“Nearly half of the nation’s undergraduates show almost no gains in learning in their first two years of college, in large part because colleges don’t make academics a priority,” according to a 2011 study discussed in USA Today. “36% showed little” gain after four years. Although education spending has risen in recent years, students “spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago, the research shows.” “32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”
Even as students are learning less than before, they are borrowing unprecedented amounts to attend college (sometimes well over $100,000), and defaults in student loans are skyrocketing. 61 percent of all people with student loans aren’t paying them off, some because they are unemployed (and thus receiving “forbearance”) or still in school, and others because they have already defaulted. (Financial-aid changes backed by Obama have also produced “huge paperwork screwups” for people with student loans “that have thrown thousands of borrowers into default, more than doubling the number of defaulters since December.”)
The Washington Post concluded in March that student loans could be America’s next “debt bomb”: “Bankruptcy lawyers have a frightening message for America: They’re seeing the telltale signs of a student loan debt bubble.” “Bankruptcy lawyers have seen a substantial increase in the number of clients seeking relief from student loans in recent years.” Many of the “parents or guardians who co-signed the student loans face the prospect of losing their life savings, cars or homes to collection agencies.” In recent years, student loan debt has skyrocketed from $100 billion to nearly $1 trillion, “surpassing the $704 billion in outstanding credit card debt.”
There has been a massive “spike in” student loan debt owed to the Education Department over the “last three years.” America spends far more on education than most other countries. But because this government spending is structured in a way that rewards colleges for increasing tuition, college tuition is skyrocketing. Americans can’t read or do math as well as the Japanese, even though America spends more on education than Japan does, as a percentage of GDP.
States spend hundreds of millions of dollars operating colleges that are little better than diploma mills in terms of academic rigor, yet manage to graduate almost no one – like Chicago State, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate,” or a college in El Paso that graduated only “1 out of 25 students in a timely manner.”
College tuition is sometimes a rip-off: Due to an educational “arms race,” most people who went to college because of rising college-attendance rates in recent years wound up in unskilled jobs (including 5,057 janitors who have Ph.Ds or other advanced degrees, and 317,000 waiters and 18,000 parking lot attendants who have college degrees). Tuition is skyrocketing faster than housing costs did during the real estate bubble. (In 2010-11, 100 colleges charged at least $50,000 per year for tuition, room and board, compared to five in 2008-09.)
Tuition increases are not the result of education cuts. Federal education spending rose much faster than inflation under both the Bush and Obama Administrations. Spending has exploded at the K-12 level over the last generation: per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, and “inflation-adjusted K-12 spending tripled over the last 40 years.”
College tuition is propped up by licensing regulations to force some people to attend college, whether they want to or not. Egged on by colleges and trade guilds, state legislatures force many people to attend college just to get a business license for a job that logically shouldn’t require any college. For example, Florida requires interior designers to spend two years at a state-approved college before they can get a license to work. More than 20 percent of the American workforce needs a license to work, compared to just 4 percent in 1950. Such college-attendance mandates enable colleges to charge high tuitions even as their students learn little, and to dumb down their courses to attract bored, marginal students who otherwise would not attend college.
While encouraging colleges to raise tuition at their students’ expense, the Obama Administration has shortchanged the teaching of practical skills needed for a revival of American industry and the U.S. economy. The Obama Administration has discouraged vocational training needed for high-paid, skilled factory work, contributing to a severe shortage of skilled factory workers — thus making it harder for factories to expand their operations and hire workers, including the unskilled workers among whom unemployment remains highest. America’s lack of industrial growth may be one reason that even many scientists can’t find jobs in their field. (Factory orders have fallen recently).
Nations’ success has little to do with how many of their citizens graduate from college. As Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson pointed out, “Some robust economies have workforces with a much smaller share of college degree-holders than the United States,” while “other countries with higher rates” of college attendance are “floundering.”
Education schools are particularly wasteful, providing classes that veteran teachers describe as “utterly useless,” “laughable,” and of “zero benefit.” K-12 education is better in Japan because teachers there learn through apprenticeships and on-the-job training, rather than taking useless classes filled with psychobabble at education school. “In Japan, there are no education schools at all. Those who wish to become teachers first earn degrees in some academic discipline and some of them are then accepted as apprentices who learn teaching by assisting veterans in the classroom.”
This is drawn from various articles at Openmarket.org (Openmarket.org)