and he's worth $166 billion.

Here is what Musk said in a recent interview:

The path to leadership should not be through an MBA business school situation. It should be kind of work your way up and do useful things. There's a bit too much of the somebody goes to a high-profile MBA school land then kind of parachutes in as the leader but they don't actually know how things work. They could be good at, say PowerPoint presentations or something like that, and they can present well, but they don't actually know how things work. They parachute in instead of working their way up. 

Not surprisingly, many MBA teachers disagree with Musk. Robert Siegel, who teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, said Musk is "completely off base talking about M.B.A.s." Siegel challenges Musk's charge that MBA  courses don't teach people how to be entrepreneurs. 

But a Canadian professor of management studies admitted that "[t]he MBA trains the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences." And Jessica Stillman, writing for Inc., suggests that people could save a lot of money simply by reading ten well-known books about business. 

Musk's skepticism about MBA degrees falls within a larger debate about the value of graduate degrees in general. Speaking as a person who is embarrassed to have two graduate degrees from Harvard, here is my take on this topic.

First, don't go to graduate school unless you believe a graduate degree will improve your job prospects.  Public-school educators in some school systems get an automatic raise if they have a master's degree in education, so it may make economic sense for a teacher to pursue an advanced degree in education regardless of whether there is any substance to the program.

Second, don't pay too much money to get a graduate degree--especially a degree from a non-elite institution. Many colleges introduced expensive MBA programs after Congress introduced the Grad PLUS program that lifted the cap on how much people could borrow for graduate school.

Northeastern University, for example, offers an online MBA program costing $78,000, which Northeastern claims is "an affordable option" compared to other programs, which charge as much as $200,000. 

Maybe that is so, but ask your friends who have MBAs if they think the experience was worth the cost.  You may be surprised by some of the responses you will get.

Third, don't get a graduate degree that might actually hurt your job prospects.  For example, many law schools offer master's degrees, which require an additional year of study beyond the basic J.D. degree. Some law schools offer graduate degrees in law for people who do not intend to practice law. 

I've known people who pursued a graduate degree in law because they didn't excel in law school and didn't get a good law job after graduating.  An extra law degree, they think, will enhance their job prospects.

But employers can sniff out the motivation for that strategy. If the job applicant had a brilliant career in law school, that person would probably be pulling down a six-figure salary in a prestigious law firm instead of hanging around a law school for an additional year.

And an online graduate degree from a for-profit school may be absolutely worthless in the job market. I've sat on many faculty hiring committees and heard committee members reject any job candidate who obtained a doctoral degree from a for-profit school.

Finally, weigh the opportunity costs of going to graduate school. Are you gaining experience in your present job that will likely pay off later in salary increases and promotions?  If so, why leave the job market and take out student loans to go to graduate school?

This is the bottom line. Don't take out student loans to go to graduate school unless there is absolutely no other way to achieve your professional goals. Millions of Americans have had successful careers without graduate degrees, and millions more have graduate degrees and don't know nuthin'.






Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Independent expert predicts student loan program will lose a half trillion bucks: Is he right?

 In 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hired Jeff Courtney, a former JP Morgan executive, to do a forensic analysis of the federal student loan program.  DeVos suspected the program was generating huge losses. 

In fact, in November 2018, DeVos said publicly that only one in four student borrowers were paying down both principal and interest on their debt. She also acknowledged that 20 percent of all federal student loans were either delinquent or in default.

Mr. Courtney's analysis confirmed Secretary DeVos's suspicions. Courtney concluded that roughly one-third of the Education Department's student-loan portfolio will never be paid back. That's about a half-trillion-dollar loss.

The Department of Education rejects Mr. Courtney's conclusions. DOE says his "analysis used incomplete, inaccurate data and suffered from significant methodological shortcomings . .  . ."

Maybe. But we don't need a sophisticated economic model to know that the federal student-loan program is underwater.  We know that 8 million student borrowers are in income-based repayment programs and are making payments too small to pay down their loans' principal plus accruing interest.

So, that is 8 million student debtors who will never pay back their loans. That fact alone should dispel any notion that the federal student loan program is solvent.

Policymakers on the left and on the right can continue arguing about the student-loan crisis as if it were merely a political issue.  But it is not--it is an economic calamity for millions of distressed student-loan debtors. 

We know for sure that burdensome student-loan debt is hindering young Americans from buying homes, having children, and saving for their retirement.  Granting partial student-debt relief, as some politicians propose, will do little to relieve widespread suffering.

In my view, the way to address the student-loan mess is for Congress to amend the Bankruptcy Code to allow insolvent student borrowers to discharge their loans in bankruptcy like any other consumer debt.

Congress also needs shut down the Parent PLUS program, which has a high default rate, particularly among minority and low-income families. 

And Congress must put some realistic cap on the amount of money students can borrow for their college education. It is insane for private colleges to peg their tuition rates at $25,000 a semester. They can only get away with this highway robbery because students can take out federal loans to finance their studies.

Mr. Jeff Courtney believes one-third of student-loan dollars will never be paid back. If Congress doesn't address the college-loan crisis forthrightly and very soon, the losses will be much higher than that.

Bard College: Tuition is $56,000 a year







Wednesday, April 28, 2021

An online college education: What is it worth?

 In olden times, college students took classes in the ivy-covered halls of universities. 

Male professors showed up for class wearing professorial togs: corduroy pants or rumpled khakis, a blue L.L. Bean oxford-cloth shirt, a knit tie, and a baggy sports coat with elbow patches. (At least that's how I dressed.) Female professors had a different dress code, but I suspect it also came from the L.L. Bean catalog.

Then along came online college courses that students could take from home on their computers. How convenient!  The for-profit schools were the first colleges to aggressively market online courses.  The for-profits charged more than traditional universities--but you could attend class anytime you liked: in the middle of the night if that worked best for you.

At first, the traditional colleges turned up their noses at the online degree programs offered by the for-profits.  An online degree from the University of Phoenix couldn't be compared to a degree from a real university--Oklahoma State University, for example--the Princeton of the Prairies!

But then the admissions officers at the public universities asked themselves this question: Why don't we cash in on the online education racket?

And that's what they did. Many public colleges tacked on a "technology fee" to online courses even though those courses were far less expensive to offer than face-to-face instruction.

When people like me questioned the value of giving students college credit for asynchronous online courses, higher education defended the new technology.  Online instruction is just as good as face-to-face, they stoutly maintained.

But then, the coronavirus crisis forced almost every American college to close in mid-semester. The schools shifted their instruction from the classroom to the home commuter because they had no other choice.

And--the best I can determine--not a single college discounted its tuition. Some of them argued that their online instruction was comparable to having the gasbag professor in the same room.

But the students didn't buy it.  At least 167 lawsuits have been filed by disappointed students who want their money back.  Where did I get that number? From a law firm that keeps track of the litigation and posts the individual lawsuits on its website.

The case against Quinnipiac University in Connecticut is an interesting one to examine.  Stonehill's spring tuition in 2020 was almost 25 grand.  That's for one semester!

Students sued, and they made an interesting argument.  Quinnipiac offered online courses in 2020, and tuition for online classes was only one-third the cost of face-to-face instruction.

In the students' view, Quinnipiac owes them a tuition refund because, by the university's own pricing structure, online courses are only one-third the cost of classes taken on campus.

Now here is my take on the tuition-refund litigation going on around the United States. In my opinion, the universities acted responsibly when they closed their campuses in March 2020 and shifted instruction to an online format.  

Moreover, most private schools--the small liberal arts colleges, in particular--are cash-strapped even in the best of times. If a court forces them to give students wholesale tuition refunds, many of them will close. That would be unfortunate.

But let's not continue the charade of saying that online college courses are comparable to being in the same room with a live professor. Students across America are telling their colleges that they got an inferior product in the 2020 spring semester, and they are right.

Wouldn't you like to see your professor face to face?

References

Author, Class Action Litigation Related to COVID-19: Filed and Anticipated Cases, PIERCE ATWOOD (Nov. 9, 2020), https://www.pierceatwood.com/alerts/class-action-litigation-related-covid-19-filed-and-anticipated-cases (listing 167 cases as of March 9, 2021).

Metzner v. Quinnipiac Univ., No. 3:20-cv-00784 (KAD), 2021 WL 1146922 (D. Conn. March 25, 2021).



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

College students: Don't take out student loans to get a degree in an easy discipline

"Easy money lays light in the hand," Solzhenitsyn observed, "and doesn't give you the feeling you've earned it."

We can say the same thing about easy college courses and easy academic majors. 

It is quite feasible for a student to get an easy college degree. Universities have ditched rigorous admission standards so that anyone can get into college, and grade inflation has made it possible to pass through a university without studying and without learning anything. 

Every university has a few academic majors that are known not to be challenging. And every college has a few professors who are too lazy to engage in rigorous grading.  

Twenty years ago, when I was teaching at the University of Houston, a professor in my department taught multiple sections of a general education course--a course that students from across the university could count toward their degree requirements. Semester after semester, his classes were packed because he did not grade any assignments, and he gave every student an A. 

Young people may think they are playing it smart by choosing nonchallenging classes and easy academic majors. Why enroll in a class taught by a brilliant professor if the prof is a hard grader?  Why not sign up for classes taught by an indolent professor who gives out puffball assignments and then doesn't grade them?

I confess that I am not speaking from the pinnacle of academic rigor. I majored in sociology--the painful enumeration of the obvious. I made straight As my last semester without even buying textbooks.  And I learned absolutely nothing.

Then I went to law school, where the professors graded on a strict curve. Only 5 percent of first-year students received As, 10 percent got Bs, and 75 percent had to settle for a C (or worse).

To my surprise, I excelled in this rigorous environment, and I graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law. Forty years later, this is still my proudest professional accomplishment.

Please take my advice and don't choose the easy path while in college, especially if you are taking out student loans. After four, or five, or six years of study, you will wind up with a vacuous degree and no job skills.  

You may then decide to get a master's degree and select a graduate program with low admission requirements. That choice will lead to a second worthless degree.

Then where will you be?  You will find yourself buried under a mountain of debt you cannot pay off. Those mindless courses and that easy major will embarrass you, and you will feel like a fool. 

As Solzhenitsyn put it, "There [is] truth in the old saying: pay short money and get short value."



Friday, April 9, 2021

Tingling v. ECMC: 52-year old student-loan debtor with multiple degrees loses her case before Second Circuit Court of Appeals

Bankruptcy is intended to give honest but unfortunate debtors a fresh start in life. People who mismanage their finances, spend money improvidently or go broke through their own stupidity can shed their debts in a bankruptcy court.

That is a good thing. 

But the Bankruptcy Code contains an exception for insolvent student-loan borrowers. Unless they can show "undue hardship," they can't get free of their college loans. 

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals defined undue hardship in its Brunner decision, rendered in 1987.  To qualify for a discharge of their student loans, debtors must make three showings: 

1) They cannot pay off their loans and maintain a minimum standard of living.  

2) Their financial condition is unlikely to improve over the terms of the loans.

3) They handled their student loans in good faith.  

Some commentators (including me) hope the Second Circuit will reconsider the harsh Brunner test and perhaps overrule it or at least interpret it more humanely.

Unfortunately, Tingling v. ECMCdecided about a month ago, is a signal that the Second Circuit is not willing to abandon Brunner.

Janet Tingling, age 52, tried to discharge student debt accumulated to obtain multiple degrees (a B.S. and M.S. in biology, an M.B.A., and a Doctorate in Business Administration). Her adjusted gross income was about $50,000 before filing bankruptcy. Her total student-loan debt (including principal, interest, fees, and costs) was $59,000.

Tingling was initially represented by a lawyer in her bankruptcy proceedings, but she released her attorney and pursued her adversary action alone.

Bankruptcy Judge Alan S. Trust denied Ms. Tingling's application to shed her student loans, finding that she failed all three parts of the Brunner test. She appealed to U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert, and she upheld Judge Trust's ruling.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (Judges Cabranes, Raggi, and Sullivan) upheld Judge Trust's bankruptcy opinion, ruling that he had applied the Brunner test correctly. The panel expressed no interest in modifying or overruling the Brunner standard.

I am not unduly disheartened by the Second Circuit's Tingling decision.  After all, Janet Tingling's situation was not as compelling as that of other more hard-pressed debtors who have wound up in a bankruptcy court. 

The Second Circuit pointed out that she "is of relatively young age (52 years old), in good health, possesses two graduate degrees in healthcare administration, lacks dependents, and, by all indications, is able to maintain her current level of income" (Tingling v. ECMC, 990 F.3d at 309).

I hope another debtor--someone in more desperate circumstances--takes her case to the Second Circuit and challenges the Brunner test.

 And I hope that person is represented by a competent and energetic lawyer.  Ms. Tingling was handicapped, no doubt, by the fact that she fought her case into the appellate courts on her own, without legal counsel to advise and assist her. 



References

Tingling v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 900 F.3d 304 (2d Cir. 2021).











Friday, April 2, 2021

President Biden ponders $50,000 student-loan cancelation: That doesn't go nearly far enough

 President Biden has asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to prepare a memo on the president's legal authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt.  

If he did that, the experts tell us, President Biden would forgive all college-loan debt for 36 million people--about 80 percent of all borrowers. 

Is that a good idea? 

Sort of. Anything the federal government does to provide relief to distressed student-loan debtors is good, so I support a massive cancelation of student debt.

Nevertheless, one-time debt forgiveness is the wrong approach. 

Wiping out student debt without reforming the student-loan program is like fixing a flat tire on a broken-down car and then putting it back on the highway with no brakes. Someone down the road is going to get hurt.

The whole damned, rotten student-loan system has to be torn down. Otherwise, the corrupt, venal, and incompetent American higher education system will continue ripping off the American people.

Obviously, massive reform can't be accomplished overnight.  But here is what we need to do for starters:

1) Congress must remove the "undue hardship" clause from the Bankruptcy Code and allow insolvent student-loan debtors to discharge their loans in bankruptcy. 

2) We've got to shut down the Parent Plus program.

3) The federal government has got to stop subsidizing the for-profit colleges, which have hurt so many young people--especially people of color and low-income people.

4) We've got to stop shoving student borrowers into 25-year, income-based repayment plans that are structured such that no one in these plans can ever pay off their loans.  There almost 9 million people in IBRPs now. 

5) The universities have got to start offering programs that help their graduates get a real job. Degrees in ethnic studies, diversity studies, LGBT studies, and gender studies only prepare people for jobs teaching ethnic studies, diversity studies, gender studies, and LGBT studies.

6) Finally, we must restore the integrity of the nation's law schools.  We've got too many mediocre law schools. California alone has more than 50 law schools, with only 18 accredited by the American Bar Association.   And the law schools need to go back to admitting students based on objective criteria--the LSAT score, in particular.

If we had fewer but better-trained lawyers, we'd have less litigation and fewer attorneys who see their job as being hired political hacks.

Will the Biden administration do any of the things I've outlined? I doubt it.

Higher education is in desperate need of reform. A college education is far too expensive, and much of what is taught at the universities is not useful.  Wiping out student debt will bring some relief to millions of college borrowers. But if the colleges don't change how they do business, the student-debt crisis will not be solved.








Thursday, April 1, 2021

Don't let college professors persuade you that learning to speak Standard English is optional

I've been to Georgia on a fast train honey,
I wudn't born no yesterday.
Got a good Christian raisin' and an eighth-grade education
Ain't no need in y'all a treatin' me this way.

Billy Joe Shaver 

A while back, I met an elderly man who told me he had grown up in the Texas Panhandle back in the 1950s.  As a child, he spoke with a strong West Texas accent. But then his family moved to Arizona, and no one could understand him at his new school.

Fortunately, the man recounted,  an Arizona teacher began tutoring him on a one-to-one basis and taught him to speak standard English without a Texas accent. "If it hadn't been for that teacher," he said, "I would never have made a success of my life."

This man's story made an impression on me because I grew up in western Oklahoma, where the people speak very much like the West Texans.  To this day, I have some range dust in my diction; and I think at least some of my classmates at Harvard wrote me off as hick when they first heard me speak.  

Now there is a movement to de-emphasize standard English because it disadvantages minorities--particularly African Americans.  For example, Professor Asao Inoue of Arizona State University argues that students should not be graded based on the quality of writing but "purely by the labor students complete . . ." 

Why should professors stop grading students on the quality of their writing? "Because, Professor Inoue maintains, "all grading and assessment exist within systems that uphold singular, dominant standards that are racist, and White supremacist."

 Rebecca Walkowitz, chair of the English Department at Rutgers University, is on Professor Inoue's wavelength. She sent an email recently, announcing an initiative to incorporate "critical grammar" into the department's pedagogy.

Critical grammar pedagogy, Professor Walkowitz's email stated, "challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as not to put students from multilingual, non-standard 'academic' English backgrounds at a disadvantage."

Professors Inuoue and Walkowitz's views on language are in harmony with the ebonics movement, which asserts that Black English should be regarded as a language in its own right and not a substandard dialect of proper English.

I sympathize with the academics who argue that we should show more respect for non-standard English. Indeed, some of America's greatest literature contain expressions in non-standard dialect. Huckleberry Finn, for example. And the lyrics of country music (which I love) are full of non-standard English phrases.

When Merle Haggard wrote Hungry Eyes, he penned, "us kids was too young to realize."  Should we give him a C- because he didn't write "we children were too young to realize"? And Elvis--should he have sung "You are nothing but a hound dog"?

Nevertheless, I believe all Americans should strive to master standard English in both their speech and their writing. After all, shouldn't we endeavor to build a common culture? And if that is so, isn't a common culture built on a common language?

I acknowledge that some Americans grew up in subcultures that did not value standard English. Those subcultures should not be denigrated.  I said "y'all" as a kid, and I still say "y'all." 

But standard English is not that hard to learn. I keep Strunk and White's Elements of Style on my desk, which I consult occasionally; and I subscribe to Grammarly, an online editing tool that checks my writing for spelling and grammar. All our commuters have a spell check function.

Besides, every young American must eventually leave academia, where grammar and spelling are being emphasized, and get a paying job. American employers may insist that their employees write and speak in standard English. Indeed, job candidates who misspell words on their job applications and converse in an obscure dialect may not get hired.

In my view, academics who want to deemphasize standard English grammar and diction are doing their students a disservice. Millions of young people are graduating from universities with crushing student loans. If they leave college speaking and writing no differently from when they entered, what was the point of all that education?







Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"This student loan case fits the definition of insanity": Bankruptcy judge grants 56-year-old Kansan partial relief from his student-loan debt

 In Goodvin v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, Judge Dale Somers, a Kansas bankruptcy judge, began his opinion with these words:  "This student loan case fits the definition of insanity."

Judge Somers went on to chronicle the story of Jeffrey Goodvin. 

Mr. Goodvin attended Wichita State University for four years (1982-1986) but did not obtain a degree. He enrolled at Brooks Institute of Photography in 1987 and got a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1990. In 2007, he enrolled at Santa Barbara City College and obtained a certificate in multimedia studies. 

Goodvin made repeated attempts to find steady employment over many years, but he worked in an unstable industry.  Judge Somers summarized Mr. Goodvin's job history as being "marked by several relocations, intermittent job loss, layoffs, and periods of unemployment, through no apparent fault of his own." In 2018, Goodvin entered an apprentice program with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union. 

By the time Goodvin filed for bankruptcy in 2019, he was 56 years old, and he owed $77,000 in student loans. Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) held Goodvin's largest loan, a consolidated loan that Goodvin took out in 1992. 

And here is where Judge Somers found insanity. The principal of Goodvin's consolidated loan was only $12,077, and Goodvin had paid $19,527 on that loan--more than 150 percent of the amount that was disbursed. But interest on that loan accrued at 9 percent. By the time Mr. Goodvin filed for bankruptcy, he owed $49,000 on that $12,000 loan. 

Predictably, ECMC argued that Mr. Goodvin should be placed in the Department of Education's REPAYE plan, a 20-year income-based repayment plan that would end when he was 76 years old. ECMC did not contend, however, that Goodvin would ever pay off his student loans. In fact, Judge Somers noted dryly, "To argue otherwise would strain incredulity."

Naturally, Mr. Goodvin did not want to enroll in a repayment program that would not end until he was ten years into retirement. Moreover, as Judge Somers pointed out, Goodvin's payments under a REPAYE plan would not cover accruing interest. As Judge Somers observed, "Goodvin's reluctance to participate in the REPAYE plan for another twenty years is not a lack of good faith; it's called hopelessness."

Very sensibly, Judge Somers granted Mr. Goodvin partial relief from his student debt. The judge discharged the consolidated loan, which he described as "the elephant in the room."  That loan, accruing interest at 9 percent, amounted to 64 percent of Goodvin's total student-loan indebtedness. 

That leaves Mr. Goodvin with an obligation to pay back $27,689, an amount that he can probably manage.

Judge Somers' sensible and refreshing decision is a sign that the federal bankruptcy courts are recognizing the enormity of the student-loan crisis.  ECMC appealed to the U.S. district court, but Judge John Lungstrum upheld  Judge Somers' ruling.

This is the third bankruptcy court decision out of Kansas in recent years to grant a partial discharge of student loans. ECMC was a defendant in all three cases, and it appealed all three decisions. Remarkably, federal district courts, acting in their appellate capacity, upheld the bankruptcy judge in all three matters.

Judge Somers was right: The Goodvin case fits the definition of insanity. His decision, thank God, restores some sanity to Mr. Goodvin's life, which should hearten us all.


References

Goodvin v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp., Case No. 19-10623, Adv. No. 19-3105, 2020 WL 6821867 (Bank. D. Kan. Sept. 9, 2020), aff'd, Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp. v. Goodvin, Case No. 20-cv-147-JWL (D. Kan. March 17, 2021).





Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sweet v. DeVos: A federal judge calls Education Department's Borrow-Defense process "Kafkaesque"

In 2019, a group of student-loan debtors filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

Claiming to represent more than 100,000 student-loan borrowers, the plaintiffs accused DOE of issuing "blanket refusal[s]" when students tried to have their student loans forgiven based on claims they had been defrauded by the for-profit colleges they attended. 

More particularly, the plaintiffs accused DOE of “stonewalling” the fraud-claims process and allowing more than 200,000 fraud claims to languish for eighteen months.

In October 2019, Federal Judge William Alsup certified the lawsuit as a class action (Sweet I); and on May 22, 2020, Judge Alsup approved a preliminary settlement proposal that would end the litigation (Sweet II). 

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, DOE pledged “to decide claims and notify borrowers within eighteen months of final approval and implement relief within twenty-one [months].” DOE also agreed to be penalized if it delayed its decisions.

The plaintiff students apparently believed DOE would process the fraud claims in good faith based on a review of each individual claim. But they discovered that DOE denied almost all claims by sending a form letter that told petitioners their requests were denied based on “Insufficient Evidence.”

As reported in Forbes, borrowers accused DOE of "skirting the spirit of the settlement agreement, by essentially, arbitrarily denying relief to everyone." DOE admitted that since April 2020 it had denied 94% of all borrower-defense claims. 

When DOE’s behavior came to Judge Alsup’s attention, he was not happy. As he explained in his order, DOE’s form letters did not explain why students’ claims were almost uniformly rejected.

  Although individuals could request reconsideration of their individual denials, they had no basis for doing so since DOE gave no reason for the rejections.  Indeed, Judge Alsup observed, “the borrower’s path forward rings disturbingly Kafkaesque” (Sweet III, p. 5).

In fact, it is hard to read Judge Alsup’s opinion without coming to the conclusion that Betsy DeVos’s DOE was determined to deny relief to almost everyone who claimed to have been defrauded by a for-profit college.

As Judge Alsup pointed out, DOE had processed fraud claims expeditiously during the Obama administration. In the final 19 months of President Obama's second term in office, DOE processed 32,000 borrower-defense applications and approved 99.2% of them (Sweet III, p. 9).

But in 2017, President Trump took office and appointed Betsy Devos as his Secretary of Education. DeVos's DOE slowed down the borrower defense review process dramatically. In fact, over an 18-month period, DOE did not issue any decisions on borrower-defense claims (Sweet III, p. 3).

Then, in December 2019, while litigation was pending, the DeVos DOE speeded up its review process and decided 16,000 cases in one day. In contrast to the 99 percent approval rate during the Obama administration, President Trump's DOE denied 95% of the borrower-defense claims (Sweet III, p. 3).

Judge Alsup’s order canceling the proposed settlement was issued less than a month before the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump was defeated, and DeVos resigned her post as Education Secretary in January.

In short, there is a new sheriff in town. Let us hope Miguel Cardona, President Biden’s Secretary of Education, will resolve student-loan borrowers’ fraud claims quickly and in good faith. The Obama administration determined that most of these claims are valid--that most claimants were ripped off by for-profit colleges.  Surely the Biden administration will come to the same conclusion.

References

Adam Minsky. Dept. of Education Tells Court It Has Denied 94% of Loan Forgiveness Applications, Forbes.com, Sept. 14, 2020.

Sweet v. DeVos [Sweet I], No. C19-03674 WHA, 2019 WL 5595171 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 30, 2019) (granting motion for class certification).

Sweet v. DeVos {Sweet II], No. C19-03674 WHA, 2020 WL 4876897 (N.D. Cal. May 22, 2020) (approving preliminary settlement).

Sweet v. DeVos [Sweet III],  No. C19-03674 WHA, 2019 WL 6149690 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 19, 2020) (refusing to approve settlement agreement).


Bye-bye, Betsy!



Monday, March 15, 2021

All Sales Final! No Refunds! Students lose lawsuit for tuition reimbursement against four Rhode Island universities that closed their campuses during COVID pandemic

Almost exactly one year ago, American higher education shut down in response to the COVID pandemic.  All across the United States, universities closed their campuses and switched from face-to-face instruction to online teaching.

Over the past several months, students brought dozens of lawsuits against their colleges, seeking partial tuition refunds for the 2020 spring semester. They argued that the quality of teaching suffered when teaching shifted to computerized learning.

Some student plaintiffs found sympathetic courts, but a federal judge in Rhode Island dismissed students' lawsuits against four Rhode Island schools: Brown Univesity, Johnson & Wales University, Roger Williams University, and the University of Rhode Island.

 Judge John McConnell ruled that the four universities had no contractual obligation to deliver in-person instruction during the spring of 2020.  In Judge McConnell's view, the universities' recruitment materials, which touted lovely campuses and stimulating classroom environments, were mere "puffery" and did not amount to a contractual obligation to teach classes face-to-face.

I think Judge McConnell ruled correctly. Confronted with the coronavirus pandemic, American colleges and universities had no choice but to switch instruction from the classroom settings to an online format.

I sympathize with the students who brought these lawsuits, particularly the one brought against Brown University, an elite Ivy League school. Brown's tuition and fees total $58,000 per year. Students did not shell out that kind of money to take classes by sitting in front of a commuter in their parents' basements. 

Nevertheless, America's college leaders were justified in closing their campuses last spring. It was the only responsible thing to do. Surely they realize, however, that they cannot teach students via computers over the long term, even if the coronavirus pandemic stretches out for many months or years to come.

The total cost of attending America's most prestigious colleges now amounts to about $70,000 a year or even more. Most students will have to take out student loans to cover the bill.

If Brown's academic leaders think their students will take out student loans indefinitely for computerized instruction, they are in for a rude awakening.  No one will go into six-figure debt to get an online diploma, even if the credential is from Brown University.

Thus if the COVID pandemic isn't quickly brought under control, it will be the end of expensive private-college education.  After all, a young person smart enough to be admitted to Brown is smart enough not to pay $58,000 a year for an online college degree.




References

Burt v. Board of Trustees of the University of Rhode Island, __ F.3d ___, C.A. No. 20-465-JJM-LDA (D.R.I. March 4, 2021).