Showing posts with label value of a college education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label value of a college education. Show all posts

Friday, September 2, 2022

A Degree From a Tiny College Is Like A Thousand Dollar Car: Ain't Worth Nothing

 The Bottle Rockets, whose music has been compared to Woodie Guthrie's, sing a poignant tune about a thousand-dollar car:

A thousand dollar car, it ain't worth nothin' 

A thousand-dollar car, it ain't worth shit

Might as well take your thousand dollars
And set fire to it.
A thousand-dollar car ain't worth a dime
You lose your thousand dollars every time.
Oh, why did I ever buy a thousand-dollar car?

If you are thinking about getting a liberal arts or humanities degree from a college with less than a thousand students, you should listen to the Bottle Rockets' Thousand-Dollar Car song.  Simply substitute "tiny college" for "thousand-dollar car." A degree from a school with less than a thousand students "ain't worth nothing. . . ain't worth shit."

Colleges with less than 1,000 students are in a precarious financial position, with many on the brink of closure. Nevertheless, the number of these schools is growing.

According to a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, there were 395  "micro colleges" in 2010. In 2020, there were 435.

That's not because more tiny colleges are being founded; many small colleges are shrinking due to declining enrollments.

Indeed, many of these little colleges would have folded during the COVID pandemic if the federal government hadn't shoveled money into them. The feds sent $77 billion of helicopter money to colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, and the micro colleges got a piece of that pie.

Federal money has propped up small private colleges for years, much like a terminal patient on life support. But isn't it time these schools shut down?

For example, Harvey Mudd College in California only had 854 students in 2020, and its annual cost of attendance is $84,000. Why would you want to study there?

Wesley College in Delaware has 917 students and saw a 50 percent drop in enrollment between 2010 and 2020.  The total cost of attendance for a four-year degree is $178,000 (including room and board).  That's a shocking price tag for a degree from a little-known school with a tiny student body.

I don't mean to disparage the small private colleges. Many have an honorable record of serving students in their communities, and many were founded by religious groups for a noble purpose. Many did a fine job teaching the liberal arts and the humanities--some for a hundred years or more.

Nevertheless, the era of the small private college is over. You would be nuts to take out student loans to attend a college with less than 1,000 students.

A liberal arts degree from an obscure, tiny college ain't worth nothing.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Planning on going to college this fall? Why not wait a year or two?

Since time immemorial, middle-class parents have urged their children to get a college education. A college degree, parents believed, was the indispensable ticket to a good life.  College was where young people prepared for the world of work, where they often met their future spouses, and where they formed lifelong ties to classmates.

But listen carefully. Times have changed. The coronavirus, campus unrest, and a troubled economy have undermined the value of a college degree. If you are thinking about enrolling for college this fall, you might want to postpone that plan--at least for a year. And here is why:

The coronavirus pandemic. First of all, the COVID-19 epidemic forced virtually every American college to close last spring and to shift from live instruction to a distance-learning format.  Most schools have announced that they will be teaching their courses online this fall. 

Moreover, dorm life, college sports, and extracurricular activities will all be negatively impacted by the coronavirus.  In short, going to college next year may not be much fun.

Colleges and universities will learn to adapt to a post-pandemic world, but it will probably take a couple of years before they figure it out. Why not postpone college for a year or two while this transition is ongoing?

Less police protection.  Colleges have a legal duty to keep their students safe on campus and in the dorms. Most colleges meet this responsibility by maintaining a campus police force.

In the wake of George Floyd's killing, however, many colleges and universities are facing intense pressure to dismantle their police forces. As Insider Higher Ed recently reported:
 Student organizations, workers’ unions and individual activists at dozens of universities are calling on administrations to cut ties with local police or disband campus police departments, saying that policing institutions enact violence upon black people and uphold white supremacy.
So if you go to college this fall, there is a good chance that police protection on your campus will be diminished from what it was a year ago or even eliminated.  In my view, this is another reason to postpone going to college. Wait until the debate about campus law enforcement is resolved before embarking on your college career.

Growing uncertainty about the worth of a college degree. Although the higher-education industry tirelessly touts the value of college education, that mantra is becoming shopworn.

Without question, the cost of going to college is far too high.  In particular, students who take out student loans to major in "soft" disciplines (social sciences, humanities, gender studies, etc.) are finding that their degrees leave them with massive debt and no job.

Some young people go to college with a clear idea about how their degree will qualify them for vocations in such fields as engineering, business, computer sciences,  or medical technology. But others are clueless about why they are on campus.

If you have only a hazy notion about how you want to make a living, you should strongly consider working for a year after graduating from high school. You should use the time to reflect on your future and explore alternatives to chasing a college degree.

In my state, thousands of people have gotten technical training at vocational and community colleges and gone on to get good jobs with six-figure salaries.  If you ask these people whether they are sorry they didn't acquire a bachelor's degree, I think most will tell you no.

So think long and hard before going to college this fall, especially if you plan to finance your studies with student loans. Your chosen university will still be around in 2021 if you decide to pursue a college education.