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University Education Skeptic, 2015

Slightly Skeptical View on University Education Skeptisim and PseudoScience Groupthink Casino Capitalism Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy: Chicago School of Market Fundamentalism Neoliberal Brainwashing -- Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia
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[Jul 25, 2015] Brainwashing as a key component of the US social system

"..."When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility." "
"...Adorno famously pointed out in 1940 that the "Mass culture is psychoanalysis in reverse." It takes 75 years for someone such as PCR to reiterate. He doesn't blame the masses because he simply points out the fact that Americans are completely ignorant and blindly believe anything MSM spoon-fed to them. "
"...Why do Americans believe "official sources" despite the proven fact that "official sources" lie repeatedly and never tell the truth?"
"...The failure of the American character has had tremendous and disastrous consequences for ourselves and for the world. At home Americans have a police state in which all Constitutional protections have vanished. Abroad, Iraq and Libya, two formerly prosperous countries, have been destroyed. Libya no longer exists as a country. One million dead Iraqis, four million displaced abroad, hundreds of thousands of orphans and birth defects from the American ordnance, and continuing ongoing violence from factions fighting over the remains. These facts are incontestable. Yet the United States Government claims to have brought "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. "Mission accomplished," declared one of the mass murderers of the 21st century, George W. Bush."
"...Americans with good character are being maneuvered into a position of helplessness."
"...When Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was asked if the Clinton's regime's sanctions, which had claimed the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children, were justified, she obviously expected no outrage from the American people when she replied in the affirmative."
"...No, I don't think Americans are intentionally ignorant, any more than other nationalities. What they are tribal. Tribal peoples don't care whether their policies are right or wrong; they are instinctively loyal to them and to those who formulate them."


We educators began seeing this shift towards "me-ism" around 1995-6. Students from low to middle income families became either apathetic towards "education" or followed their parent's sense of "entitlement." Simultaneously, the tech age captured both population's attention. Respecting "an education" dwindled.

Fast forward to the present: following the 2007-8 crash, we noted clear divisions between low income vs middle/upper class students based on their school behavior. Low to slightly middle income students brought to school family tensions and the turmoil of parents losing their jobs. A rise in non-functioning students increase for teachers while the few well performing students decline significantly.

Significant societal, financial shifts in America can always be observed in the student population.


Mission Accomplished.

"When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility."

- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 1985


"The American people have been scientifically mis-educated".

You've got the answer there. The education system is the root cause of the problem. I'm from Europe, but if I've understood correctly, the US education policy is to teach as little as possible to children, and expect them to fill in the gaps in the Universities, past a certain age.

Only, it can't work. Children WILL learn, as childhood is the time when most informations are stored. If the schools don't provide the knowledge, they will get it from the television, movies or games, with the consequences we can see: ignorance, obsession with TV and movies stars, inability to differentiate life from movies, and over-simplistic reasoning (if any).

In Europe, we knew full well children learn fast and a lot, and that was why the schools focused on teaching them as much general knowldge as possible before 18 years old, which is when - it is scientifically proved - the human brain learns best.

Recently, the EU leading countries have understood that having educated masses doesn't pay if you want to lead them like sheep, so they are perfidiously trying to lower the standards... to the dismay of parents.

My advice, if I may presume to give any, would be to you USA people: teach your children what they won't learn at school, history, geography, literature (US, European and even Asian, why not), a foreign language if you can, arts, music, etc; and keep them away from the TV, movies and games.

And please adapt what you teach them to their age.


Bang on! One anecdotal example: insisting that all 3rd graders use calculators "to learn" their multiplication tables. If I didn't do flashcards at home with my kids they wouldn't know them.

As somebody who majored in engineering and took many many advanced math courses, I always felt that knowing your 'times tables' was essential to being successful in math.

What better way to dumb down otherwise intelligent children by creating a situation where the kid can't divide 32 by 4 without a calculator.

Trigonometry? Calculus? Linear Algebra? Fuggedaboudit.


The CB's and MIC have Americans right where they want them.

the consequences of 3-4 generations of force feeding Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny


Some of US were never fucking asleep. Some of us were born with our eyes and minds open.

We were, and are: hated, and reviled, and marginalized, and disowned for it.

The intellectual repression was, and is, fucking insane and brutal.

Words such as ethics and logic exist for what purpose?

What are these expressions of? A bygone time? Abstractions?

Those that have tried to preserve their self awareness, empathy, and rationality have been ruthlessly systematically demeaned and condemed for confronting our families, our culture and institutions.

We all have a right to be angry and disgusted and distrustful of the people and institutions around us.

I am very fucking angry, and disgusted, and distrustful of the people and institutions around me.

But I still have hope.

Nothing lasts forever..

This self-righteous nation called The United States, this twisted fraud of a culture called America, is most dangerously overdue for receipt of chastisment and retribution.

It would be best if the citizenry of the United States taught themselves a lesson in stead of inviting Other nations and cultures to educate them.

A serious self education may be tedious and imperfect; but, it would be far far cheaper than forcing someone to come all the way over those oceans to educate Americans at the price they will be demanding for those lessons...

I do not require representation. I will speak my own mind and act of my own accord.

Every time other so-called Americans take a shit on me for thinking and speaking and acting differently it is a badge of honor and a confirmation of my spiritual and intellectual liberty. They don't know it but they are all gonna run out of shit before I run out of being free.


"The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise. "

"I think that happened August 13, 1971 "

The entirety of the Western Hemisphere, not just 'The United States', was seized by invaders from Europe.

It is not an 'American' disease: it is a European disease and always was.

The indiginous populations of the Western Hemisphere were suystemaically and with forethought expropriated, ensalved, and slaughtered. The indiginous persons that dwelled within the geographical domain that presently comprise the USA were still being margialized, forcibly relocated, and murdered, long after the so-called 'American Civil War' had been decided.

...& As much as it is fashionable and/or politically expedient to vilify and blame the 'white' Europeans both for this history and extenuate that history to inform the present state of affairs, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, and the Spanish ( most eggregiously IMHO) were brutal and savage.

Look at the demographics of the Western Hemisphere.

If you have a shred of honesty you just can't hang the blame on 'whites', put it on a bumper sticker or a #shittyhashtagmeme and go back to fucking off.

The disgusting fraud of Manifest Destiny was a fig leaf to hide the enormity of these crimes; but, they are most obviously European crimes.

...& has Europe changed since the West was settled? Did Europeans even stop their warring amonsgst themselves?

See for yourself:

That would be: Hell NO.

Neither in Europe itself, nor in the settled West.

The Pacific Ocean wasn't named for calm waters.

It was named thusly because it is the natural geographic boundary where the mayhem and brutality and genocide ceased, if only because the greedy and ruthless Europeans had run out of land in the Western Hemisphere with people upon it to plunder and murder...


"The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise."

I agree with the first part. As for the latter, "government," by definition, is a criminal enterprise. It doesn't start out pure as the driven snow and then change into something nefarious over time. Its very essence requires the initiation of violence or its threat. Government without the gun in the ribs is a contradiction.

The fact that those in power got more votes than the losing criminals does not magically morph these people into paragons of virtue. They are almost without exception thoroughly deranged human beings. Lying is second nature to them. Looting is part of the job description. Killing is an end to their means: the acquisition and aggrandizement of power over others, no matter how much death and destruction results.

These people are sick bastards. To expect something virtuous from them after an endless string of wanton slaughter, theft and abuse, is simply wishful thinking.

Jack Burton

I agree with Paul Craig Roberts. He asks "Why" and "How." Well, Paul, here is my answer. Decades of Public Education and over 50 years of mass media monopoly. In an age where FOX is the top rated News station and CNN is considered liberal? Where kids in Public school are offered Chocolate milk and frozen pizza for school breakfast before going to class rooms with 30-40 kids. When Texas political appointees chose school text book content for the nation? A nation where service has ended, replaced with volunteer soldiers signing up for pay and benefits, instead of just serving as service, like we did in the 70's?

Paul Craig Roberts points out the police war against the people. That comes right from the very top, orders filter down to street cops. Street Cops are recruited from groups of young men our fathers generation would have labeled mental! But now they are hired across the board, shaved heads, tatoos, and a code of silence and Cops Above Justice.

The people have allowed the elites to rule in their place, never bothering to question the two fake candidates we are allowed to vote for.


There is a difference between IGNORANCE and STUPIDITY. As Ron White said, "YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID".

In todays information age, ignorance is a choice.

Part of the problem that no one is talking about or addressing is the population explosion. And it's not linear. Those who are the least educated, fully dependent others for their survival (welfare), the most complacent, and often with violent criminal records are breeding the fastest.

Evolution is not guaranteed. It can be argued that the apathy we experience today is a sign of the human race de-evolving. It takes a certain amount of cognitive ability to observe and question what is going on.

Further, the society we have created where "60 is the new 40" creates very little time to pay attention to what is going on in the world. Many people rely on mainstream media which is not really news any more. When six corporations control more than 90% of the news, it's the message of the corporate elite that we are fed. This becomes painfully obvious when you start turning to other sources for information like social media and independent news. Mainstream media today is full of opinion bias - injecting opinion as though it were fact. They also appeal to the lowest commmon denominator by focusing on emotionally charged topics and words rather than boring facts. Finally, the mainstream media is extremely guilty of propaganda by omission, ignoring important events altogether or only presenting one side of the story as is being done with regard to ISIS, Syria, and Ukraine today. People who watch the mainstream media have no idea that the US played a significant role in arming ISIS and aided in their rise to power. They have no idea that it was likely ISIS that used chemical weapons in Syria. They have no idea that the US has propped up real life neo nazis in high government positions in Ukraine. And they have ignored the continuing Fukushima disaster that is STILL dumping millions of gallons of radioactive water into the ocean every single day.

To sum up, democracies only work when people pay attention and participate. People are either too stupid, too overworked, are are looking to the wrong sources for information.

Until we break up mainstream media, remove incentives for those who cannot even care for themselves to stop breeding, and make fundamental changes to our society that affords people the time to focus on what is happening in the world, it will only get worse.

Much worse.


A dying empire is like a wounded, cornered animal.

It will lash out uncontrollably and without remorse in a futile effort to save itself from certain death.

Enough Already

The problem is that we have no "Constitution." That is a fable. The constitution of the separation of powers has been undermined from almost day one. Witness the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

In the centuries since then, there has been no "separation of powers." Marbury v Madison (1803) gave the Supreme Court the right to "decide" what the "law" was. Although, only in the 20th century did the "Supreme" court really start "legislating" from the bench.

We're just peons to the Overall Federal Power; the three "separate" parts of the federal government have been in collusion from the first.

But like all empires, this one is in the final stage of collapse; it has just gotten too big.


Yes sir. Globalization has failed us. The infinite growth paradigm has failed us, as we knew it would. Castro's Cuba, based in a localized agrarian economy, is looking pretty good about now. Localization is the only way back to sustainability.


Books? Who said books? You mean reading books? Let me throw a couple out there:

I read 'The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America' last year, it was published 50+ years ago by a very recommended writer and accomplished historian. Boorstin's observations are truer today and even more concerning thanks to our modern, ubiquitous "connectivity".

Another by Boorstin, The Discoverers was my fav, like Bryson's 'Short History' on steroids:

I'm currently trying to fathom all of the historical implications of the claims Menzies is making in his book '1434', where apparently everything I learned about history is a lie. While he's making a lot of claims(hoping some sticks?) I'm not truly convinced. It is a very good, believable thought experiment. It almost makes perfect sense given the anglo/euro history of deceit & dishonesty, but I digress:

This one took a long time to grok, Dr Mandelbrot tried to warn us:

Benoit's friend & protege tried to warn us too:

Put them together and you get the financial meltdown's 'Don't say we didn't warn you' manifesto from 2006(not a book, but a compelling read):

OK, I'm tired. Time to unplug.


Adorno famously pointed out in 1940 that the "Mass culture is psychoanalysis in reverse." It takes 75 years for someone such as PCR to reiterate. He doesn't blame the masses because he simply points out the fact that Americans are completely ignorant and blindly believe anything MSM spoon-fed to them.

George Orwell once remarked that the average person today is about as naive as was the average person in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of what Adorno called Culture Industry and MSM, no matter what. Today we are indeed in another Dark Age


"Americans" are not one person. Individuals are not fungible. Reasoning from the "average American" leads to false conclusions.


Jacques Derrida says, "The individualism of technological civilization relies precisely on a misunderstanding of the unique self. It is the individualism of a role and not of a person. In other words it might be called the individualism of a masque or persona, a character [personnage] and not a person." There are many Americans but they all play the same role in the Pursuit of Happiness, aka wage slaves, career slaves, debt slaves, information junkies, and passive consumers.


Paul Craig Roberts believe that the people are capable of creating a better and more just society. Instead the people have voted against their own best interest and overwhelmingly believe the propaganda.

When do the people or the society take responsibility for its greater good or own the crimes of those they put into power?

Blaming the aristocracy or the oligarchs seems like a scapegoat when the people have never stood up to the corruption in a cohesive or concerted way. imho, After a few generations of abuse and corruption the people need to take responsibility for their future. I expect that most will just buy into the charade and live the lie, on that basis as a society we are doomed to live in a corporatocracy fascist state.

Aldous Huxley called it a scientific dictatorship, Edward Bernays referred to us as a herd.


In the USA being white, monied and having the capacity to afford a good education is privileged. To his credit he speaks to the greater population, the 'average citizen' and not the plutocratic class.


What we have is the result of conditioning and commoditizing a population. The country is filled with consumers, not citizens. Teach the acquisition of money and goods as the main goal and individualism as the only acceptable social unit. We end up with a nation of insatiable sociopaths, ruled by power-hungry psychopaths.

Divisive politics, jackbooted authority from the DC scumpond down to the cop on the beat, the constant preaching of the cult of the individual as a sustitute for true liberty... all of these have served to destroy a sense of community and decentness between Americans.

The ONLY thing that could threaten the ruling class is a banding together of the people - in large numbers. 'They' have purposefully and effectively quashed that.


When you let jews run your society this is what happens. Go Goy go!!!!!


Shifting responsibility to the usual suspects is simply a manifestation of the American moral collapse. Man up and do some self evaluation.


"what I have noticed for many years is that the American people have lost, in addition to their own sense of truth and falsity, any sense of mercy and justice for other peoples"

Unfortunately, Paul, the American people have lost any sense of mercy and justice for their own people.


Painful as it may be, we need to rationally look at US history/society. The nascent US was formed by stealing land from the native population and using human capital (read African Slaves) to generate wealth (it took a civil war with circa 500K casualties to stop this- one could argue the US "civil war" never ended). More recently, the US has been almost continuously at war since 1940, we dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Currently, the US/NATO war theater extends from the Levant, to Caspian Basin, Persian Gulf, China Sea, Indian Ocean, Horn of Africa (Saudi/US war on Yemen), the Maghreb and E Europe and Russian Border.

Radical Marijuana

"... the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise ..."

Governments were created by the history of warfare, which was always organized crime developing on larger and larger scales. In the context, the greater problem is that people like Paul Craig Roberts are reactionary revolutionaries, who provide relatively good analysis, followed by bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals.

The "American People" are the victims of the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy. As Cognitive Dissonance has previously stated on Zero Hedge: "The absolute best controlled opposition is one that doesn't know they are controlled."

It is practically impossible to exaggerate the degree to which that is so, on such profound levels, because of the ways that most people want to continue to believe that false fundamental dichotomies and impossible ideals are valid, and should be applied to their problems, despite that those mistaken ideas cause the opposite to happen in the real world, because those who promote those kinds of false fundamental dichotomies and their related impossible ideals, ARE "controlled opposition."

Rather, the place to begin would be by recognizing that all human beings and civilizations must necessarily operate as entropic pumps of energy flows, which necessarily are systems of organized lies operating robberies. Everyone has some power to rob, and power to kill to back that up. Governments assembled and channeled those powers. There was never a time when governments were not organized crime. There could never be any time when governments were not organized crime. The only things that exist are the dynamic equilibria between different systems of organized lies operating robberies. Those dynamic equilibria have become extremely unbalanced due the degree that the best organized gangs of criminals were able to control their opposition.

Paul Craig Roberts, as well as pretty well all of the rest of the content published on Zero Hedge, are presentations of various kinds of controlled opposition groups, most of which do not recognize that they are being controlled by the language that they use, and the philosophy of science that they take for granted. THAT is the greatest failure of the American People, as well as most of the rest of the people everywhere else. They believe in false fundamental dichotomies, and the related impossible ideals, and therefore, their bogus "solutions" always necessarily backfire badly, and cause the opposite to happen in the real world.

After all, the overwhelming vast majority of the American People operate as the controlled opposition to the best organized gangs of criminals that most control the government of the USA. Therefore, the FAILURES of the American People are far more profound and problematic than what is superficially presented by guys like Paul Craig Roberts, and also, of course, his suggested bogus "solutions" are similarly superficial.

The ONLY things which can actually exist are the dynamic equilibrium between different systems of organized lies operating robberies. The degree to which the American People, as well as most of the rest of the people in the world, FAIL to understand that is the degree to which they enable the best organized gangs of criminals to control them, due to the vast majority of people being members of various controlled opposition groups. Controlled opposition always presents relatively superficial analysis of the political problems, which are superficially correct. However, they then follow that up with similarly superficial "solutions." Therefore, magical words are bandied about, that express their dualities, through false fundamental dichotomies, and the related impossible ideals.

Governments must exist because organized crime must exist. Better governments could be achieved through better organized crime. However, mostly what get presented in the public places are the utter bullshit of the biggest bullies, who dominate the society because they were the best organized gangs of criminals, who were also able to dominate their apparent opposition. Therefore, instead of more realistic, better balancing of the dynamic equilibria between different systems of organized lies operating robberies, we get runaway developments of the best organized gangs of criminals being able to control governments, whose only apparent opposition is controlled to stay within the same bullshit frame of reference regarding everything that was actually happening.

The mainline of the FAILURES of the American People have been the ways that the international bankers were able to recapture control over the American public "money" supply. After that, everything else was leveraged up, through the funding of the political processes, schools, and mass media, etc., being more and more dominated by that fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting system. Of course, that FAILURE has now become more than 99% ... Therefore, no political possible ways appear to exist to pull out of that flaming spiral nose dive, since we have already gone beyond the event horizon into that social black hole.

Most of the content on Zero Hedge which is based upon recognizing that set of problems still acts as controlled opposition in that regard too. Therefore, the bogus "solutions" here continue to deliberately ignore that money is necessarily measurement backed by murder. Instead of accepting that, the controlled opposition groups like to promote various kinds of "monetary reforms." However, meanwhile, we are actually already headed towards the established debt slavery systems having generated debt insanities, which are going to provoke death insanities.

In that context, the only realistic resolutions to the real problems would necessarily have to be monetary revolutions, that may emerge out of the future situations, after the runaway debt insanities have provoked death insanities. Indeed, the only genuine solutions to the problems are to develop different death control systems, to back up different debt control systems, which must necessarily be done within the context that governments are the biggest forms of organized crime, controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals.

The various controlled opposition groups do not want to face those social facts. Rather, they continue to want to believe in the dualities expressed as false fundamental dichotomies and the related impossible ideals, which is their greatest overall FAILURE. In my view, the article above by Roberts contained a lot of nostalgic nonsense. There was never a time when there were any governments which were not based on the applications of the principles and methods of organized crime, and there could never be any time in the future when that could be stopped from being the case.

The greatest FAILURE of the American People, as well as most of the rest of the world's people, has been to become so brainwashed to believe in the biggest bullies' bullshit world view, that there is no significant opposition that is not controlled by thinking inside of the box of that bullshit. The government did NOT transform into a criminal enterprise. The government was necessarily ALWAYS a criminal enterprise. That criminal enterprise has become more and more severely UNBALANCED due to the FAILURE of the people to understand that they were actually members of an organized crime gang, called their country. Instead, they were more and more scientifically brainwashed to believe in bullshit about everything, including their country.

The ONLY connection between human laws and the laws of nature is the ability to back up lies with violence. The development of the government of the USA has been the developed of integrated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence. Those systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS have been able to become more extremely unbalanced because there is almost nothing which is publicly significant surrounding that core of organized crime but various controlled opposition groups.

Of course, it seems politically impossible for my recommendations to actually happen within the foreseeable future, as the current systems of debt slavery drive through debt insanities to become death insanities, but nevertheless, the only theoretically valid ideas to raise to respond to the real problems would have to based upon a series of intellectual scientific revolutions. However, since we have apparently run out of time to go through those sorts of paradigm shifts sufficiently, we are stuck in the deepening ruts of political problems which guys like Roberts correctly present to be the case


Rather, we should start with the concept of SUBTRACTION, which then leads to robbery. We should start with the recognition that governments are necessarily, by definition, the biggest forms of organized crime. Governments did NOT transform into being that. Governments were always that. The political problems we have now are due to the best organized gangs of criminals, which currently are primarily the biggest gangsters, which can rightly be referred to as the banksters, having dominated all aspects of the funding of politics, enough to capture control over all sociopolitical institutions, so that the American People would more and more be subjected to the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy, which was built on top of thousands of years of previous history of Neolithic Civilizations being based on backing up lies with violence.

The runaway systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS, or the integrated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, that more and more dominate the lives of the American People are due to the applications of the methods of organized crime, and could not be effectively counter-balanced in any other ways. However, the standing social situation is that there is no publicly significant opposition that is not controlled to stay within the same frame of reference of the biggest bullies, which is now primarily the frame of reference of the banksters. Indeed, to the degree to which people's lives are controlled by the monetary system, they are debt slaves. Moreover, the degree to which they do not understand, and do not want to understand, that money is necessarily measurement backed by murder, then they think like controlled opposition groups, who have their mechanisms absurdly backwards, when they turn from their superficial analysis of what the political problems, to then promote their superficial solutions of those problems.

I AGREE that "Americans need to face the facts." However, those facts are that citizens are members of an organized crime gang, called their country. "Their" country is currently controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals. However, there are no genuine resolutions for those problems other than to develop better organized crime. Since the controlled opposition groups that are publicly significant do not admit any of the deeper levels of the scientific facts regarding human beings and civilizations operating as entropic pumps of energy flows, but rather, continue to perceive all of that in the most absurdly backward ways possible, the current dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies continue to become more and more extremely UNBALANCED.

In the case of the article above, Roberts does NOT "face the facts" that governments were always forms of organized crime, and must necessarily be so, because human beings must live as entropic pumps of energy flows. Rather, Roberts tends to illustrate how the controlled opposition takes for granted certain magical words and phrases, such as "Liberty" or "Constitution," that have no adequate operational definitions to connect them to the material world.

We are living inside of an oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, which has applied the progress in science primarily to become better at backing up lies with violence, while refusing to allow scientific methods to admit and address how and why that has been what has actually happened. Therefore, almost all of the language that we use to communicate, as well as almost all of the philosophy of science that we take for granted, was based on the biggest bullies' bullshit, which is now primarily manifested as the banksters' bullshit, as that bullshit developed in America to become ENFORCED FRAUDS.

ALL of the various churches, corporations, and countries are necessarily various systems of organized lies operating robberies. Those which are the biggest now were historically the ones that were the best at doing that. The INTENSE PARADOXES are due to human systems necessarily being organized lies operating robberies, wherein the greatest social successfulness has been achieved by those who were the best professional liars and immaculate hypocrites. That flows throughout ALL of the established systems, which are a core of organized crime, surrounded by controlled opposition groups.

The degree to which the American People, as well as the rest of the world's people, have been more and more scientifically brainwashed to believe in bullshit about governments in particular, and human beings and civilizations in general, is the degree to which the established systems based upon ENFORCED FRAUDS are headed towards some series of psychotic breakdowns. For all practical purposes, it is politically impossible to get enough people to stop acting like incompetent political idiots, and instead start acting more like competent citizens, because they do not understand, and moreover have been conditioned to not want to understand that governments are necessarily organized crime.

Roberts ironically illustrated the deeper nature of the political problems that he also shares, when he perceives that governments have somehow transformed into being criminal enterprise, when governments were always necessarily criminal enterprises. Similarly, with those who recognize that, but then promote the impossible solutions based upon somehow stopping that from being the case, which is as absurdly backwards as stopping human beings from operating as entropic pumps of energy flows, which then also presumes that it would be possible to stop human civilizations from being entropic pumps of energy flows.

Rather, the deeper sorts of intellectual scientific revolutions that we should go through require becoming much more critical of the language that we use to communicate with, and more critical about the philosophy of science that we presumed was correct. Actually, we were collectively brainwashed to believe in the biggest bullies' bullshit, which is as absurdly backwards as it could possibly be. However, due to the collective FAILURES of people to understand that, as reflected by the ways that the core of organized crime is surrounded by nothing which is publicly significant than layers of controlled opposition, there are no reasonable ways to doubt that the established debt slavery systems will continue to drive even worse debt insanities, which will provoke much worse death insanities. Therefore, to be more realistic about the foreseeable future, the development of new death control systems will emerge out of the context of crazy collapses into chaos, wherein the runaway death insanities provide the possible opportunities for new death controls to emerge out of that situation.

Of course, the about 99% FAILURE of the American People to want to understand anything that I have outlined above indicates that the foreseeable future for subsequent generations shall not too likely be catalyzed transformations towards enough people better understanding their political problems, in order to better resolve those problems. Rather, what I mostly expect is for the psychotic breakdowns of the previous systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS to give opportunities to some possible groups of controlled opposition to take advantage of that, to perhaps emerge as the new version of professional liars and immaculate hypocrites, who will be able to operate some new version of organized lies, operating robberies, who may mostly still get away with being some modified versions of still oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, due to social success still being based upon the best available professional liars and immaculate hypocrites, who were able to survive through those transformations, so that the new systems arise from some of the seeds of the old systems.

At the present time, it is extremely difficult to imagine how the human species could possibly reconcile progress in physical science by surpassing that with progress in political science. Rather, what mostly exists now is the core of organized crime, which gets away with spouting the bullshit about itself, such as how the banksters dominate the mass media, and the lives of everyone else who depend upon the established monetary system (which is dominated by the current ways that governments ENFORCE FRAUDS by privately controlled banks), while that core of organized crime has no publicly significant opposition that is not controlled by the ways that they think, which ways stay within the basic bullshit world view, as promoted by the biggest bullies for thousands of years, and as more and more scientifically promoted to brainwash the vast majority of people to believe in that kind of bullshit so completely that it mostly does not occur to them that they are doing that, and certainly almost never occurs to them that they are doing that in the most profoundly absurd and backward ways possible.

That is how and why it is possible for an author like Roberts to correctly point out the ways in which the government of the USA is transforming into being more blatantly based on organized crime ... HOWEVER, Roberts is not willing and able to go through deeper levels of intellectual scientific revolutions, in order to recognize how and why governments were always necessarily manifestations of organized crime. Therefore, as is typically the case, Roberts does not recognize how ironically he recommends that Americans should "face the facts," while he himself does not fully do so.

The whole history of Neolithic Civilizations was social pyramid systems based on being able to back up lies with violence, becoming more sophisticated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, which currently manifest as the globalized electronic frauds of the banksters, were are backed up by the governments (that those banksters effectively control) having atomic bombs. Those are the astronomically amplified magnitudes of the currently existing combined money/murder systems. Therefore, it appears to be politically impossible at the present time to develop better governments, due to the degree that almost everyone is either a member of the core groups of organized crime, or members of the surrounding layers of groups of controlled opposition, both of which want to stay within the same overall bullshit frame of reference, because, so far, their lives have been socially successful by being professional liars and immaculate hypocrites.

Ironically, I doubt that someone like Roberts, or pretty well everyone else whose material is published on Zero Hedge is able and willing to recognize the degree to which they are actually controlled opposition. Indeed, even more ironically, as I have repeated before, even Cognitive Dissonance, when he previously stated on Zero Hedge: "The absolute best controlled opposition is one that doesn't know they are controlled." DOES NOT "GET IT" regarding the degree to which he too is controlled opposition, even while superficially attempting to recognize and struggle with that situation. (Indeed, of course, that includes me too, since I am still communicating using the English language, which was the natural language that most developed to express the biggest bullies' bullshit world view.)

Overall, I REPEAT, the deeper problems are due to progress in physical science, NOT being surpassed by progress in political science. Instead, while there EXIST globalized electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs, practically nothing regarding the ways of thinking that made that science and those technologies possible has found any significant expression through political science, because political science would have to go through even more profound paradigm shifts within itself in order to do that.

The INTENSE PARADOXES continue to be the manifestation of the oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, that deliberately refuses to become any more genuinely scientific about itself. Therefore, the banksters have been able to pay for the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy, for generation after generation, in order to more and more brainwash most of the American People to believe in the banksters' bullshit world view. While there exist electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs, practically nothing regarding the physical science paradigm shifts that made that possible have even the slightest degree of public appreciation within the realms of politics today, which are almost totally dominated by the biggest bullies' bullshit world view, despite that being as absurdly backwards as possible, while the controlled opposition groups, mostly in the form of old-fashioned religions and ideologies, continue to stay within that same bullshit world view, and adamantly refuse to change their perceptual paradigms regarding political problems.

However, I REPEAT, the issues we face are NOT that governments have transformed to become criminal enterprises, but that governments were always necessarily criminal enterprises, which had the power to legalized their own lies, and then back those lies up with legalized violence. Thereby, the best organized criminals, the international bankers, as the biggest gangsters, or the banksters, were able to apply the methods of organized crime through the political processes. Meanwhile, the only "opposition" that was allowed to be publicly significant was controlled, to basically stay within the same bullshit world view, which is what Roberts has done in his series of articles, as well as what is almost always presented in the content published on Zero Hedge.

The NEXT LEVEL of "the need to face the facts" is to recognize that the political economy is based upon ENFORCED FRAUDS, or systems of debt slavery backed by wars based on deceits. However, the NEXT LEVEL "the need to face the facts" is the that the only possible changes are to change the dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies, i.e., change those ENFORCED FRAUDS, in ways which CAN NOT STOP THOSE FROM STILL BEING ENFORCED FRAUDS, because of the degree to which money is necessarily measurement backed by murder.

For the American People, as well as the rest of the world's people, to stop being such dismal FAILURES would require them to become more competent citizens. However, at the present time they appear to be totally unable to do that, because they are unwilling to go through the profound paradigm shifts that it would take them to become more competent citizens inside of world where there exist globalized electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs. The vast majority of the American People would not like to go through the severe cognitive dissonance that would be required, to not only recognize that "their" government was a criminal enterprise, but that it also must be, and that they too must necessarily be members of that organized crime gang. However, without that degree of perceptual paradigm shifts of the political problems, then enough of the American People could not become more competent citizens.

Somehow, most people continue to count on themselves never having to think about how and why progress was achieved in physical science, by going through series of profound paradigm shifts in the ways that we perceived the world. Most people continue to presume that it is not necessary for their perception of politics to go through profound paradigm shifts, that surpass those which have already been achieved in physical science. We continue to live in an oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, that employs science and technology to become better at being dishonest and violent, but does not apply science and technology to "face the facts" about that scientific dictatorship as a whole.

At the present time, technologies which have become trillions of times more capable and powerful are primarily used as special effects within the context of repeating the same old-fashioned, stupid social stories, such as promoted by the biggest bullies, and their surrounding controlled opposition groups. Ironically, especially when it comes to politics, that tends to manifest the most atavistic throwbacks to old-fashioned religions and ideologies being relied upon to propose bogus "solutions," despite that those kinds of social stories adamantly refuse to change their paradigms in light of the profound paradigms shifts which have been achieved in physical science.

The article above was another illustration of the ways that the typical reactionary revolutionaries, Black Sheeple, or controlled opposition groups, respond to recognizing the more and more blatant degrees to which there has been an accelerating "transformation of government into a criminal enterprise." THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY CONTINUE TO STAY WITHIN THE SAME OLD-FASHIONED BULLSHIT-BASED FRAME OF REFERENCE, INSTEAD, AROUND AND AROUND WE GO, STUCK IN THE SAME DEEPENING RUTS, since they do NOT more fully "face the facts" regarding how and why the only realistic solutions to the real problems would require developing better organized crime. INSTEAD, they continue to promote the same dualities based upon false fundamental dichotomies, and the associate bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals ...

Given that overall situation, that there there almost nothing which is publicly significant than the core of organized crime, surrounded by controlled opposition groups, I see no reasonable hopes for the foreseeable material future of a civilization controlled by ENFORCED FRAUDS, since there is no publicly possible ways to develop better dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies, since the biggest forms of doing that were most able to get away with pretending that they are not doing that, which was facilitated by their controlled opposition promoting the opinions that nobody should do that, while actually everyone must be doing that.

Roberts' article above, to me, was another typical example of superficially correct analysis, which implies some bogus "solutions" because those are based upon the same superficiality. It is NOT good enough to recognize "transformation of government into a criminal enterprise," unless one goes through deeper levels of analysis regarding how and why that is what actually exists, and then, one should continue to be consistent with that deeper analysis when one turns to proposing genuine solutions to those problems, namely, I REPEAT THAT the only realistic resolutions to the real political problems requires the transformation of government into a better organized criminal enterprise, which ideally should be based upon enough citizens who are competent enough to understand that they are members of an organized crime gang, which should assert themselves to make sure that their country becomes better organized crime.

[Jul 23, 2015] Postsecondary Institutions Appear to have Surprisingly Similar Net Impacts on Student Growth

The quality of students in the class is also an important factor. Students often learn more from their peers then from faculty.

I suppose in elite colleges the level of average student is somewhat higher.

But generally the US college is a rather lonely experience (if you abstract academic experience from drinking binges) . Faculty and students are almost completely isolated. Exams are formal and often are close to tests of memorizing abilities. Quality of books depends on particular professor. Some are dismal. some stress topics of no importance whatsoever.

I can compare quality of an average college with the quality of top industry training on the same subject and my impression is that the quality of teaching in college is lower in at least 30% of topics I personally know well enough to be able to spot the difference.

With the current tendency of utilizing adjuncts, some complex courses can became real "diploma mill" scam even in public colleges.

"...Most colleges, presumably, aren't harboring in-house credit mills. Yet in its underlying design, organizational values and daily operations, North Carolina is no different from most other colleges and universities. These organizations are not coherent academic enterprises with consistent standards of classroom excellence. "
Jul 23, 2015 | Economist's View
Kevin Carey:
...The Bible of academic research on how colleges affect students is a book titled, plainly enough, "How College Affects Students." It's an 848-page synthesis of many thousands of independent research studies over the decades. ...
The sections devoted to how colleges differ from one another are notable for how little they find. As Mr. Pascarella and Mr. Terenzini carefully document, studies have found that some colleges are indeed better than others in certain ways. Students tend to learn more in colleges where they have closer relationships with faculty and peers, for example, and earn a little more after graduating from more selective institutions.
But these findings are overwhelmed in both size and degree by the many instances in which researchers trying to detect differences between colleges found nothing.
"The great majority of postsecondary institutions appear to have surprisingly similar net impacts on student growth," the authors write. " the most internally valid studies, even the statistically significant effects tend to be quite small and often trivial in magnitude." ...
People can learn a lot in college, and many do. But which college matters much less than everyone assumes. As Mr. Pascarella and Mr. Terenzini explain, the real differences exist at the departmental level, or within the classrooms of individual professors, who teach with a great deal of autonomy under the principles of academic freedom. ... The problem for students is that it is all but impossible to know ahead of time which part of the disunified university is which. ...
The whole apparatus of selective college admissions is designed to deliberately confuse things that exist with things that don't. Many of the most prestigious colleges are an order of magnitude wealthier and more selective than the typical university. These are the primary factors driving their annual rankings at or near the top of the U.S. News list of "best" colleges. The implication is that the differences in the quality of education they provide are of a similar size. There is no evidence to suggest that this is remotely true. ...

Not sure this captures all the benefits of going to, say, Harvard in terms of social connections that can be valuable later on.


July 22, 2015

Who's Against "College for All"?
By Marc Bousquet

[ Kevin Carey is a political operative with no particular background in education save a master's degree in public administration and employment by a Peter Peterson * funded foundation. What Carey seems most interested in is belittling the ideas and ruining the career of Senator Bernie Sanders, but complaining by implication about colleges that actually educate will suffice in this instance.

* As in the Peter Peterson who is working on cutting social welfare spending forever. ]

anne said in reply to anne...

July 23, 2015

The Fundamental Way That Universities Are an Illusion
By Kevin Carey

Most colleges, presumably, aren't harboring in-house credit mills. Yet in its underlying design, organizational values and daily operations, North Carolina is no different from most other colleges and universities. These organizations are not coherent academic enterprises with consistent standards of classroom excellence. When it comes to exerting influence over teaching and learning, they're Easter eggs. They barely exist....

[ Presumably, I presume. ]


The quality of students in the class is also an important factor. Students often learn more from their peers then from the faculty.

dilbert dogbert

This brought to mind a comment my wife said back in the day when were first married: "The quality of instruction at U.C. Berkeley is equal to that at San Jose State. What is different is the quality of the competition." She was spent her freshman year at Berkeley then transferred to S.J.S. after we married.

[Jul 23, 2015] Who's Against "College for All"? by Marc Bousquet

Marc Bousquet (BA, Yale, PhD, CUNY) is Associate Professor of English at Emory College.
Bernie Sanders' proposed college plan is closely aligned with the mainstream views of the US electorate, but the financial elite want to retain the influence of money on higher education policy.

[Jul 22, 2015] 22-year-old college student blows her $90,000 college fund and blames her parents By Mandi Woodruff

Actually 4 years at $25K a year would be $100K.
July 17, 2015 | Yahoo Finance

Atlanta radio show "The Bert Show" had a guest on this week who has managed to incite the rage of just about every millennial in the state of Georgia (and beyond, the show is syndicated in 11 states).

The woman, a 22-year-old college junior named Kim, who did not give her last name on air and was allowed to use a voice disguiser to even further shield her identity, came to the three hosts with a confession: in just short three years she had managed to blow through a $90,000 college fund left to her by her grandparents. Kim has one year left of school and no way to cover her remaining $20,000 tuition balance.

The show's hosts try to give Kim the benefit of the doubt. She's come to them (for some untold reason - perhaps a financial aid officer would have been a wiser choice) in a time of great need and they at least want to try to help her.

But what followed has to be one of the most painful interviews that has ever been aired on national radio. Kim manages to personify just about every parent's worst nightmare - an entitled 20-something who asks for handouts rather than face the very real financial challenges of young adulthood. You can listen to the full interview online at, but we've shared the highlights of Kim's cringe-inducing description of her predicament below.

"Years ago my grandparents set up a college fund for me, which was amazing, and I haven't been very good with my budget for school. The first payment for my senior year just arrived and I don't have the money basically. I've just been avoiding it. I knew the bill was coming."

"I used it to budget for school clothes and college break money. I probably should have not done that. I took a trip to Europe. The Europe thing I thought was part of my education and that's how I tried to justify that."

"Maybe [my parents] should have taught me to budget or something. They never sat me down and had a real serious talk about it."

"[My parents] said there was nothing they could do for me. They're not being honest with me saying they don't have [money] because my dad has worked for like a million years and they have a retirement account."

"Then my parents suggested I go take out a loan at a credit union and I'm, like, how am I supposed to do that?"

"I have to go inside the bank to get a loan?"

Bert Show co-host Jeff Dauler: "You could get a job for the school ...maybe the cafeteria's hiring."

Kim: "That's embarrassing."

"I know they're trying to teach me a lesson and blah blah blah and character building but, like, I hope they realize [working part-time] could have such a negative effect on my grades and as a person."

Here's what's most infuriating about Kim's situation: Not only is she admitting that she had - and squandered - a $90,000 college fund that was supposed to cover her college expenses , but she completely lacks any remorse. She says she feels "stressed" but not once does she seem grateful for her good fortune or ashamed about blowing it in three short years.

Not surprisingly, The Bert Show's hosts have a really hard time keeping it together during their conversation with Kim. We have to give major kudos to co-host Kristin Klingshirn who (despite the fact that she herself had to work three jobs to pay for college, she said) was the only one who did not completely give up on Kim's ability to get it together. "I think you're learning an even more valuable lesson than you could in any of your classes," Klingshirn told her.

Eventually, it does seem as if Kim starts to get the message. Her parents refused to cosign a loan to cover her tuition shortfall unless she got a job. She called the show on Thursday to give her fourth and final update: She has come to grips with the fact that she will, indeed, have to get a job. We almost felt a bit sorry for her when she started explaining how difficult it has been to find a place that will hire her because she has no job history.

"I feel like I'm back at square one," she said. "I'm hustling to do this and to make this work."

Listening to this young woman slowly start to understand the value of abstract concepts like hard work and responsibility was as equally gratifying as it was boggling to the mind. All we have to say is this: "The Bert Show" deserves a special award for services to their country. Thanks to them, there may be one less 20-something out there giving millennials a bad rap.

Update: Given the rabid response I've gotten from readers on this story, I feel compelled to add some more context to Kim's situation. Yes, plenty of students juggle work and school to cover their tuition costs. In fact, three-quarters of college students work at least part-time throughout school to cover tuition costs, according to a forthcoming survey from student lender Sallie Mae. But simply telling a college student to "get a job" to cover their tuition is somewhat shortsighted.

Bad budgeting skills or not, college students are matriculating at a time when it has never been more expensive to get a college degree. Yes, students can cope with this cost by applying for scholarships, low-interest federal student loans or work-study programs on campus. But even that might not be enough.

Working 20 hours a week at a part-time job at today's federal minimum wage rate ($7.25), it would take the average college student more than five years to pay off the average net tuition cost at a public-four year university ($36,000). And that doesn't include expenses like housing, transportation and food. At the same time, household wages have fallen flat and fixed costs like housing and health care are rising exponentially. What Kim has unfortunately realized is that kids who don't have plush college funds typically have only way to cover college costs and that is student debt. And that is how our country has found itself with a $1 trillion student debt crisis on its hands. More than one-quarter of today's 38 million student debtors are strapped with $50,000 or more in student loan debt and the average graduate carries nearly $30,000.

And there's no GIF clever enough in the world to make that an easier pill to swallow.

[Jul 12, 2015] In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.
Notable quotes:
"... The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy. ..."
"... "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said on Wednesday. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment." ..."
"... "I'm a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have," said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government ..."
"... "What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?" he asked. "A lot! They can do a lot. ..."
Jul 11, 2015 |

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay - His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the "dung of the devil." He does not simply argue that systemic "greed for money" is a bad thing. He calls it a "subtle dictatorship" that "condemns and enslaves men and women."

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism - even as he called for a global movement against a "new colonialism" rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

"This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop," said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.

The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II's anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.

Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor - a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis' increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed - yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.

Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

"I think the pope is singing to the music that's already in the air," said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. "And that's a good thing. That's what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system."

Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical "Rerum Novarum" - or, "On Condition of Labor."

Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, "We've been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening."

Francis has such a strong sense of urgency "because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas," Mr. Schneck said. "That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff."

Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social advocates, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a "throwaway culture" tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. "How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!" he said on Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion - while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

"I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor - rather than just jumping from the reality of people's misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem," said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

Francis' sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American Communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis' speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit - even as Francis seemed startled and caught off guard when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.

Francis' primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and reposition it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church's complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country's corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.

Inevitably, Francis' critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.

The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis' critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said on Wednesday. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment."

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said that he saw Francis as making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a "social mortgage" on accumulated wealth - a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for reforms both for moral and pragmatic reasons. "I'm a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have," said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.

Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. "All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don't prescribe a remedy," said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new "recipe" to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a "process of change" undertaken at the grass-roots level.

"What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?" he asked. "A lot! They can do a lot. "You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands."

[Jun 23, 2015] Bill Black: A Harvard Don is Enraged that Pope Francis is Opposed to the World Economic Order

Notable quotes:
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with " rel="nofollow">New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... laissez faire. ..."
"... The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein ..."
Posted on June 23, 2015 by Yves Smith

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with" rel="nofollow">New Economic Perspectives

A New York Times article entitled "Championing Environment, Francis Takes Aim at Global Capitalism" quotes a conventional Harvard economist, Robert N. Stavins. Stavins is enraged by Pope Francis' position on the environment because the Pope is "opposed to the world economic order." The rage, unintentionally, reveals why conventional economics is the most dangerous ideology pretending to be a "science."

Stavins' attacks on the Pope quickly became personal and dismissive. This is odd, for Pope Francis' positions on the environment are the same as Stavins' most important positions. Stavins' natural response to the Pope's views on the environment – had Stavin not been an economist – would have been along the lines of "Pope Francis is right, and we urgently need to make his vision a reality."

Stavins' fundamental position is that there is an urgent need for a "radical restructuring" of the markets to prevent them from causing a global catastrophe. That is Pope Francis' fundamental position. But Stavins ends up mocking and trying to discredit the Pope.

I was struck by the similarity of Stavins response to Pope Francis to the rich man's response to Jesus. The episode is reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in similar terms. I'll use Matthew's version (KJAV), which begins at 19:16 with the verse:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Jesus responds:

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

The young rich man wants to know which commandments he needs to follow to gain eternal life.

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

The young, wealthy man is enthused. The Rabbi that he believes has the secret of eternal life has agreed to personally answer his question as to how to obtain it. He passes the requirements the Rabbi lists, indeed, he has met those requirements since he was a child.

But then Jesus lowers the boom in response to the young man's question on what he "lacks."

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

We need to "review the bidding" at this juncture. The young man is wealthy. He believes that Jesus knows the secret to obtaining eternal life. His quest was to discover – and comply – with the requirement to achieve eternal life. The Rabbi has told him the secret – and then gone well beyond the young man's greatest hopes by offering to make him a disciple. The door to eternal life is within the young man's power to open. All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor. The Rabbi goes further and offers to make the young man his disciple. In exchange, the young man will secure "treasure in heaven" – eternal life and a place of particular honor for his sacrifice and his faith in Jesus.

Jesus' answer – the answer the young man thought he wished to receive more than anything in the world – the secret of eternal life, causes the young man great distress.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

The young man rejects eternal life because he cannot bear the thought of giving his "great possessions" to "the poor." Notice that the young man is not evil. He keeps the commandments. He is eager to do a "good thing" to gain eternal life. He has "great possessions" and is eager to trade a generous portion of his wealth as a good deed to achieve eternal life. In essence, he is seeking to purchase an indulgence from Jesus.

But Jesus' response causes the young, wealthy man to realize that he must make a choice. He must decide which he loves more – eternal life or his great possessions. He is "sorrowful" for Jesus' response causes him to realize that he loves having his great possessions for his remaining span of life on earth more than eternal life itself.

Jesus offers him not only the means to open the door to eternal life but the honor of joining him as a disciple. The young man is forced by Jesus' offer to realize that his wealth has so fundamentally changed him that he will voluntarily give up his entry into eternal life. He is not simply "sorrowful" that he will not enter heaven – he is "sorrowful" to realize that heaven is open to him – but he will refuse to enter it because of his greed. His wealth has become a golden trap of his own creation that will damn him. The golden bars of his cell are invisible and he can remove them at any time and enter heaven, but the young man realizes that his greed for his "great possessions" has become so powerful that his self-created jail cell has become inescapable. It is only when Jesus opens the door to heaven that the young man realizes for the first time in his life how completely his great possessions have corrupted and doomed him. He knows he is committing the suicide of his soul – and that he is powerless to change because he has been taught to value his own worth as a person by the extent of his great possessions.

Jesus then makes his famous saying that captures the corrupting effects of great wealth.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

The remainder of the passage is of great importance to Luther's doctrine of "justification by faith alone" and leads to Jesus' famous discussion of why "the last shall be first," (in which his anti-market views are made even more explicit) but the portions I have quoted are adequate to my purpose.

Pope Francis' positions on the environment and climate are the greatest boon that Stavin has received in decades. The Pope, like Stavins, tells us that climate change is a disaster that requires urgent governmental action to fix. Stavins could receive no more joyous news. Instead of being joyous, however, Stavins is sorrowful. Indeed, unlike the wealthy man who simply leaves after hearing the Rabbi's views, Stavins rages at and heaps scorn on the prelate, Pope Francis. Stavins' email to the New York Times about the Pope's position on climate change contains this double ideological smear.

The approach by the pope, an Argentine who is the first pontiff from the developing world, is similar to that of a "small set of socialist Latin American countries that are opposed to the world economic order, fearful of free markets, and have been utterly dismissive and uncooperative in the international climate negotiations," Dr. Stavins said.

Stavins' work explicitly states that the "free markets" he worships are causing "mass extinction" and a range of other disasters. Stavins' work explicitly states that the same "free markets" are incapable of change – they cause incentives so perverse that they are literally suicidal – and the markets are incapable of reform even when they are committing suicide by laissez faire. That French term is what Stavins uses to describe our current markets. Pope Francis agrees with each of these points.

Pope Francis says, as did Jesus, that this means that we must not worship "free markets," that we must think first of the poor, and that justice and fairness should be our guides to proper conduct. Stavins, like the wealthy young man, is forced to make a choice. He chooses "great possessions." Unlike the wealthy young man, however, Stavins is enraged rather than "sorrowful" and Stavins lashes out at the religious leader. He is appalled that an Argentine was made Pope, for Pope Francis holds views "that are opposed to the world economic order [and] fearful of free markets." Well, yes. A very large portion of the world's people oppose "the Washington Consensus" and want a very different "world economic order." Most of the world's top religious leaders are strong critics of the "world economic order."

As to being "fearful of free markets," Stavins' own work shows that his use of the word "free" in that phrase is not simply meaningless, but false. Stavins explains that the people, animals, and plants that are the imminent victims of "mass extinction" have no ability in the "markets" to protect themselves from mass murder. They are "free" only to become extinct, which makes a mockery of the word "free."

Similarly, Stavins' work shows that any sentient species would be "fearful" of markets that Stavins proclaims are literally suicidal and incapable of self-reform. Stavins writes that only urgent government intervention that forces a "radical restructuring" of the markets can save our planet from "mass extinction." When I read that I believed that he was "fearful of free markets."

We have all had the experience of seeing the "free markets" blow up the global economy as recently as 2008. We saw there, as well, that only massive government intervention could save the markets from a global meltdown. Broad aspects of the financial markets became dominated by our three epidemics of "accounting control fraud."

Stavins is appalled that a religious leader could oppose a system based on the pursuit and glorification of "great possessions." He is appalled that a religious leader is living out the Church's mission to provide a "preferential option for the poor." Stavins hates the Church's mission because it is "socialist" – and therefore so obviously awful that it does not require refutation by Stavins. This cavalier dismissal of religious beliefs held by most humans is revealing coming from a field that proudly boasts the twin lies that it is a "positive" "science." Theoclassical economists embrace an ideology that is antithetical to nearly every major religion.

Stavins, therefore, refuses to enter the door that Pope Francis has opened. Stavins worships a system based on the desire to accumulate "great possessions" – even though he knows that the markets pose an existential threat to most species on this planet and even though he knows that his dogmas increasingly aid the worst, most fraudulent members of our society to become wealthy through forms of "looting" (Akerlof and Romer 1993) that make other people poorer. The result is that Stavins denounces Pope Francis rather than embracing him as his most valuable ally.

Conclusion: Greed and Markets Kill: Suicide by Laissez Faire

The old truths remain. The worship of "great possessions" wreaks such damage on our humanity that we come to love them more than life itself and act in a suicidal fashion toward our species and as mass destroyers of other species. Jesus' insight was that this self-corruption is so common, so subtle, and so powerful that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Today, he would probably use "economist" rather than "camel."

Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet.

Adam Smith propounded the paradox that greed could lead the butcher and baker (in a village where everyone could judge reputation and quality) to reliably produce goods of high quality at the lowest price. The butcher and baker, therefore, would act (regardless of their actual motivations) as if they cared about their customers. Smith observed that the customer of small village merchant's products would find the merchant's self-interest a more reliable assurance of high quality than the merchant's altruism.

But Stavins makes clear in his writing that this is not how markets function in the context of "external" costs to the environment. In the modern context, the energy markets routinely function in a manner that Stavins rightly depicts as leading to mass murder. Stavins so loves the worship of the quest for "great possessions" that he is eager to try to discredit Pope Francis as a leader in the effort to prevent "mass extinction" (Stavins' term) – suicide by laissez faire.

(No, I am not now and never was or will be a Catholic.)

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Clive June 23, 2015 at 6:04 am

The Pope's recent comments stirred an old memory from when I was a child, for some reason. Growing up in England in the 1980's, it didn't escape even my childish notice that the series "Dr. Who" was often a vehicle for what would now been deemed outrageously left wing thinking and ideas.

One such episode was The Pirate Planet. The plot's premise was that a race had created a mechanism for consuming entire planets at a time, extracting mineral wealth from the doomed planet being destroyed in the process and using energy and resources for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite with the remnants being offered as trinkets for the masses.

A small subset of the evil race was subliminally aware of what was happening. One of the lines spoken by a character really stuck in my mind, when he said after the reality of their existence was explained to him "so… people die… to make us rich?"

At the time, it was intended I think more as an allegory on the exploitation of South African gold miners under apartheid than as a general critique of capitalism by the prevailing socialist thinking in Britain in that era (it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country. Perhaps it was…). No wonder the Thatcher government aggressively targeted the BBC (who produced the show), seeing it, probably rightly, as a hotbed of Trotskyite ideology.

But the point the show was trying to make is as valid now as it was then and is the same point the Pope Francis is making. A great deal of our material wealth and affluence is built on others' suffering. It is wrong. And the system which both perpetrates the suffering and the people who benefit from it needs to change. Us turkeys are going to have to vote for Christmas.

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 6:43 am

Nice post, Clive. But I thought Brits ate goose at Christmas, and Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving ;-)

Yes, where have all the leftists gone? Is Cornel West the only one "left" in America? Forty years ago I was moving to the Right, in reaction to the Left. The Cold War was still on, patriotism et al.

The current paradigm is insane … so nature will not allow it to continue much longer. G-d not so much. The US today is qualitatively different than it was in the 70s.

Trotsky was one of the first people to understand Hitler. Stalin not so much. Our current crop of elder pundits of Neoliberalism … originally were Jewish trotskyites back in the 60s. Neoliberalism was perhaps pragmatic back then, but has outlived its usefulness.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 7:59 am

old queen vic introduced the turkey to britain and it has supplanted the goose as a christmas special. i prefer goose, though.

James Levy June 23, 2015 at 10:36 am

My friend Tracey and her family still had "joint of beef" for Christmas.

James Levy June 23, 2015 at 6:47 am

The overweening arrogance of the Thatcherites and the neoclassical ideologues that are in evidence at Harvard is their insistence that what they peddle is not a set of values, but a "science", and that their set of values is the only set of values even worth considering (TINA). The Pope's job is to remind us all of another possible set of values and organizing principles. No one said you have to believe in them. But they have a right to be on the table when we collectively chose what kind of world we want to live in.

John Smith June 23, 2015 at 6:13 am

"All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor." Bill Black

No. He is to sell all he owns but Jesus does not say that he is to then give away ALL the money. The rich guy's problem is his possessions, not money. Note that Matthew, another rich guy, did not give away all his money yet he was a disciple of Jesus.

As for "free markets", what is free market about government-subsidized/privileged banks?

Patricia June 23, 2015 at 6:35 am

Don't know if this has been linked at NC; it is another righteous rant on the subject:

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:18 am

Nice. Takeaway? … "no true feelings" … insightful description of the people around me. The West in a state of nervous breakdown.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

something didn't read right about this piece to me. hard to put my finger on it, but it came across as a bit hypocritical and a lot bitter. apart from that, the style is eclectic and the thoughts are scrambled all over the place. more a rant than a coherent argument.

It all began when I arrived. After travelling some 48 hours from South Africa to Southern California, carrying films and books for the conference, I was not even met at the airport. So I took a taxi. But nobody met me at the place where I was supposed to stay. I stood on the street for more than one hour.

in this passage he sounds like he suffers from affluenza. in those poor but righteous third world countries, he is treated like a rockstar. in the rotten US, he is dismayed at the lack of attention. although no doubt he has a point, it smacks a bit of entitlement.

not vltchek's best work, but then again, he did admit to writing most of it on the plane.

Synoia June 23, 2015 at 6:42 am

it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country.

True. And greed, as described by Bill Black. has no limits.

Moneta June 23, 2015 at 6:56 am

Free markets and world economic order in the same sentence?

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:10 am

Irony perhaps? But then actual free markets are only in the imagination of Adam Smith.

William C June 23, 2015 at 7:28 am

I seem to remember plenty in WoN about businessmen conspiring against the public.

Eric Patton June 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

Very awesome essay.

Ulysses June 23, 2015 at 8:52 am

"Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet."

This is an extremely important point. We cannot combat neoliberal ideology as if it were simply a set of rational assumptions, albeit flowing from flawed premises. No, it is a religious dogma of greed, set up to combat all of the more communitarian and gentle schools of religious thought– including the Christianity of Pope Francis, or the environmentalism of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecologists.

diptherio June 23, 2015 at 9:39 am

Good to see that someone else pulls out the "rich young man" bit occasionally. Not many Christians I've talked to seem to be aware of it, much less of the implications. Good on ya'.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

fundamentalists like to take things in the bible literally, but they know that jesus didn't mean it when he said that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God"

Garrett Pace June 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

Maybe he didn't realize that his possessions owned him, but the rich young man knew that *something* was wrong. For all his virtue and good works, he could feel things weren't right inside himself.

Vatch June 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

Pope Francis probably hasn't read The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein. If he had read it, he would know that investment bankers are doing God's work.

[Jun 19, 2015] Who Is Stoking The Trillion Dollar Student Debt Bubble

Jun 19, 2015 | Zero Hedge

When it became apparent that the US taxpayer would likely be on the hook for the discharge of billions in federal aid awarded to students who had attended Corinthian Colleges (the now defunct for-profit institution that was forced to wind down operations in the face of government scrutiny) critics didn't so much question whether the government should forgive the loans, but rather why the loans were extended in the first place. Allow us to explain.

There's a very serious debate raging in America about whether it's appropriate for the federal government to forgive student loans. Some commentators rightfully assert that when it comes to federal loans made to students who attend public schools - where, even if the education they receive doesn't exactly prepare them for the jobs market, graduation rates are at least respectable and the admissions process is not riddled with fraud - personal responsibility should be taken into account and borrowers should be expected to pay off their debt.

The argument changes a bit when the conversation shifts to for-profit schools. In many cases, these institutions employ deceptive recruiting practices including falsified graduation and job placement rates to lure students who, once accepted, are encouraged to lie about their circumstances in order to maximize the amount of government aid they're eligible to receive. These schools live and die by federal student loans as around 90% of students pay for their 'education' with debt. And while the government (i.e. the taxpayer) keeps the doors open, CEOs (in many cases the schools are publicly traded) reap millions in compensation.

The government has been aware of this arrangement for years and yet the schools were (and still are) allowed to operate. Because students who attend a school that is deemed to have committed fraud can apply to have their federal loans discharged, the Department of Education is taking an enormous risk by extending billions in credit to students who attend schools that the department likely knows will eventually be shut down.

So, as we said above, when it comes to loan forgiveness for students who attend defunct for-profit colleges, the real question is not whether the students deserve to have their debt forgiven (they very well might, insomuch as they have been defrauded, much as one would expect to be reimbursed for a defective product) but rather why the government is acting irresponsibly with taxpayer dollars in the first place.

Against this backdrop, consider the following from WSJ, who has more on the misappropriation of federal student aid and the role played by accreditors:

Most colleges can't keep their doors open without an accreditor's seal of approval, which is needed to get students access to federal loans and grants. But accreditors hardly ever kick out the worst-performing colleges and lack uniform standards for assessing graduation rates and loan defaults.

Those problems are blamed by critics for deepening the student-debt crisis as college costs soared during the past decade. Last year alone, the U.S. government sent $16 billion in aid to students at four-year colleges that graduated less than one-third of their students within six years, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of the latest available federal data.

Nearly 350 out of more than 1,500 four-year colleges now accredited by one of six regional commissions have a lower graduation rate or higher student-loan default rate than the average among the colleges that were banished by the same accreditors since 2000, the Journal's analysis shows.

"They told me I could build a future there," says Rachel Williams, 24 years old, who dropped out of Kentucky State University in Frankfort in 2013 because her family couldn't afford the college anymore and she was losing faith in it. She amassed about $34,000 in federally backed loans.

Kentucky State has a graduation rate of just 18%, and nearly 30% of students who began repaying their loans in fiscal 2011 had defaulted within three years.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges reaffirmed Kentucky State's accreditation in 2009. A preliminary report by the reviewers made no mention of loan defaults and praised Kentucky State for plans to improve its graduation rate.

One problem may be that the accreditation game suffers from similar conflicts of interest as those which caused ratings agencies like Moody's and S&P to rate subprime-ridden MBS triple-A in the lead-up to the crisis:

Accreditors say their job is to help colleges get better rather than to weed out laggards. Colleges pay for the inspections, which can cost more than $1 million at large institutions.

"You're not there to remove an institution," says Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a trade group. "You're there to enhance the operation."

The government has relied on accreditors as watchdogs since the 1950s.

the current accreditation system is drawing more scrutiny as college costs climb farther out of reach for many American families. Outstanding federal student-loan debt has doubled to $1.2 trillion since 2007. In the past decade, the amount of loans and grants awarded annually has jumped more than 50% on an inflation-adjusted basis, reaching $134 billion last year.

The $16 billion sent last year to students at colleges that graduated less than a third of their students was nearly 20% of all the loans and grants to students at four-year institutions.

The overall graduation rate for four-year colleges is about 59%. About 11% of students at four-year colleges who started repaying their loans in 2011 defaulted by the end of 2013.

"It's a national scandal that we're pouring huge sums of money into schools with very, very low graduation rates," says Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a think tank.

Indeed, the following description of the relationship between accreditors and colleges sounds like it could have been ripped straight from the pages of a book about Wall Street:

Arthur Rothkopf, a former president of Lafayette College, says the relationship between accreditors and schools can be too "cozy." While he was leading the Pennsylvania college, he was assigned by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to review the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

Mr. Rothkopf says he was friends with the West Point superintendent at the time, and the two men had stayed in each other's homes. He is now an adviser to the Education Department and has advocated for breaking the link between accreditation and federal aid.

In April, a Journal reporter observed an accreditation review at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green after agreeing not to disclose the content of the discussions. The reviewers were serious and focused, and the atmosphere was collegial.

Western Kentucky delivered souvenir-filled gift baskets to evaluators' hotel rooms and treated the reviewers to steak dinners. "We didn't do anything at WKU that I haven't seen done at other institutions," said Richard Miller, vice provost at Western Kentucky, where the graduation rate is 50%.

Consider the above, then consider the following from The Heritage Foundation:

Alarmingly, and in a manner that parallels the history of many licensing systems, accreditation now suffers from numerous conflicts of interest. For instance, regional accrediting agencies are financed in part by college and university membership in the associations. Colleges are dues-paying members of accrediting associations that determine their accreditation. Consequently, accreditors are more reluctant to deny accreditation renewal, an action that would result in the loss of dues-paying members of the association. "The desire to maintain collegiality and not to lose paying association members raises conflict of interest issues that make the regional accreditors questionable gatekeepers for eligibility for federal funds."[21]

Moreover, removing a college's accreditation status could mean that a regional accrediting agency loses students to other parts of the country and, hence, to colleges accredited by other regions. This reality creates further perverse incentives to accredit institutions of questionable quality.

Ultimately, these conflicts of interest have created a system whereby accreditation agencies are inclined to protect the interests of existing colleges and universities.

What all of this means is that just as the conflict of interest between ratings agencies and banks' securitization machine ultimately contributed to the unprecedented Main Street-funded bailout of Wall Street, so too is the cozy relationship between accreditors and schools contributing to the $1.2 trillion student debt bubble which, in the end, will burst in spectacular fashion necessitating across-the-board debt forgiveness and a heretofore unimaginable loss for the US taxpayer.

[Jun 15, 2015] The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice by Harry

A version of Amy Gutmann's excellent chapter is online here.
"...One take on the social responsibility of higher education: "
"...George Monbiot rages against the "soul suckers", and their influence on universities. The official title of his article is "How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates ""
".... if people are predictably choosing just a small subset of these options, the fact that the humanities provides a bunch of unchosen options seems hard to get terribly excited about. "

June 2, 2015 |

Just off the presses: a new book I have edited with Michael McPherson on philosophical problems in higher education, The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice (amazon)

Here's the blurb:

In this book, philosopher Harry Brighouse and Spencer Foundation president Michael McPherson bring together leading philosophers to think about some of the most fundamental questions that higher education faces. Looking beyond the din of arguments over how universities should be financed, how they should be run, and what their contributions to the economy are, the contributors to this volume set their sights on higher issues: ones of moral and political value. The result is an accessible clarification of the crucial concepts and goals we so often skip over-even as they underlie our educational policies and practices.

The contributors tackle the biggest questions in higher education: What are the proper aims of the university? What role do the liberal arts play in fulfilling those aims? What is the justification for the humanities? How should we conceive of critical reflection, and how should we teach it to our students? How should professors approach their intellectual relationship with students, both in social interaction and through curriculum?

What obligations do elite institutions have to correct for their historical role in racial and social inequality? And, perhaps most important of all: How can the university serve as a model of justice? The result is a refreshingly thoughtful approach to higher education and what it can, and should, be doing.

The contributors are Amy Gutmann, Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Paul Weithman, Allen Buchanan, Erin Kelly, Lionel McPherson (no relation to my co-editor) and our own Chris Bertram.

I imagine CT readers will be particularly interested in CB's excellent chapter on philosophical defenses of the humanities, and, I hope, in my and McPherson's concluding chapter which outlines a series of philosophical problems in higher education that are not discussed in the book, but we think merit further discussion. A version of Amy Gutmann's excellent chapter is online here.

I should say that we encouraged authors to concentrate on problems arising in selective settings, not because we think they are more important (we don't) but because we thought that we would get better essays if people reflected on what they knew best. The essays are all written in a style accessible to undergraduates, and in my experience undergraduates find them very engaging, and are troubled by the questions they raise. We are hoping that others will take up some of the problems addressed and some of the suggestions we make in the conclusion and do further work on them.

floopmeister 06.03.15 at 5:53 am

One take on the social responsibility of higher education:

Sasha Clarkson 06.05.15 at 2:48 pm

George Monbiot rages against the "soul suckers", and their influence on universities. The official title of his article is "How a corporate cult captures and destroys our best graduates "

I think he's trying to cause some offence with his question: "why do so many end up in pointless and destructive jobs? Finance, management consultancy, advertising, public relations, lobbying: these and other useless occupations consume thousands of the brightest students"

harry b 06.05.15 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Sasha, I wouldn't have seen that otherwise.

This para sticks out to me:

They cited their duty of impartiality, which, they believe, prevents them from seeking to influence students' choices, and explained that there were plenty of other careers on offer. But they appear to have confused impartiality with passivity. Passivity in the face of unequal forces is anything but impartial. Impartiality demands an active attempt to create balance, to resist power, to tell the dark side of the celestial tale being pummelled into the minds of undergraduates by the richest City cults.

Law School is the culprit in the US, and in some ways the Universities act worse, because they actually include the Law Schools. The problem has receded a bit since the recession hit but it'll be back.

This issue - the extent to which universities should be impartial about or, alternatively, try to influence, students' career choices, is one that we highlighted in our concluding chapter, as an issue philosophers could contribute something useful to thinking about, but largely haven't.

harry b 06.05.15 at 7:16 pm

More on law school:

dob 06.06.15 at 4:45 pm

The phenomenon that Sasha Clarkson mentions strikes me as particularly interesting in light of one of the arguments Chris Bertram makes in this volume. If I remember well, the idea is that we might justify public funding of the humanities by appeal to the fact that they preserve people's ability to choose from a wider range of conceptions of the good. (We need to appeal to this sort of fact, if we want our justification to be acceptable to others in public reasoning. It can play this role because it has the nice feature of not appealing to any particular conception of the good.) But if lots of graduates are being funneled into a narrow range of careers, does this falsify, or is it evidence against, Bertram's claim for the humanities?*

On the one hand, I'm inclined to say no, if what's important about the humanities is that it really does let people choose from a wider range of conceptions of the good, or deliberate better about what they choose. On the other hand, if people are predictably choosing just a small subset of these options, the fact that the humanities provides a bunch of unchosen options seems hard to get terribly excited about.

*Of course, it's not trivial to read off someone's conception of the good from their career choice. But it seems like a reasonable proxy.

[Jun 15, 2015] Goodbye, Madison

Neoliberal university is mostly about junk science and money. No question about it. See Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the economic rape of Russia
"...The problem with the for-profit sector is that its goal is profit not quality. Private enterprise seeks to charge as much as it can get away with, for delivering as inferior a product as it can get away with. "
"...In order for market forces to work that way (the consumer picks the "best value") the consumer has to actually know (based on facts, not marketing), what is the best product for the price. Health care and education are notoriously know as sectors in which the "consumer" (at the time of decision) are completely clueless on the issue of "best value". In highly complex and specialized areas the consumer is helpless in the fight against marketing to determine actual "best value" and you get a much better result from the determination of "best value" from groups of experts. When the state doesn't pick winners in these areas it leaves the least sophisticated citizens as sure losers and victims of predatory capitalism.."
"..."people aren't stupid (at least most aren't). They know a bargain when they see one and when they make an inferior choice, they'll learn" That was joke – right ? The vast majority of people have no way of "beating" the professionals and marketing people in subject that the individual decide on a few times in his/her life, and their "opponents" have had as a full time job for decades. They may "learn" from a purchase of discount toilet paper that breaks, but that is a decision where the bad outcome is immediate and obvious. Even then the average person doesn't often learn from their mistakes, go to any gathering and hear peoples explanations for bad outcomes. Very few people actually understand – and how can they learn if they don't even have a clue of what happened. "
Jun 13, 2015 |

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, on what he sees as the destruction of a great research university.

The crown jewel of the Wisconsin university system is the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It is one of the top research universities in the country and the world. With this move [ to strip tenure from professors], you will basically kiss that jewel goodbye. To me this is the more salient reality than whether you think academic tenure is a good thing or not in itself.

If this happens, over time, the professors who can will leave. And as the top flight scholars and researchers depart, so will the reputation of the institution. So will graduate students who want to study with them, the best undergrads, money that flows to prestigious scholarship. Don't get me wrong. Not in a day or a year or even several years. But it will. If you don't get this, you don't understand the economy and incentive structure of university life.

In other news, Author of proposal to abolish Legislative Audit Bureau says it's not a response to scathing WEDC audits. The Legislative Audit Bureau is the Wisconsin equivalent of the Federal government's Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Also Wisconsin Republicans fire DNR scientists working on research related to climate change and pollution.

CoRev, June 11, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Menzie your DNR reference says this: ""Let's make sure we're doing applied science that benefits people here in Wisconsin," Tiffany said. "Let's offer more opportunities for sportsmen rather than going off on something that's theoretical."'

Is that reasoning political or practical budgeting?

Steven Kopits ,

Privatizing the University of Wisconsin

I have led or participated in the privatization of dozens of state-owned enterprises, from airlines, to banks and from wineries to steel mills. Let me give you a sense of how a privatization might play out.

Approximately 180,000 students are enrolled in the UW system. Of these, 160,000 are undergraduates. Annual in-state tuition at the University is $10,400, with a total attendance cost of $24,700 (including books, room and board, etc.)

The state provides $6 bn in funding annually to the University, representing a $33,300 subsidy per student. In terms of taxes, funding the school represents a burden of $1,000 per head in Wisconsin, $4,000 for an average family of four. For purposes of comparison, the median household income is $53,000 and the average house value is $180,000 in the state. Thus, $4,000 represents about 8% of pre-tax median income. It is not an insignificant expense.

Privatization without Tuition Support
Governor Walker's recommendation sees the material withdrawal of funding from the University (-80%) without a concomitant increase in tuition support for in-state students (at least that I can see). Thus, without tuition support, the average cost to attend the University, ceteris paribus, would be around $44,000 + room and board, or about $58,000 per year. This is not an unheard of tuition for private schools, but it would clearly represent a major adverse event for in-state students seeking a cost effective way to attend college.

Many, and perhaps most, students seeking to attend college would do so with or without access to subsidized education. Notwithstanding, for students of marginal ambition or means, the steep rise in tuition would cause them to likely prefer to work rather than obtain a college education. Further, without subsidies, UW would be competing essentially on a level playing field with the likes of Marquette and Stritch, and thus would like lose students to these competitors. For purposes of illustration, tuition and board at Stritch is $34,000 / year, some $24,000 less than the subsidized price at UW. At Marquette, tuition and board is $48,000 per year, still a solid $10,000 less than at UW. A privatized UW, without major restructuring, is not competitive with private offerings today. This is entirely typical of the economics of state-owned enterprises. (I have seen worse.)

Thus, we might expect that perhaps one-quarter of UW's current students would elect to avoid college entirely, and another 15-20% would likely choose a private option. Of course, the University would drop tuition immediately to maintain market share, thus, the total loss of student body would run around 20-25% at the low end, to as much as 45-55% at the high end. Based upon my privatization experience, loss of one-third of enrollment might be an appropriate number for planning purposes.

This would have a number of consequences. First, the University would enter a period of turmoil, with substantial faculty turnover and extensive restructuring of campus, facilities and curriculum. It would not be pretty. Depending on how events play out, the University would emerge as the largest private university in the world, not an insubstantial position, if events play out that way. (I would point out that early privatizers often consolidated later privatizing companies. For example, privatized UK water companies bought up a number of water and sewer companies in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.)

What would be left, after a period of painful consolidation, would be a good bit smaller, more focused, a more lean and more elite university, perhaps the largest elite private university in the world. The returns to education would be perhaps twice as high, as the full cost of attendance would be internalized to the student. (Currently, the student absorbs only about 40% of the cost of education at UW.)

There would likely be social consequences. For example, students often settle near their alma maters, and given that a larger share of Wisconsin students would study out of state, a certain brain-drain might ensue, with an outward leakage of upwardly mobile Wisconsin young adults. This is a complex matter beyond the scope of this analysis, but one should not in any event under-estimate the societal impacts of drastic changes to educational towns and cultures.

Bottom line: Privatizing UW without any corresponding support to in-state students would represent a major change not only to the University, but also to the educational and social culture of Wisconsin, mostly notably at the main campus in Madison.

Privatizing the University with Tuition Support

A more interesting and intriguing alternative would be the privatizing of the University with tuition support provided directly to the student (a kind of voucher) for use at any accredited college or university in Wisconsin.

This would force the University to compete on a level playing field with other in-state institutions, thus prompting the sort of restructuring and efficiency programs which the government seeks. At the same time, it would avoid gutting the educational culture in Wisconsin and preventing many young adults from obtaining college degrees.

Such has the advantage of potential for political popularity. It could appeal to those who want to privatize and restructure UW; it could appeal to those who fear a collapse of higher education in the state; and it would certainly appeal to the likes of Stritch and Marquette, which would gain a major source of funding.

And it should have appeal at UW (at least compared to cold-turkey privatization). It would allow UW to become autonomous and thereby retain as much of its progressive culture as it can find students willing to choose it over other options. One of the things one doesn't hear too much about privatization is this: privatized companies often morph into de factor monopolies. With its formidable economies of scale, UW could become something of a monster competitor, both in state and more broadly. The largest private university in the world, coupled with a stable source of financing (provided the school appeals to in-state students) would make Wisconsin a formidable institution indeed.

In fact, it would position Wisconsin well to deal with the revolution in education to be expected the 10-20 years. State schools, by dint of their ownership, tend to be geographic entities. It's not the University of Wisconsin for nothing. A private university would not be bound regionally and would be much better positioned to compete in the disembodied sphere of the internet. It would also be insulated from state interference–and wouldn't that be desirable now?

But it's not free. The UW system educates about half the college students in Wisconsin. A universal voucher system would therefore probably mean that the value per voucher would fall by half, to about $17,000 / year. The University could probably claw back half of the difference with tuition increases ($18,000 per year is still not an astronomical tuition). Enrollment would probably decline in the 12-22% range, perhaps 16% for planning purposes. That's a hit, but not the end of the world. Couple it with the cost savings the Marquette example shows should be achievable, and the University would probably acclimate acceptably.

And five years on, UW would be in a monster position to compete on the US and possibly international stage as the largest private university in the world.

So, there are tough choices to be made. The University's staff can resist Walker's plans, and either succeed or fail in the effort. Alternatively, the University can seek to shape the Governor's plans and position the institution to meet the challenges unfolding in the education revolution. In any event, not all change is necessarily bad.

DeDude, June 12, 2015 at 5:37 am

The problem with the for-profit sector is that its goal is profit not quality. Private enterprise seeks to charge as much as it can get away with, for delivering as inferior a product as it can get away with.

Yes, if there is real true competition the prices will be driven down. However, the so-called "efficiencies" are almost always about reducing quality in ways that the costumers don't recognize. Bean counters come up with metrics that presumably have something to do with the "product/productivity", but many of the most important parts of the "product" cannot be quantitated.

As the organization becomes all about the metrics/beans rather than the mission/product, the quality slips – but initially not any more than what can be covered up by marketing. A classic example in the university world is whether anybody cares about the students, it cannot be bean-counted but is essential to the quality of education.

DeDude, June 13, 2015 at 4:51 am

"allows students to determine which school determines the best value. The state does not pick winners and losers, and I believe that is the best guarantor of responsiveness to student needs"

That belief is about as wrong and in contrast to experience as you can get.

In order for market forces to work that way (the consumer picks the "best value") the consumer has to actually know (based on facts, not marketing), what is the best product for the price.

Health care and education are notoriously know as sectors in which the "consumer" (at the time of decision) are completely clueless on the issue of "best value". In highly complex and specialized areas the consumer is helpless in the fight against marketing to determine actual "best value" and you get a much better result from the determination of "best value" from groups of experts. When the state doesn't pick winners in these areas it leaves the least sophisticated citizens as sure losers and victims of predatory capitalism..

Stiles, June 12, 2015 at 7:18 am

$6B is the total UW-System spending for 2014-2015. In 2014-2015, the State of Wisconsin provided 19.3 percent of funding or $1.18B. The per student subsidy and the per household number are much lower than you describe as a result.

spencer, June 12, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Re: Steven Kopits

You are aware, I hope, that tuition at private college has been rising much faster than at public schools.

But to be honest, I do not think I have ever seen any analysis build on such a stack of questionable "assumptions" in my life. Do you write science fiction on the side?

Vivian Darkbloom, June 14, 2015 at 12:32 am

Tuition and fees are not the only thing to look at and would give a rather incomplete picture of the total cost structure. In varying degrees, private schools rely on endowments and public schools on taxpayer funding. These comparisons are not at all straight forward. But, it's interesting to note, from the ultra progressive CBPP, how Wisconsin has recently compared on tuition increases and state funding with other states, particularly many other "blue" states:

DeDude, June 14, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Looks like Walker's plan is to give Arizona and Louisiana a run for the money.

A1, June 11, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Higher education is really expensive. Even state schools, just transferred cost. For the training received, I think it could be done with less cost.

Also, think that the prestige of academic research driving up a university's rankings and stuff doesn't really transfer to undergrad education. In some ways, it actually hurts undergrad education.

I went to undergrad at a place that had no grad students, had recitation, limited class sizes etc. Thought it was a better deal than my sisters going to normal schools.

DeDude, June 12, 2015 at 5:16 am

The amazing thing is that as much as people worship the concept of market forces they don't seem to understand them. The most "attractive" faculty will almost certainly look to go where they find the most attractive work conditions and compensation packages.

The highly prestigious private medical schools have been losing excellent faculty to state schools that have retained tenure. The reason being that the risk of losing external research funding has increased drastically as NIH funding percentiles dropped from the low 20'ies to single digits.

So actual real tenure with the traditional guaranteed career (switching from research to teaching and administrative work if you lose your ability to get grants), has become a highly valued part of the recruitment package.

If you take that away, you have to offer something else to still be attractive to the best. If you don't then welcome to the worlds largest community college.

The VA found that out when it began turning itself into an "efficient" HMO with less interest in its academic ties and activities. They spend twice as much on sweetening the salaries offered as what they saved by making the jobs more boring. Having made themselves more attractive to "Doctors" who just want a 9-5 job without to much of those academic "thinking" challenges they are slowly slipping in real quality of care.

Dr. Morbius, June 12, 2015 at 6:05 am

And why would the GOPers want to destroy the UW-Madison? Pretty simple really (hint: it's all about tribal politics) and well summarized in Rep. Terese Berceau's recent article:

Despite the fact that Dane County is responsible for three quarters of the job growth in the state during the Walker Administration, it is far more valuable for the GOP to derail this economic engine to feed the politics of resentment in their rural and suburban Milwaukee constituencies.

Gridlock, June 12, 2015 at 9:07 am

Why not really provide some cost savings and shut down the University altogether. Let's return to the good old days of indentured servitude at the hand of a benevolent (hopefully) master. Hell, it was good enough for our forefathers.

What better way to learn a trade and gain knowledge of the profitable operations of a business. Typically, indentured servitude would last 4 to 7 years, similar to getting a college education.

Why, it would be less costly to our young men and women – no out of pocket expense at all! And taxpayers wouldn't have to provide any funding either. The entire cost would fall to the employer as it rightfully should, no government subsidies allowed!

Bruce Hall, June 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

I'm sure this would be an unpopular concept at UW, but there is a collection of 2-year colleges that could be integrated into a stepped 4-year program that would benefit the students through lower initial costs and benefit the university system by weeding out the less gifted academically students. Perhaps a program to "certify" 2-year degrees for the UM system might reduce the overall cost and effectiveness of the UW system. 50 years ago, I attended the Wisconsin-Milwaukee university when it was a commuter college of about 8,000 students. It was a good size and good fit for the working class students that attended… and the cost was reasonable. Was it competitive with Harvard? Hardly. But it was perfect for bootstrapping.

Now if UW wants to be an elitist institution like Harvard, then it shouldn't be concerned about costs to students or numbers of students. Bring the best and charge the most. That doesn't seem to be the goal of UW. It seems to want to be, faculty-wise, academically competitive with Harvard, but cost competitive with 2-year colleges… on the taxpayer dime, of course. What UW doesn't want is someone accusing it of being elitist… forcing poorer or less academically qualified students… from being able to attend.

Having sent two sons through the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and one through Michigan State University, I can attest that the cost would have been quite burdensome without the Michigan's state tax support. But would it have been impossible? No. It would have taken some creativity in financing that effort. Has the state of Michigan benefited from the taxpayer support it gives to the Michigan university system? Definitely, but not universally. Is Michigan's support of its universities equivalent to other states? No.

"Michigan families pay more to send their children to state universities than families in almost any other state, according to a Bridge Magazine analysis. Not coincidentally, Michigan also gives less money to its public universities than almost any other state."

The universities complain and parents complain, but the schools are full and are selective academically. I'll pit UM's academic reputation against UW's academic reputation in a heartbeat. What Michigan also has is a fairly healthy community college system that feeds its 4-year schools, as well as a range of universities both academically and cost.,-84.6748155,8z/data=!3m1!4b1 Compare that to Wisconsin's by zooming out on the map.

Perhaps Wisconsin should look at emulating the Michigan model which is a reduced level of state support and a robust community college system for those students who are either financially or academically unprepared for the 4-year institutions.

There are two dynamics at play here: the level of state funding to its universities and the personnel policies of those universities. They shouldn't be intermingled. Tenure should be a university issue; financing should be a state issue.

Stiles, June 13, 2015 at 10:36 am

There is already a stepped program in place. Please see the link below regarding transfer programs.

The Guaranteed Transfer Program and Associate Degree Transfer Contract provide the kind of stepped program you are suggesting I believe.

DeDude, June 13, 2015 at 5:25 am

Most of the countries we compete with understand that you have to invest to educate and develop a child to the full extend of their potential, regardless of how disadvantaged a background it comes from. If you don't, you basically leave behind not just that kid but the economical and societal benefits that his/her inherent talents could have provided.

In the US we have allowed all these voucher/private/charter school scamming operations to divert education dollars into private profit.

Furthermore, we allow local tax base funding of primary education to ensure that the talents (and educational performance) of those not living in the gated communities of the upper class suburbs, will not be fully developed. So far the plutocrats have managed to compensate for this competitive disadvantage by attracting (or stealing?) the most talented individuals from other countries (after they had most or all of their eduction in their home countries).

But at the university level we are quickly destroying the attractiveness for foreign talent of moving to the US at the same time as those foreign countries are waking up and making their home environment more attractive to stay with.

In the long run we are all dead; but we may live long enough to see the "low tax, free market" morons destroy the structures and advantages that made the US the worlds dominant superpower.

DeDude, June 14, 2015 at 6:27 am

"people aren't stupid (at least most aren't). They know a bargain when they see one and when they make an inferior choice, they'll learn"

That was joke – right ? The wast majority of people have no way of "beating" the professionals and marketing people in subject that the individual decide on a few times in his/her life, and their "opponents" have had as a full time job for decades. They may "learn" from a purchase of discount toilet paper that breaks, but that is a decision where the bad outcome is immediate and obvious. Even then the average person doesn't often learn from their mistakes, go to any gathering and hear peoples explanations for bad outcomes. Very few people actually understand – and how can they learn if they don't even have a clue of what happened.

No the free markets did not make US a superpower. Because then all the other "free market" countries in this world should also have become superpowers. Free markets will in most cases end up as vicious predatory societies where a very small "elite" suck everything out of the remaining 99.9% of dirt poor barely surviving subjects. That is what free markets do because that is their nature. The fact that US escaped that outcome has everything to do with the luck of not being destroyed in world war 2 and the fact that such an existential threat event creates a rare tribalistic/nationalistic spirit where the rich and powerful feel connected with and thankful of the lower half rather than just feeling fear, disgust and contempt for those "moochers".

The US has less government and more private sector free market involvement in its health care and education system than the rest of the industrialized world. The outcome, as anybody could have predicted, has been much less bang for the bucks. We pay more for less because all those private entities (as expected) are focused on making profits, not on the quality of the outcomes. But don't let the facts shatter all those "free market = freedom" myth that the corporate media have stuffed into you brain.

2slugbaits, June 12, 2015 at 5:05 pm

A1 does raise an interesting point about the possible effect on undergraduate education if tenure is abolished. You could make a coherent argument that abolishing tenure would lower the cost of an undergraduate education. The reason is that undergraduates subsidize graduate and research programs. The actual economic costs of an undergrad education (especially freshman and sophomore years) is no higher today than it was 50 years ago. Moby Dick is the same story. Calculus is the same as it was in the 19th century. Foreign languages haven't changed. The principles of rhetoric are the same today as they were in Isocrates' day. Napoleon still loses the battle of Waterloo. The cost of an undergrad education should be fairly close to the cost of a community college education because the inputs are almost identical.

What's driving the cost of education is the demand for world class graduate and research departments. There's nothing wrong with wanting a world class graduate program or a world class team of researchers; but universities need to be honest about how those goals negatively effect undergraduate educations.

So there's a trade-off that has to be confronted. And quite honestly I don't know how I come down on that trade-off. Is society better off with more people getting a good undergraduate education and leaving school with a lighter debt load? Or is society better off if universities concentrate on developing a small number of elite researchers at the expense of having fewer people with undergraduate educations?

The Peoples Pawn , June 13, 2015 at 5:34 am

I'm not sure this is entirely correct. When I did my grad and undergrad just this decade (not at UW) it wasn't research programs that drove the rising costs per se. Nearly all are dirt cheap to the university if not net contributors when their payments for facilities are factored in. It looked to me like it was the growth into high-tech cutting edge stuff in biotech, thin film displays, supercomputing, electron microscopy, etc that required literally hundreds of millions in capital investment.

Add into that the basic drive for better computer labs, campus-wide wifi, the students pushing for more expensive food options and campus amenities. Universities are also subject to the same organizational foibles as large corporations and municipalities, such as the weird desire to store every scrap of electronic data that goes through the network from now until doomsday, even though precious little of it has anything to do with the mission. These things have costs in terms of storage, security, liability, and maintenance that tend to grow geometrically.

Bottom line is that I don't think eliminating tenure is likely to save much money, if any. However, it would cause many talented academics to think of their postions as short-term gigs on the road to tenure elsewhere.

Jake fomerly of the LP , June 13, 2015 at 7:30 am

People's Pawn- You're mistaking the state subsidies for the total costs. Grad school costs a lot more per student, because of research equipment, lower student-teacher ratios, etc, but a lot of that is offset by things like federal research grants and donations.

Likewise, dorms may cost more, but they aren't subsidized by taxpayers much (if at all) because they're self-supporting entities.

And a lot of the rightie commentators here are dead wrong on reading the budget. The total is $6 billion for next year in the UW System, but the vast majority of that is self-supporting, and should be separated out of budget deliberations. What the state can affect is the 20% or so that it covers, and that's what's being cut here (and has been continually cut for the last 12 years, by the way). The bad thing is that the other parts will also likely be cut because there won't be as many classes to offer and the quality of education drops, which takes away some of the outside money.

Combine that with the lack of benefits post-Act 10 and the lack of job security and backing that would come from ripping away tenure, and is anyone surprised that people with marketable skills are reconsidering whether they want to stay? Funny how that works in the marketplace.

Blissex, June 14, 2015 at 4:38 am

"Bottom line is that I don't think eliminating tenure is likely to save much money, if any. However, it would cause many talented academics to think of their positions as short-term gigs on the road to tenure elsewhere."

Elsewhere? WHERE? I suppose you did not get the drift of the story, which is that academic independence and the tenure that underpins it are being abolished *everywhere*. The overall policy is to make sure that universities and university professors are "accountable" to the needs and preferences of those deep pocketed people who donate to political campaigns and who donate to university endowments, and who certainly don't want to see their money supporting "unaccountable" attitudes. Notorious example: Ken Lay of Enron funded 35 (thirty five) endowed chairs.

For example the whole of the UK university system abolished tenure decades ago, and academics that don't generate enough income by publishing in government vetted journals get fired quite easily.

Voters have been taught to regard academics as nasty communists who gobble a lot of money to prance around in silly hats, and can't stand them, so don't expect the "popularity" of academics to save their independence.

DeDude, June 13, 2015 at 5:59 am

Actually the story of Napoleon that students learned 50 years ago is substantially different from the story they learn today. Research, new knowledge and innovative new interpretations of established facts ensures that development. In order for those community colleges to grab a book and teach an up to date version of a specific field someone has to be able to write that book based on their own and/or others research papers.

Development of the knowledge for those book cost a lot of money (that the community college students don't pay for themselves). It used to be that we said society (taxes) should pay for that, and undergrad tuition was not that different at different types of institutions.

Lately states have pushed some of that cost onto undergraduate students at research universities. The proposed plan in Madison suggests that we can push all of that cost onto undergraduates.

2slugbaits, June 13, 2015 at 9:03 am


I don't think we're all that far apart. Yes, new studies of Napoleon do come along…there are two out right now. But the advanced stuff is done in grad programs. What undergrads typically learn is based off the same lecture notes that the prof has been reading for the last 30 years.

But I think we agree that today's undergrads are subsidizing high end research and grad programs. To the extent that eliminating tenure makes those universities less high end research oriented, then that will tend to lower overall costs. Obviously it will hurt that university's reputation and that might hurt the market value of a bachelor's degree from that university. On the other hand, undergrads are more apt to have young up-and-coming professors who are just starting out, and very often that's the stage of their careers in which they make their biggest research breakthroughs. Look at a lot of the big name research universities and you'll see a lot of professors and professors emeritus that are living off their laurels from 40 years ago when they taught at some small, godforsaken college in North Dakota.

Whether or not Walker's proposed plan pushes those research and grad student programs onto undergrads really depends on how UW responds. If UW decides that they want to retain their reputation as an elite research university, then I would agree that Walker's plan is likely to further shift costs onto undergrads. But the UW doesn't have to decide to remain an elite university. They could decide that they want to be simply a very good university with a very good and affordable undergrad program. So it all comes down to a choice as to what kind of university the UW wants to become. As usual, most state boards of regents want both high end research and affordable undergrad programs with a high percentage of in-state students. But the folks who sit on boards of regents typically aren't adults who are capable of making hard choices.

As I said, I'm conflicted on the tenure issue. As a society we want some high end, elite research and grad programs. But we also want affordable undergrad programs. Universities can be one or the other, but not both. There was a time when they could, but those days are long gone. I think it's perfectly legitimate for a university to decide that it wants to focus on affordable undergraduate educations rather than high-end elite research and grad programs. It's just a matter of honestly confronting the choice.

DeDude, June 14, 2015 at 7:48 am

Yes in community college and poorly funded universities, the students may be served 30 year old material. This is also what happens in low cost private for-profit universities. It is well known that when you lower cost (community college) you also lower quality. If its all about lowering costs then we could just add two years to the community college programs and call them "universities". Heck we could just print people a diploma and not bother about classes and things (some of the new for-profit private undergraduate "universities" are not that far off from that). The UW could certainly dismantle itself to whatever lower level it wants (and save taxpayers a lot of money); but they cannot do that without lowering the quality and value of their diplomas in the real world. The fact is that nothing comes for free and that includes cost-cutting measure in any organization or company.

At a functional real university with training at all levels, the best teaching is not done by the famous professor, it is done by his graduate students. The have the absolute latest updated information on the subject, because they personally need to know it, and they don't have a decade old slide presentations to repeat for yet another year. This is the advantage of attending a research university for your undergraduate degree. However, the quality of those graduate students depends on the quality of the professors that they work with. As more and more states decide that they don't want to pay for real research universities, the quality or value of an undergraduate diploma will suffer. The rest of the world that we compete with does not send out graduates with 30 year old knowledge. Can we remain competitive if only the children of the 1%'ers attend private research universities and get a real education?

I can certainly agree that we need honesty. We need to get rid of the fraudulent claims that serious cost-cutting can be done without serious long-term consequences (cost). To Walker it doesn't matter what the state looks like 20 years from now – as long as he can show off his conservatism and bash "liberals" as a stepping-stone towards the US presidency. In 20 years the plutocrats and corporate interests he serves will have richly rewarded him, regardless of how much he wrecked the state; so he can just retire to a high end gated community in Florida.

baffling, June 14, 2015 at 7:58 am

"Universities can be one or the other, but not both. There was a time when they could, but those days are long gone. I think it's perfectly legitimate for a university to decide that it wants to focus on affordable undergraduate educations rather than high-end elite research and grad programs. It's just a matter of honestly confronting the choice."

i completely agree with you on this statement. the problem today, is every little state college aspires to have research programs, and this thins out the limited research budget available from NIH, NSF, etc. why do all of these little schools aspire to achieve these research programs? they honestly do not expect to be another MIT.

but the states have been cutting support to these schools for decades. their need for revenue pushes them into markets-such as research-that they are not qualified to compete. so rather than focusing on what they can do in excellence-undergraduate teaching-they are competing one on one with MIT, harvard, caltech, etc. its a battle they cannot win.

but administrators need to justify their higher salaries, and they do so by claiming increased research as a metric of value, while their undergraduate education metric collapses. but you must remember, a lot of this was driven by the states cutting back financial support to these educational institutions in the first place. and the cuts were many times driven by the desire to implement a business model that does not appear to work in education.

DeDude, June 14, 2015 at 10:29 am

I don't think that small schools taking away NIH, NSF funding from larger schools is a meaningful part of the current research funding crisis. We are taking about very small percentages of the funds from these agencies going to institutions with research budgets under 10 million per year. Furthermore, the peer-review process ensures that the quality of proposals from a small school has to be considerably above average in order to compete with one from a school where the resources, research infrastructure and "name brand" prestige is in place. My guess is that these agencies are getting more bang for their bucks invested in small schools (although its hard to find a good metrics for that).

Most of the research funding in smaller colleges comes from raising funds for an endowed research professorship. That money is more likely to be "taken away" from sports programs, not from research at other institutions. For the students themselves the availability of credible research experiences is valuable even if they don't become scientists. For society as a whole the ability to harvest the imagination and ideas of students and faculty at these colleges (even if ultimately developed/stolen by Ivy League professors) is an important and very inexpensive boast to scientific progress.

However, I do agree that the small colleges are likely to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. It is all about being able to point to some shiny flashy metrics that will look convincing to an audience that do not have a clue as to what is important (whether prospective students/parents or salary determining board members).

baffling, June 14, 2015 at 5:05 pm

dedude, the smaller schools have changed the dynamics of the funding process. now NSF, NIH, etc can brag about only funding 5-10% of submitted proposals. this is "proof" they are funding only the best and brightest.

but they are still spreading the funding around. Not only that, they are wasting the time of the 95% of submissions that were not funded. that becomes a huge burden in the research intensive institutions-time better spent on actual research and papers than proposal submissions. The peer review process is another story.

There really should be some training and competency requirements for reviewers, but that will not happen anytime soon. i agree smaller schools are not a huge percentage of the research budget, but they do have an impact and influence on current research funding opportunities. funding agencies at 30% to 40% acceptance would probably produce a more efficient research engine overall.

DeDude, June 15, 2015 at 7:55 am

@ baffling,

I have never heard of these agencies bragging about low funding percentiles, all I hear is them using it as arguments for requesting increased funding (good science is going unfunded). Even if all the small schools were banned from seeking NIH. NSF, etc. funding, the number of resubmissions to get funded for people at the big schools would not change substantially. The overall percentile numbers would look different when you took away a large number of "never had a chance" proposals, but that is not the relevant number for an Ivy League investigator. They would still have the same frustrations and delays (or failures) in getting good science funded. The real problem is actually that way to many research universities (including all the top tier schools) are using the excessive overheads from funded grants to build huge campuses and biotech incubators (hoping for future patents revenue). Every time they put up a new building and fill it with grant funded investigators they can get NIH/NSF to fully pay the bond on that building. That is why they hire way more researchers than they should. That huge excess of scientist at the research universities is the origin of the destructively excessive competition for grants, blocking people from doing something new a risky. If the funding agencies put a cap of 40% for overhead (either your institution can be efficient enough to provide services with that overhead or it will have to pay for the excess from other sources), the problem would go away.

Lyle, June 12, 2015 at 5:11 pm

One issue is to distinguish between the Madison Campus and the system. (Madison and now Milwaukee are regarded as research institutions, (having doctoral programs) then there are 11 comprehensive universities for bachelors and some masters level work, and 13 of what appear to be community colleges (2 year institutions)

Here is a link to the wikipedia article:

Note that as in many other states what were once the teachers colleges are now the comprehensive universities (8 of the 11). Now perhaps one could tier the tuition higher at Madison and Milwaukee lower at the 11 comp universities (2 of which are within 50 miles of Milwaukee.

Note that the Milwaukee campus arose from a demand for a higher level institution in Milwaukee in the 1950s.

Now the question is looking at the 11 institutions could they combine programs with distance learning?

baffling, June 14, 2015 at 8:30 am

Lyle, "Now the question is looking at the 11 institutions could they combine programs with distance learning?"

my personal experience in the area of distance learning indicates it is a very poor substitute for one on one engagement in an active classroom.

that may still change over time, as technology improves. but my view is distance learning proponents created a fantastic marketing machine that never really allowed for a serious discussion between distance and in class learning methods.

deans and presidents were sold on the potential profitability these programs. education quality was a secondary metric in their consideration. one problem is that online systems are not nearly as efficient for the faculty as proponents make them out to be-so the cost burden leaves the institution and falls into the lap of the instructor to absorb.

[Jun 14, 2015] The Education-Deficit Does Not Explain Rising Inequality

"...Piketty guesses that the real explanation is that 1914-1980 is the anomaly. Without great political disturbances, wealth accumulates, concentrates, and dominates. The inequality trends we have seen over the past generation are simply a return to the normal pattern of income distribution in an industrialized market economy in which productivity growth is not unusually fast and political, depression, and military shocks not unusually large and prevalent. ..."
Jun 12, 2015 |

Brad DeLong:

Discussion of Matthew Rognlie: "Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share": The Honest Broker for the Week of June 14, 2015, b J. Bradford DeLong: ... I was weaned on the education-deficit explanation of recent trends in US inequality, perhaps best set out by the very sharp Claudia Goldin and Larry Katz (2009) in The Race Between Education and Technology. In their view, the bulk of U.S. inequality trends since the 1980s were driven by education's losing this race. In the era that had begun in 1636 the United States-to-be had made increasing the educational level of the population a priority. But that era came to an end in the 1970s, while skill-biased technological change continues. That meant that the return to education-based skills began to rise. And it was that rise that was the principal driver of rising income inequality.

But, recently, reality does not seem to agree with what had once seemed to me to be a satisfactory explanation. First, to get large swings in the income distribution out of small changes in the relative supply of educated workers requires relatively low substitutability between college-taught skills and other factors of production. As inequality has risen, the required substitutability to fit the data has dropped to what now feels to me an unreasonably low magnitude. Second, while it is true that we have seen higher experience-skill premiums and sharply higher education-skill premiums, the real action in inequality appears now to be unduly concentrated in the upper tail. The distribution of the rise in inequality does not seem to match the distribution of technology-complementary skills at all. ...

Looking simply at my own family history, my Grandfather Bill reached not just the 1% or the 0.1% but the 0.01% back in the late 1960s in the days before the rise in inequality by selling his construction company to a conglomerate back in 1968. A good many of those of us who are his grandchildren have been very successful... But even should any of us be as lucky as my Grandfather Bill was in terms of our peak income and wealth as a multiple of median earnings, we would still be a multiple of his rank further down in the percentile income distribution.

Today, you need roughly 3.5 times the wealth now in the U.S. and 8 times the wealth worldwide to achieve the same percentile rank in the distribution... I find it simply impossible to conceptualize such an extreme concentration as in any way a return to a factor of production obtained as the product of "hours spent studying" times "brainpower", even when you also multiply by a factor "luck" and a factor "winner-take-all-economy".

So what, then, is going on and driving the sharp rise in inequality, if not some interaction between our education policy on the one hand and the continued progress of technology on the other? Thomas Piketty (2014) has a guess. Piketty guesses that the real explanation is that 1914-1980 is the anomaly. Without great political disturbances, wealth accumulates, concentrates, and dominates. The inequality trends we have seen over the past generation are simply a return to the normal pattern of income distribution in an industrialized market economy in which productivity growth is not unusually fast and political, depression, and military shocks not unusually large and prevalent. ...

[He goes on to talk about Matthew Rognlie's "Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share."]

Darryl FKA Ron

Have not read the whole thing yet, but he did seem to skip right over where the gap between education and technology has been getting wider for a very long time, almost since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It was replaced by specilization. Old school you had to have all the skills yourself, now we get a few smart people working for a few rich people and there is a pronounced pecking order along which everyone downstream must do as they are told and will not be told much but what to do.

The system of industrial capitalism as it has become practiced in the west would fall apart if the majority of people were well educated enough to understand how they had been exploited and what was possible as an alternative. Capitalists need a dependent population for thier plutocracy to exist. But given some proximity of electoral democracy then it is essential for the masses of society to be dependent upon corporations over whom they can exert no control rather than dependent upon government, which would presumably serve the will of the electorate if they became capable of expressing their will.


In the poker game of life, equality of outcomes is certainly not the natural evolutionary end-point of play - the sharpest players and the best cheaters always end up with all the chips. John Rockefeller controlling 93% of US refining capacity, and Al Capone dominating the beer trade in Chicago - that's where unrestrained capitalism leads.

Preventing such outcomes is one of the legitimate and necessary functions of government. People in businesses like Rocky and Al ran no longer have license to act in the ways those two did - but people on The Street still do. Gotta fix that, and then minimize the hereditary passage of wealth, privilege and influence between generations, or things continue to get worse not better.


"The Education-Deficit Does Not Explain Rising Inequality"

It never did; the timing was wrong. The rise in inequality did not correspond to technology changes. It was a convenient excuse to avoid thinking about distribution issues, which economists have always preferred to do.

Dean Baker is very good on this; his postings are the source of the above assertion. You can check him for more details.

[Jun 11, 2015] Inequality of Opportunity Useful Policy Construct or Will of the Wisp

"...The whole 'equality of opportunity' is just BS thrown from the Right to cover the looting of society by the Right's wealthy and corporate sponsors, and to paralyze their critics on the Left. "
".... Disentangling how effort and circumstance contribute to outcomes is difficult, and this leads to a tendency to underestimate inequality of opportunity. "
"...FDR also appreciated an important point. He called it 'peace' as in peace of mind. He called his opponents that 'enemies of peace.' Today I think people would understand that FDR was indentifying programs that reduced 'anxiety' amongst the general population. Health care, minimum wages, jobs. He moved Heaven and earth to relieve anxiety amongst the general population. And for the most part it worked quite well."
"...Any sense of a Social Democracy, with equal opportunity, means that whatever is essential to that opportunity (like education) is or should be a Public Service."
"...The reality is that there is not, and cannot be, real equality of opportunity when there is pre-existing massive inequality of outcomes. Those from wealthier and higher status families have far more and better opportunities than those from poor and low status families. As George and Jeb Bush illustrate, as well as Donald Trump, privilege confers success even on the totally incompetent."
"...One half of Americans, workers and students, are below median IQ. These are the ones to be concerned about. This is a circumstance that higher education cannot correct."
Jun 11, 2015 | Economist's View

The whole 'equality of opportunity' is just BS thrown from the Right to cover the looting of society by the Right's wealthy and corporate sponsors, and to paralyze their critics on the Left.

Look at Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature: $250 million cut from the state budget for the University of Wisconsin, whose activities help support *Equality of Opportunity,* going instead to subsidize 'Inequality of Outcome:'

A sports arena whose profits will be harvested by billionaires. And what else does the Right say: " Oh, now the university will be more efficient." and "Those billionaires will go elsewhere if we don't give them enough money."

The fact is, while the sports arena does provide entertainment 'value,' it is not a factory, and produces nothing of substance, nothing of lasting wealth for society. It is a tax on the resources of society. The university, however, is a social investment: It is an investment in its students, and the knowledge base of society, both of which provide society with lasting wealth and income. Scott Walker is not even an agent of capitalism. He is an agent of looters, and Wisconsin would be better off if those looters went elsewhere.

Anybody who just *listens* to what the Right says, and does not watch what they actually do, is a danger to themselves and others.

anne said in reply to anne...

June 10, 2015

Inequality of opportunity: Useful policy construct or will o' the wisp?
By Ravi Kanbur and Adam Wagstaff

Reducing inequality of opportunity, rather than inequality of outcome, is often heralded as an appropriate target for policy. This column explores the challenges of identifying inequality of opportunity. Disentangling how effort and circumstance contribute to outcomes is difficult, and this leads to a tendency to underestimate inequality of opportunity.

This lends support for generalised social protection measures in dimensions such as income, health and education, irrespective of whether the outcomes can be specifically attributed to circumstance or to effort.

pgl said...

Brad DeLong and Tom Davis discuss US macroeconomic policy on Bloomberg TV:

"Brad DeLong: Well, I don't think it is just Democrats who would like to see more spending. Back in the 1970s Milton Friedman looked back at the Great Depression. He talked about what his teachers had recommended as policies and what he would have advocated in the Great Depression. He called for, in situations like that, and, I think, in situations like this, for coordinated monetary and fiscal expansion. With interest rates at their extraordinarily low levels, now, as in the 1930s, is a once-in-a-century opportunity to pull all the infrastructure spending we will be doing over the next generation forward in time and do it over the next five years, when the government can finance it at such extraordinarily good terms.
Matt Miller: We have a national infrastructure crisis, right? Roads and bridges, ports and airports are at levels that are critical and certainly not worthy of a first-world country. Tom, don't you agree we need to fix that up quickly?

Tom Davis: I agree with that. Look, I think that with the stimulus package that was passed in 2009 they blew an opportunity to do more for infrastructure. We should have had something to show at the end of that. With the money, maybe we got a short-term stimulus, but we should have gotten something long-term.

Brad DeLong: They had to get it through with only Democratic votes. Why weren't there any Republicans willing to deal? We could have gotten a larger and much better-crafted program."

An excellent discussion which I hope JohnH paid attention to.

Lafayette said in reply to pgl...

{Why weren't there any Republicans willing to deal?}

They did with the first go-round (ARRA) that spent close to $850B to stimulate the economy.

The second-time around, when it became obvious that ARRA worked (to at least arrest the skyrocketing unemployment rate at 10%) and that ARRA2 was necessary to actually reduce unemployment, the Replicant spewed their nonsensical Austerity Budgeting palaver.

Why? Wickedly, for the 2012 presidential elections they strategized that high unemployment would be usefull to help elect the Replicant candidate. So, as a consequence, more Americans had to suffer in the slow crawlout from the Great Recession ...

Chris Herbert said...

Keynes counseled that the only metric one should use in determining what policy lever to use in a recession or depression is employment. If the lever raised employment, use it. If not, move on.

FDR said the nation needed to 'experiment' in order to find ways out of the Great Depression. Politically, he was allowed the freedom to do so, particularly in his first term. But into his second term, conservatives pushed back sufficiently well to stall his programs. Temporarily as it turned out, because the cutback in spending turned into another recession.

FDR also appreciated an important point. He called it 'peace' as in peace of mind. He called his opponents that 'enemies of peace.' Today I think people would understand that FDR was indentifying programs that reduced 'anxiety' amongst the general population. Health care, minimum wages, jobs. He moved Heaven and earth to relieve anxiety amongst the general population. And for the most part it worked quite well.

But it has persistent opposition from the wealthy class, which protects above all else their capital assets. Unfortunately, in the United States of Amnesia, working men and women don't appreciate that their financial improvement can come only at the expense of the wealthy. Class warfare? Absolutely. And believe you me the wealthy understand this right down to their trust funds.

Lafayette said in reply to Lafayette...

Any sense of a Social Democracy, with equal opportunity, means that whatever is essential to that opportunity (like education) is or should be a Public Service.

And if, indeed, education/training is an essential Public Service, then it should be provided in a manner that all citizens of a nation be able to accede to it uniformly.

Which means (to overburden the word) Educational Opportunity should be subsidized by Federal Funding, and be as close to free, gratis and for nothing as is humanly possible.

(Ahem - this is what Europe does.)

My point1: Education does not guaranty either a job or a level of career success, but it almost certainly is an important determinant. The other one is ONE HELLUVA LOTTA LUCK - often consisting simply of being at the right place at the right time.

My point2: Achievement in America is overly dependent upon financial success as a barometer. Which is why the listing of billionaires is often reported -or at least insinuated in the news. Picasso was never a billionaire, but was a great success in his chosen profession. Mozart as well, though he was buried in a pauper's grave ...

DrDick said...

The reality is that there is not, and cannot be, real equality of opportunity when there is pre-existing massive inequality of outcomes. Those from wealthier and higher status families have far more and better opportunities than those from poor and low status families. As George and Jeb Bush illustrate, as well as Donald Trump, privilege confers success even on the totally incompetent.

Sam said...

One half of Americans, workers and students, are below median IQ. These are the ones to be concerned about. This is a circumstance that higher education cannot correct.

[Jun 10, 2015] How Elizabeth Warren would make debt-free college a reality

"..."Not every college needs to graduate every student debt-free, [but] every kid needs a debt-free option - a strong public university where it's possible to get a great education without taking on loads of debt,""
"...Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill last month that would allow students to attend public colleges without paying tuition. More than 60 members of Congress co-sponsored a resolution calling for debt-free college."
"...Warren also called on Congress to increase funding for Pell Grants, a federal program that helps low-income students pay for college. Earlier this year, House Republicans proposed freezing the maximum Pell Grant at $5,775 per year for the next 10 years."
"...The Senator criticized the Department for taking too long to intervene as evidence built up that Corinthian Colleges, once one of the largest for-profit college chains, was misleading students. The agency increased avenues for loan forgiveness for Corinthian students earlier this week after pressure from Warren and others."
"Elizabeth Warren called on schools, as well federal and state governments to create a viable path for Americans to attend college debt free, in a speech Wednesday.

The Democratic Senator from Massachusetts has been one of the most prominent advocates of a proposal from progressive Democrats to allow students to graduate from public universities without any debt. Wednesday's speech offered a variety of policy suggestions for achieving that goal, including requiring colleges to have a clear financial stake in their students' success and debt levels, mandating minimum levels of state investment in public schools and establishing a partnership between federal and state governments to fund public universities modeled after the way governments use combined resources to build and maintain interstate highways.

"Not every college needs to graduate every student debt-free, [but] every kid needs a debt-free option - a strong public university where it's possible to get a great education without taking on loads of debt," Warren said Wednesday at a panel on college affordability, according to prepared remarks. The panel was sponsored by the Shaker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers. "It's time to open the doors of opportunity wider and to invest in our future."

Watch American's student-loan debt grow $3,055 every second

Once somewhat of a far-fetched pipe dream, the idea of "debt-free college" has gained traction in mainstream Democratic circles in recent months. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president, has said America should "try to move toward making college as debt-free as possible," at an Iowa campaign event. One of her challengers, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill last month that would allow students to attend public colleges without paying tuition. More than 60 members of Congress co-sponsored a resolution calling for debt-free college.

The idea likely has mass appeal for voters. Tuition, even at public universities, has skyrocketed over the past several years, putting the idea of a college degree without debt out of reach for many aspiring students. Today about 40 million Americans have student loans, totaling about $1.2 trillion in outstanding debt and 70% college students graduate with debt.

Warren's speech comes as lawmakers work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal financial aid programs, before it expires at the end of the year. Some of the proposals she discussed in the speech have bipartisan support, including simplifying the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid form and requiring colleges to have "skin in the game" when it comes to student loans.

Others, however, are more contentious. Warren urged state governments to allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates. The Senator has proposed a bill asking the federal government to do this, which Republicans have blocked multiple times. Warren also called on Congress to increase funding for Pell Grants, a federal program that helps low-income students pay for college. Earlier this year, House Republicans proposed freezing the maximum Pell Grant at $5,775 per year for the next 10 years.

In addition to laying out her plans for making debt-free college a reality, Warren also used the speech to deride the way the Department of Education has handled accusations of wrongdoing against student loan servicers and schools. The Senator criticized the Department for taking too long to intervene as evidence built up that Corinthian Colleges, once one of the largest for-profit college chains, was misleading students.

The agency increased avenues for loan forgiveness for Corinthian students earlier this week after pressure from Warren and others.

"Secretary Duncan is right to help these students, and should do more - particularly since the students were defrauded while the Department of Education passed up one opportunity after another to stop Corinthian from cheating more students," she said in the speech.

Jillian Berman covers student debt and millennial finance. You can follow her on Twitter @JillianBerman.

Related Stories

  1. Al Franken: Millions of Americans Are Struggling to Pay Student Loan Debt
  2. Gov't plans to erase student debt for Corinthian students Associated Press
  3. Inequality & Student Loan Debt: 5 Troubling Stats
  4. Defaulting on student loans is still a bad idea MarketWatch

For the Poor, the Graduation Gap Is Even Wider Than the Enrollment Gap

Economist's View

For the Poor, the Graduation Gap Is Even Wider Than the Enrollment Gap

Susan Dynarski on inequality in education:
For the Poor, the Graduation Gap Is Even Wider Than the Enrollment Gap: Rich and poor students don't merely enroll in college at different rates; they also complete it at different rates. The graduation gap is even wider than the enrollment gap.
In 2002, researchers with the National Center for Education Statistics started tracking a cohort of high school sophomores. The project, called the Education Longitudinal Study, recorded information about the students' academic achievement, college entry, work history and college graduation. A recent publication examines the completed education of these young people, who are now in their late 20s. ...
Thirteen years later, we can see who achieved their goals. Among the participants from the most disadvantaged families, just 14 percent had earned a bachelor's degree. That is, one out of four of the disadvantaged students who had hoped to get a bachelor's had done so. Among those from the most advantaged families, 60 percent had earned a bachelor's, about two-thirds of those who had planned to. ...

And the gap looks just as bad when students with similar academic achievement in high school are compared, e.g. among the "teenagers who scored among the top 25 percent of students on the math test..., the students from the top socioeconomic quartile had very high bachelor's degree completion rates: 74 percent...

But only 41 percent of the poorest students with the top math scores did so. That's a completion gap of 33 percentage points, not much smaller than the overall gap of 46 percentage points."


The first obvious thought is funding not only tuition but living costs for the years it takes to complete the degree, and the opportunity cost of not working (or only part time).

What I didn't see in the publications was a breakdown by major (or the major that people were attempting but didn't complete). It probably happens a bit that people start a program/major that they are later not happy with or not successful in, and somebody with more financial resources may start over in something else while somebody without would rather drop out.

EMichael said...

And let's not forget that kids from poor families often have to leave school to go to work to help those families.

You simply cannot make equal opportunities (even if we really tried), there are too many factors out of your control.

The sad part is we think we do create equal opportunities and therefore the fault lies with the victims.

cm said in reply to EMichael...

People will always (at least to a degree) infer somebody's merit from visible signs of success, failure, or just so-so success. Today it is lack of scholastic merit, work ethic, or ambition, before mass education scholastic merit was replaced with religious virtue. Victim blaming is in no way a recent phenomenon.

Also when I was a kid, the meaning of "average" had already been redefined as "not quite meeting expectations". The benchmark of social success and conformance has been Lake Wobegon for a while. I don't know when it started.

[Jun 03, 2015] Why the Government Is Struggling to Shut Down Corinthian Colleges - Businessweek By Karen Weise

It's Hard to Shut Down a Poorly Performing For-Profit College. California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the filing of a lawsuit against the for-profit Corinthian Colleges on Oct. 10, 2013 in San Francisco

Cutting off access to the student aid spigot is probably the most important way the Department of Education can clamp down on poorly performing for-profit colleges, but doing so isn't easy-as the ongoing saga of Corinthian Colleges (COCO) shows. Today, Corinthian announced that it missed a deadline to reach an agreement with the government to wind down and sell its programs, although both it and the department expressed optimism that a plan is coming soon.

Corinthian Colleges owns 107 campuses under several for-profit chains, including the Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech, and Heald brands, most of them located in California. Questions about the quality of Corinthian's education have dogged the company for about a decade, and students at several of its schools have had among the highest loan-default rates in the country. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued Corinthian in October for allegedly targeting vulnerable, low-income students with deceptive marketing that misrepresented job placement rates. Other state AGs have followed suit.

... ... ...

In January, the department began formally requesting information from Corinthian about its practices, including more details on its job placement results and responses to allegations of altered grades and attendance records. Not happy with the answers it was getting, in mid-June the Department put Corinthian on notice that it was temporarily withholding student aid money for Corinthian. Federal student aid, largely via Pell Grants and student loans, can make up to 90 percent of the revenues for for-profit colleges. Corinthian said without the government disbursement, it would run out of cash and that its existing lenders wouldn't loan it any more money.

About a week later, the Education Department reached an agreement that gave Corinthian a short-term disbursement of $16 million and a July 1 deadline to create a plan to sell off or unwind its programs by the end of the year. That deadline came and went yesterday with no official agreement.

... ... ...

The Education Department is also in the midst of a multiyear effort to formalize its process of determining which colleges provide such poor education that they should lose federal aid. For-profit colleges are fighting the department's current proposal. Whatever version of the new rules is ultimately put in place, Corinthian's example indicates the path

[May 31, 2015] Pedigree How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren A. Rivera

This eye opening book exposes how the American elite keep the best jobs for themselves.
May 04, 2015 |

"In this riveting account of how the nation's top investment banks, consultancies, and law firms choose employees, Lauren Rivera goes inside the recruitment process, interviewing the interviewers and sitting in on their decision meetings. This eye-opening book exposes how the American elite keep the best jobs for themselves."--Frank Dobbin, author of Inventing Equal Opportunity

"Rivera identifies the myriad ways that class influences every stage of the hiring process at top-tier firms, showing how it is that individuals from affluent backgrounds have come to dominate the most elite segments of the American labor market. She pulls back the curtain time and time again, revealing how processes that are apparently class, race, and gender neutral are anything but."--Elizabeth A. Armstrong, coauthor of Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality

"Pedigree sets a new standard of rigor for qualitative social-science research. Rivera shows how educational stratification in the United States is particularly pronounced and caste-like at the gateway to elite professions, and how the boundary between elite colleges and the elite firms that recruit from them is so fuzzy as to be only ceremonial."--Mitchell L. Stevens, author of Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites

Chuan Zhang on May 24, 2015

Pedigree is a thought provoking case study into hiring practices of what the author terms Elite Professional Services firms (EPS). From the viewpoint of someone interested in inequality, Rivera explains how choices in target campuses, interview structure (fit, polish), and choice to use revenue-generating staff to interview (vs HR) stack the deck against non traditional candidates.

Alternatively, for a jobseeker, Pedigree is an amazing insight because it informs about systemic biases and specific techniques to overcome them. Despite having prepared extensively for a summer internship interview at an EPS, this guide provided much deeper understanding about the interview evaluation and hiring committee process. Finally, I was impressed with the quality of the research methodology (hands-on research, inductive coding, accounting for author's own background). I highly recommend Pedigree for people interested in equitable and effective hiring practices and MBA/law school students seeking EPS jobs.

[May 31, 2015] University: will you go or not

Education should continue all your life. University is a just a stage in a long road. Moreover, education has the value by and in itself independent of your job prospects. That the key issue.
May 31, 2015 |
You might be reading this as a humble student, scared of the big bad world. You could even be reading this as a cocky student who thinks they're going to hit life like the rugby tackle they've been pointlessly perfecting for years. I say pointlessly because unless you're playing for county at this stage, you've wasted half of your school career doing sport. Whilst the more cunning students have been bunking off either experimenting with drugs, reading books or designing code. All three of those things being far more influential on ones life than hitting a tackle bag really hard before heading for a cheeky Nandos with the lads.

I was privately educated so I can't speak for what my old History teacher would call the 'less fortunate.' If you think that's bad, my Biology teacher called them 'the others' when we came across a herd of state-educated kids at The Natural History Museum. Not cool.

At my school there was an enormous pressure to go to University. I only realize this now because at the time it didn't seem like we were being pressured into anything at all. The teachers didn't even know what they were doing and they still don't. No one noticed: all of us accepted the idea of attending University without question.

Your entire school career has one aim, to get you into University. One could take a further leap and claim that the aim of University is to get you a job. Therefore your entire school career has the aim of getting you a job. Nice idea, I suppose. Is it correct and am I happy to settle for that? Absolutely not.

[May 28, 2015] Are for-profit colleges really that bad

The Department of Education recently put out a list of more than 500 colleges it is watching closely for fraud - more than half were for-profit institutions.
May 28, 2015 |

For-profit colleges make their money by enrolling as many students as they can. Up to 90% of their funding can come from federal student aid - like Pell grants and student loans - that their students bring in. The more students they enroll, the more money they can collect.

In order to get more students through the door, for-profits advertise like crazy and some schools have been known to link their recruiters' paychecks to their enrollment numbers. The really shady ones have even been caught lying about their job placement rates.

Shady practices aside, for-profit schools have other shortcomings. On average, they charge tuition rates that are 67% higher than traditional four-year nonprofit schools, yet their graduation rates are much lower.

Only 32% of students complete their degrees at for-profit institutions, compared to 57% at public institutions. And because for-profit students graduate with much more student debt than nonprofit college graduates, they are far more likely to default on their student loans, with default rates of 22%, compared to 13% at public institutions.

Now, while it is true that regulators have been cracking down on shady for-profits recently, it has not been easy. The for-profit industry spends millions of dollars each year to keep elected officials from voting for policies that would hurt their business. The Department of Education recently put out a list of more than 500 colleges it is watching closely for fraud - more than half were for-profit institutions.

[May 27, 2015] The Art of the Gouge NYU as a Model for Predatory Higher Education

" a mind-numbing and degrading set of scams perpetrated on students, including the bait and switch of hitting them with extra charges they can't possibly find out about before they have committed to the school, to the tune of an estimated $10,000 per year; providing mediocre education" That's the essence of neoliberal university. Be careful and check facts before getting into "predatory neoliberal university". The list of scams they're running is impressive, but you can avoid them. Just go to your in-state public University, kids, you'll be glad you did (or at least glad you didn't go to NYU).
Under Chairman of the Board Martin Lipton and President John Sexton, New York University has been operating as a real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture. A group of 400 faculty members at NYU, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), have been working for years against what Pam Martens has called "running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests." FASP just published a devastating document, The Art of the Gouge, which describes how NYU engages in a mind-numbing range of tricks and traps to extract as much in fees as possible from students, while at the same time failing to invest in and often degrading the educational "product".

The first part of the report goes through a mind-numbing and degrading set of scams perpetrated on students, including the bait and switch of hitting them with extra charges they can't possibly find out about before they have committed to the school, to the tune of an estimated $10,000 per year; providing mediocre education in programs that require "study abroad" while also requiring them to stay in grossly overpriced university housing; admitting a high proportion of foreign students, precisely because they pay higher fees (and predictably, NYU's premiums are even higher than that of other schools), and offering shamelessly overpriced, narrow, and not very good health services.

Mind you, that list only scratches the surface.

The second part, which describes how the funds are used, describes in gory detail how the school throws money at real estate empire-building, disproportionately for administrative space and housing when teaching facilities are in short supply. The third document describes how NYU is an even more extreme practitioner of squeezing the incomes of faculty while gold-plating administrator pay and perks. Consider one famous example that we discussed in 2013, Jacob Lew, who was then the presumed incoming Treasury Secretary:

Remember, Lew came from a job at NYU where he already looks to have been considerably overpaid. He received over $840,000 for the academic year 2002-2003, which had him earning more than most university presidents, including NYU's president. And on top of that, as Pam Martens ferreted out, he was apparently given a $1.3 million house. I'm not making that up, go read her piece. The mechanism was that NYU lent the $1.3 million to buy the house to Lew and then forgave it over five years. Oh, and they paid him the money to pay the interest too. We will assume that the forgiveness of debt was reported properly to the IRS.

Pam Martens has long been bird-dogging the grifting at NYU. As she wrote later in 2013:

In September 2009, the New York Times published a remarkable exercise in inanity, profiling John Sexton, President of NYU..

We don't, for example, learn from the interview that his home on Fire Island has been financed since 1994 by several million dollars in loans from the NYU School of Law Foundation and NYU itself…

This is not the only residence that NYU has made possible for its President. He has the use of two well appointed apartments owned by NYU in Manhattan. Sexton, who turned 70 in September, is also set to receive a length of service bonus of $2.5 million in 2015 and an annual pension of $800,000 when he retires. That pension is the equivalent of NYU taking $10 million of its assets and placing them in an immediate annuity for Sexton.

Sexton has plenty of company when it comes to getting out of the city in the summer through the generosity of NYU. Richard Tsien, Director of the NYU Neuroscience Institute, bought a house in East Fishkill, New York, 76 miles from the university, for $1,125,000 in February 2012 with $500,000 in financing from NYU. According to an online description, it's a stone house on 7 park-like acres with a flowing stream and a functioning 12-foot water wheel.

Numerous other NYU professors have country homes financed by the NYU School of Law Foundation or NYU. Between primary residences and vacation homes, NYU and its affiliated nonprofits have an estimated $72 million to $96 million outstanding in loans to faculty and administrators. The university has acknowledged 168 loans.

So the sort of conduct documented in these three reports is no surprise if you've been following this story, but having them documented in so much detail is devastating. I hope you'll read them and circulate them widely, above all to parents whose children might be considering applying to NYU.

Elizabeth, May 22, 2015 at 7:54 am

I'm an NYU grad and my son started there a few years ago. In that 30 years, the cost of housing roughly doubled, while the cost of tuition roughly quadrupled. So, Forbes' "pocketbook demands of living in New York" rationale doesn't really fly. The cost of educating a student there must be less now, in the era of faculty serfdom. I wonder if one reason the tuition has skyrocketed is because student loans are so easy to get – often "guaranteed." Maybe the university charges as much as the families can borrow?

sufferin'succotash, May 22, 2015 at 8:12 am

It's known as preparing students for the wider world.

hemeantwell, May 22, 2015 at 8:26 am

Here's another link to a Doug Henwood KPFA interview, this time with Christy Thornton, a grad student at NYU who was part of a recent successful organizing drive among teaching assistants. It's particularly good on NYU's corporate-mimicking multinational strategy, funded by jacking up student fees. The Thornton interview is the second half.

Jim Haygood, May 22, 2015 at 9:45 am

Higher education, comrades: as with options, the big profits accrue to the seller, not the buyer. Is anyone surprised that, like our Dear Leader, NYU's John Sexton is a Harvard Law grad? It's not the musty old tomes on torts and trusts, but the lifelong networking with fellow toffs and racketeers that pays off big time.

An NYT article just revealed the biz model:

Seen from the Internet [sic], it is a vast education empire: hundreds of universities and high schools, with elegant names and smiling professors at sun-dappled American campuses.

Their websites, glossy and assured, offer online degrees in dozens of disciplines, like nursing and civil engineering.

Yet on closer examination, this picture shimmers like a mirage. The news reports are fabricated. The professors are paid actors. The university campuses exist only as stock photos on computer servers. The degrees have no true accreditation.

What other kind of biz gets customers lined up and pounding on the door to get in? I love it!

So I'm starting my own educational empire: Harward, Yates and Princetown. They're all members of the prestigious Hanseatic League, and are accredited by IATA (the International Academic Transcript Authority).

Don't miss our summer sale, at only $995 a credit hour. We accept Paypal and Bitcoin. Enter to win a free PhD Econ degree if you sign up by June 30th!

washunate, May 22, 2015 at 5:33 pm

His bio really is a fantastic who's who of what's wrong with our leadership class. He's a banker lawyer professor extraordinaire. And he's got quite a doctor running the med center.

President Sexton is Chair of the Independent Colleges and Universities of New York, Chair of the New York Academy of Sciences, and Vice Chair of the American Council on Education. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of both the Association of American University Presidents and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served as the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (2003-2006) and Chair of the Federal Reserve Systems Council of Chairs (2006). He served as a Board Member for the National Association of Securities Dealers (1996-1998), and was Founding Chair of the Board of NASD Dispute Resolution (2000-2002). He also serves on the Boards of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Institute of International Education and the Association for a Better New York. While Dean of the Law School he was President of the Association of American Law Schools.

sd, May 22, 2015 at 10:05 am

NYU had a scam going with student loans back in the 1980s that finally got exposed in the 1990s. It's almost impossible to find anything about it now. The story never seemed to grow legs.

Michael Hudson, May 22, 2015 at 10:18 am

NYU is to education what Scientology is to religion.

Remember a generation ago, when NYU bought a spaghetti factory and claimed tax deductibility for its profits because the spaghetti was part of a tax-exempt "educational institution."

There's a metaphor here.

diptherio, May 22, 2015 at 10:29 am

But, but…they're in New York City and everybody knows that whatever happens in NYC is better, and more advanced and more important–and just more real–than things that happen anywhere else in the country! Everybody knows that. NYU may have it's share of problems, but at least it's not located in some lame city in Missouri….jeesh!

Jim Haygood, May 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

"NYU bought a spaghetti factory"

How else are you gonna learn to write C code?

Plus it served as a case study for vertical integration of campus food services.

Got my doctorate in Motorcycle Mechanics there, based on lifetime experience in benching and wrenching.

diptherio, May 22, 2015 at 10:26 am

I'll just note that "non-refundable deposit" is an oxymoron.

The list of scams they're running is impressive, but in a bad way…go to your in-state public University, kids, you'll be glad you did (or at least glad you didn't go to NYU).

George Phillies, May 22, 2015 at 11:04 am

Readers may find of some interest

The high salaries sometimes percolate down the ladder.

Rosario, May 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Today's universities only offer potentially three valuable opportunities for students: facilities (at huge cost covered by tuition), faculty (sometimes), and peers (the best of the three, think students as laborers versus employer with the potential for unionizing).

Students no longer attend universities as hubs of knowledge or information. They are hubs of opportunity. By analogy, it is like paying for the opportunity to get an interview at some high paying job.

Thus why attending NYU, Harvard, MIT, etc. is a must for any social climber, and what a dream in NYC with cocktail parties and beautiful people abound in the midst of perpetual fantasy.


May 22, 2015 at 4:17 pm

The top 10 reasons why NYU bureaucrats get pay and perks worth millions . . .

Reason $10. You gotta show the kids how da woiled woiks

Reason $9. When you hire the students as hookers, you can afford to pay an internationally competitive fee

Reason $8. They want their own rung in Dante's inferno! Whoa!

Reason $7. Take a look at Raphael's School at Athens then think about all the marble and pillars. That's not a low rent operation.

Reason $6. They're too old to have their toga parties in a frat house.

Reason $5. When you live and work in NYU mansions, you're always on the job! Isn't that worth overtime pay?

Reason $4. They say they're salesmen and salesmen make a lot of money. OK bucko?

Reason $3. Buildings are taller in New York than most other places. So there's more to administer

Reason $2. They say they don't need a reason.

and Reason $1 why NYU bureaucrats get pay and perks worth millions . . . drum roll please . . . They're not really sure, but they've hired themselves as high-priced consultants to figure it out!!! . . whoa! ka-ching!

ginnie nyc, May 22, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Wow, Yves, thanks for posting this report. I made the very expensive mistake of enrolling in grad school at NYU in the early '90's – the degree of fraud and shaving, simply in the academic sense, was astonishing. My advisor was nowhere to be found after classes began for the entire first year; they lied about who headed my department (no one), and when someone was finally hired at year's end, he was an administrative hack from within who had absolutely no foundation in the department, the division, or any related discipline. All my 'professors' except one were much-abused adjuncts.

The main library, Bobst, is a fitting monument to its pederast donor (look it up). A good deal of the collection was 'missing' or heavily vandalized; the NY Public Libraries books in circulation are in much better shape with far more users. There were no carrells for masters candidates in the library, for love or money. Most of the library's cubic footage is occupied by a vast, central atrium that travels the height of the building, with the book collection squeezed around the periphery. This atrium is a favorite place for stressed students to end it all.

I decided to take some courses at their IFA (Institute of Fine Arts), which is near the Metropolitan Museum. The administrator there refused to let me enroll as I was not "in the school". I thought about this, called the professors directly, got signed letters from them (naturally), and happily returned to give the admin apoplexy. None of this crap took place when I was an undergrad at Penn – I never had a problem enrolling in PhD classes, administratively, whether inside or outside my school.

New York University is not a university, it's a random collection of isolated departments and special institutes created around famous, very expensive names, who usually do not stay beyond 4 or 5 years. It costs more than Columbia, which is Ivy League, for what that's worth, and took me 15 years to pay off. Even after I had to go on SSDI, which was helluva lot of fun.

Michael Fiorillo, May 22, 2015 at 8:40 pm

As a lifelong Villager, NYU has always been The Enemy, and it has been a stock phrase of mine for a generation that it's a real estate development company with a higher education subsidiary.

The university is a classic example of how geography is destiny, since for years it was a second-tier commuter school that happened to be located in a globally-hyped youth ghetto (which it then institutionalized). In many respects, it's still a second-tier school (worse, given their extreme grabbiness) tarted up with some celebrity academics that students, treated like rubes, will never see.

From personal experience, I know that most departments are profit centers. Twenty years ago, I got a Master's degree in education (and, to be fair, they gave me a fairly generous financial aid package). I had young children, so it was mostly a matter of convenience. Of the dozen classes I took, apart from student teaching and observations, only three were taught by full-time, tenured faculty. The others were taught by adjuncts and TAs who ranged from OK to really terrible.

That was graduate school; I hate to think of the poor, deluded kids who can't afford the extortionate hustle of attending this school, indebting themselves for many years to do so.

Fool, May 23, 2015 at 5:00 pm

You're not alone. NYU ruined New York City for all of us.

lord koos, May 24, 2015 at 12:03 am

Universities are now just another institution to loot. This piece reminds me of a scene in the 2014 documentary "Ivory Tower", which if people haven't seen, they really need to. Although I'm sure many readers here are familiar with the story of Cooper Union, there is an interview with the University president that is a priceless peek at the looting class.

He basically squandered Cooper Union's legacy by taking the college's money and gambling it in the stock market a little before the crash of 2008 and by spending $170,000,000 of the college's money on a building that was not really needed. A school that had been pretty much funded in perpetuity (Cooper Union owns the land under the Chrysler building), became indebted for millions of dollars and they now must charge students to attend, as well as having to sell off assets. I can't believe the guy is still president of the school.

Lambert Strether, May 24, 2015 at 12:41 am

NC: "How Is It Possible That the Trustees at Cooper Union Have Not Resigned in Shame?"

[May 27, 2015] Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers

...all were drawn to this drop-in workshop: "Anxiety 101."

As they sat in a circle, a therapist, Nicole Archer, asked: "When you're anxious, how does it feel?"

"I have a faster heart rate," whispered one young woman. "I feel panicky," said another. Sweating. Ragged breathing. Insomnia.

Causes? Schoolwork, they all replied. Money. Relationships. The more they thought about what they had to do, the students said, the more paralyzed they became.

Anxiety has now surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, though depression, too, is on the rise. More than half of students visiting campus clinics cite anxiety as a health concern, according to a recent study of more than 100,000 students nationwide by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association.

The causes range widely, experts say, from mounting academic pressure at earlier ages to overprotective parents to compulsive engagement with social media. Anxiety has always played a role in the developmental drama of a student's life, but now more students experience anxiety so intense and overwhelming that they are seeking professional counseling.

... ... ...

Anxiety has become emblematic of the current generation of college students, said Dan Jones, the director of counseling and psychological services at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

Because of escalating pressures during high school, he and other experts say, students arrive at college preloaded with stress. Accustomed to extreme parental oversight, many seem unable to steer themselves. And with parents so accessible, students have had less incentive to develop life skills.

"A lot are coming to school who don't have the resilience of previous generations," Dr. Jones said. "They can't tolerate discomfort or having to struggle. A primary symptom is worrying, and they don't have the ability to soothe themselves."

Social media is a gnawing, roiling constant. As students see posts about everyone else's fabulous experiences, the inevitable comparisons erode their self-esteem. The popular term is "FOMO" - fear of missing out.

... ... ...

Anxiety is an umbrella term for several disorders, including social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia. It can accompany many other diagnoses, such as depression, and it can be persistent and incapacitating.

Students who suffer from this acute manifestation can feel their very real struggles are shrugged off, because anxiety has become so ubiquitous, almost a cliché, on campus.

... ... ...

"Students are busting their butts academically, they're financially strapped, working three jobs," she said. "There's nothing diagnosable, but sometimes they just need a place to express their distress."

... ... ...

Half of clients at mental health centers in their most recent report had already had some form of counseling before college. One-third have taken psychiatric medication. One quarter have self-injured.

... ... ...

Anxiety-ridden students list schoolwork as their chief stressor. U.C.F.'s center and after-hours hotline are busiest when midterm and final exams loom. That's when the center runs what has become its most popular event: "Paws-a-tively Stress Free."

[May 26, 2015] Talent Loves English

The nature of global migration is slowly evolving, too. We have an image of immigrants as the poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. According to this stereotype, immigrants are driven from their homes by poverty and move elsewhere to compete against the lowest-skilled workers.

But immigrants do not come from the poorest countries. Nations like Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger - some of the poorest countries in the world - have some of the lowest outmigration rates. Less than 3 percent of their populations live outside their borders. Their citizens don't have the resources to move.

Instead, immigrants tend to come from middle-class countries, and they migrate to rich, open ones. You might have thought that as the world gets more middle class, global immigration would decline because of more opportunity at home. In fact, the reverse is happening. As the developing world gets more middle class, immigration has increased because educational and income gains have led to ever higher aspirations.

The situation is complex. Less than a decade ago, six Mexicans migrated to the United States for every Indian or Chinese. But as Mexico has prospered, immigration has dropped. Meanwhile, as India and China have gotten richer, the number of Indians and Chinese living abroad has doubled.

Some of the Asian immigrants are quite wealthy. According to the China International Immigration Report, among Chinese with assets of more than $16 million, 27 percent had emigrated abroad and an additional 47 percent were considering such a move. The real estate website surveyed 5,000 people and found that 41 percent of such people were drawn to move abroad for better living conditions, 35 percent for better educational opportunities for their children and 15 percent for better retirement conditions.

And this talent pool has barely been tapped. According to a Gallup survey in 2012, 22 million Chinese wanted to move to the U.S., as did 10 million Indians, 3 million Vietnamese and a surprising 5 million Japanese.

brupic, nara/greensville 4 minutes ago

I don't have right up to date figures but several years ago there was a study that Australia, per capita, had the largest number foreign born residents. the number was around 22%. I believe Canada was second at 18%. the usa was around 12%

robertgeary9, Portland OR 4 minutes ago

Since the effects of immigration are complex and controversial, Hillary's sound-bite is simplistic; it is another attempt to flatter Ms. C.'s "base".
As it happens, I am the son of immigrants (Italy: middle class; Ireland: illiterate/working class). Both groups/sides simply wanted a better life here.

But there was no advancement from green cards to naturalized citizenship; no idea of our political system; and, of course, no voting. Furthermore, my uncle was prevented from earning a high school diploma because he was kept in the family corner grocery.

My point: some immigrants have no intention of making a contribution. So to flatter them makes no sense whatsoever. Furthermore, our congress should give automatic green cards to those who have successfully fulfilled the requirements of an H-1B visa. Our immigration policy should be balanced: the newcomer as well as the native population that is employed, should both benefit.

Roy Rogers, New Orleans 4 minutes ago

Most Republicans base their immigration policy on principles all other nations take quite for granted: the right and responsibility of the nation to exercise effective legal control over immigration. In our geographical circumstances that means first controlling and minimizing illegal border crossings.

And second, insisting on the right to track and monitor immigrants who enter the country legally under temporary visas and violating the terms of those visas by attempting to stay forever. Finally, it means requiring something more than birth in the USA while in unlawful status to convey citizenship.

Brooks is right in what he said, but he left a lot out. I'm not sure why, but it seems disingenuous.

[May 26, 2015] Long Odds in the Game of Life

While getting higher paying job and better career prospects is very important (although for many specialties illusive, as this paper points out), the key value of university education is that it transforms you into a better human being and enlarge your horizons and a set of skills that is difficult to obtain outside university. They also provide you with a circle of fiends who also strive for learning. This, non-monetary value of education is often overlooked. And in no way your education should end with the graduation from the university. It is a life long persuit....
Notable quote: "
For today's college graduates, the path to underemployment begins early, and those with certain levels of financial privilege will have an easier time avoiding it. Despite my students' practical choices of less expensive educational paths, they are still some of the most likely to struggle. As you learn quickly here in Vegas, the game isn't rigged, but the odds don't work in your favor."
[May 26, 2015]

LAS VEGAS - THE first essay assignment I give to my freshman composition students is to answer the question, "Why are you pursuing a university education?"

Many respond generally. To obtain a good job. Some refer to specific careers. A few reference learning. Mostly, my students mention money.

My students are very concerned with money, for good reason. They've spent their adolescence watching their parents survive or crumble under the Las Vegas housing crisis and endure the nation's highest unemployment rate.

Most are from Nevada, and they attend my university for the in-state tuition. In fact, 95 percent of the students still live at home or off campus to save money. Many work part time to avoid crippling student loans, despite the scheduling conflicts it creates with their course work and additional years it often adds to obtaining their degree.

When I ask my students about the doors they hope their education will open, they have rather modest answers. To help run a father's ramen noodle factory. To take over a family business that manufactures uniforms for hotels. Many students mention entry-level positions at local companies like Wynn Resorts or Zappos. Occasionally some have more robust dreams, like becoming a chief executive. Over all, their goals are fairly reasonable for anyone investing money and time at the university level.

But are they realistic?

Probably not, according to Richard Vedder, the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. "There are too many college graduates for the kinds of jobs they expect to hold," he said.

The problem is exacerbated in Nevada, which has not traditionally relied on college-educated workers. The 2015 Assets and Opportunities Scorecard ranked Nevada 47th in business and jobs and 51st - worst, behind even Washington, D.C. - in underemployment.

I personally meet several definitions for being underemployed. I have an advanced degree but work part-time in a low-skill job as a waitress. Also, my high-skill job at the university pays little and can't guarantee me full-time work. Like most Las Vegans, I'm required to work multiple jobs to patch together a comfortably middle-class income.

So how do Nevada's graduates avoid underemployment? Stephen Brown, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has a simple answer: They leave. "There is a strong desire to stay where one grew up, but part of the U.S. experience is moving," he said. "Those students who do best are those who will relocate to cities demanding educated workers."

Yet underemployment is a national phenomenon; as many as 22 million Americans fall into the category. Once considered a rite of passage, it now extends later into the average graduate's working life, and the longer it lasts, the greater threat it poses. The more low-skill work we compile on our résumés, the less likely we are to convince employers we're qualified for something else.

Much ink has been spilled over how choosing the right major is crucial to avoiding underemployment. Talk to sociology majors graduating this month; I doubt they're expecting to go straight into high-paying jobs. And it's no secret that graduates of elite universities, whether they studied astrophysics or English, have better career trajectories than those from lower-tier schools.

But when it comes to students like mine, pursuing a humanities degree or maxing out student loans for the best available education are not options. They don't always have the luxury to prioritize the intellectual experiences offered on a college campus over the monetary ones that demand their attention away from it. Their choices are shaped by immediate economic concerns more than their hoped-for, dreamed-of careers.

Even many career-building options are out. During a résumé-drafting project, a student approached me in tears, explaining that he could not afford to forgo his minimum-wage job to take an unpaid summer internship or semester abroad, even though it would bolster his résumé and foster professional connections.

Others have worked jobs they'd rather forget. A colleague's student worked five years at a Vegas strip club. Including the job on her résumé risked being disregarded. Not including it painted the picture of another business major with no work experience, who took six years to finish her degree.

A student who was an undocumented immigrant had worked as a nanny and a landscaper, but had not done what he described to me as "legal" work. He could advertise his soft skills like multitasking and customer service, but lacked the "hard" skills that our STEM-obsessed job market favors. And yet, from what I've seen, many of my students would make excellent employees, wherever they worked. It might not show on their résumés, but their childhoods in a struggling yet diverse city like Vegas make them highly empathetic and capable of thinking beyond their own experiences. More than half of them can articulate complex ideas in a language that isn't their first, an intellectual accomplishment unreached by many students at more prestigious schools.

For today's college graduates, the path to underemployment begins early, and those with certain levels of financial privilege will have an easier time avoiding it. Despite my students' practical choices of less expensive educational paths, they are still some of the most likely to struggle. As you learn quickly here in Vegas, the game isn't rigged, but the odds don't work in your favor.

Brittany Bronson is an English instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a restaurant server and a contributing opinion writer.


There are several errors in this story. Perhaps the quality of education should be factored into the equation?

Mark Thomason

There are not enough jobs. Nowhere near. Nothing done to educate students, prepare them, resume them, can place more of them into jobs than...

[May 21, 2015] Student Evaluations Feared, Loathed, and Not Going Anywhere Vitae

Student Evaluations: Feared, Loathed, and Not Going Anywhere
May 19, 2015 |

Janet Wilson has a number burned into her mind: 4.7. That's the average student-evaluation score, on a five-point scale, that she has to reach to feel safe. Her score helps to determine her fate as a full-time, non-tenure-track professor at her West Coast research university.

"Everybody in my department is obsessed," says Ms. Wilson, a teacher in the humanities for more than a decade. (This is not her real name: Fearing career repercussions, she asked that a pseudonym be used.) "We talk about how we get into that 4.7-and-above range. We talk about that more than about how to teach."

Often, rather than discuss challenges in the classroom, Ms. Wilson and her colleagues pass around advice on what it takes to reach the magic number. One popular strategy is to bake cookies or brownies for students. (Chocolate-chip cookies are seen as the golden ticket. And if you're making brownies, leave the nuts out: A student's allergy could tank your score or, worse, lead to a phone call from Human Resources.)

She and her colleagues have shared other tips, too:

This is a grim vision, but it's one many professors might recognize. Student ratings of professors can have the feel of a high-stakes game. Faculty members speak of evaluations' driving decisions on hiring, promotion, and tenure; adjuncts say they feel paralyzed when a low score can mean a pink slip.

"They line up everybody's evaluation scores and pick from the top," Ms. Wilson says of her department. "If we don't get good evaluations, the chair will call us in and ask: How do we get these numbers up?"

Of course, not every institution or department is a firm believer in the importance of evaluations. But faculty concerns remain strong - even among professors, like Ms. Wilson, who say they actually like getting feedback from their students.

"Don't get me wrong, I think student evals are useful," she says. "I used to push my students, even the ones I didn't like, to fill them out. I don't want to do away with them. But it's just frightening that administrators turn the entire discussion of what your teaching is like over to a bunch of 19-year-old kids."

Is the Customer Always Right?

Like Yelp in the restaurant industry or TripAdvisor in tourism, the student evaluation can be a powerful tool of communication for the frustrated student-customer. That's precisely what worries many professors: They view evaluations as part of the growing pressure, especially at public institutions, to treat students like clients and professors like service employees.

Earlier this year, a Republican state senator in Iowa, Mark Chelgren, proposed a bill - which never came close to passing - that would have fired professors, even tenured ones, who scored low on their student evaluations. Mr. Chelgren cited high student-loan debt to argue that students should be able to hold their professors accountable through metrics. "Professors need to understand that their customers are those students," he told The Chronicle.

Many faculty members say it's folly to place anywhere near that much emphasis on evaluations whose utility is questionable at best.

Michael P. Chaney, an associate professor of counseling at Oakland University, in Michigan, says that over the past few years, more of his colleagues have expressed concern over the role of evaluations. "We've been debating how relevant and beneficial they are," he says. "There seems to be a disconnect between how faculty view their usefulness and how the university's promotions and tenure committees view them."

Among the reasons to be cautious: Response rates tend to be low, a problem that has worsened as more colleges turn to online evaluations. Completed evaluations all too frequently include racist and sexist invective. And students often use the forms simply as a space to vent their frustrations.

"I don't view student evals as very valuable," Mr. Chaney says. "Students either really, really like you, or they don't. There's no in between."

Adam McKible, an associate professor of English at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, echoes Mr. Chaney. Faculty members at his institution, which is part of the City University of New York, are scored on a five-point scale, he says, and "you either get ones or fives - there's no subtlety in the middle."

"There's space on the back for comments," he says. "Occasionally students write something thoughtful. But they mostly say things like 'He's an awesome dude' or 'Loved your mustache.'"

Those comments aren't particularly useful for his teaching, nor will they carry much weight in promotion decisions. Still, Mr. McKible, who has been teaching since 1993, keeps a big, fat file full of evaluations. At times he has adjusted his teaching based on the feedback: "I'm more conscious of my behavior in the classroom if students say I'm being too tart or assigning too much work," he says.

Other comments, though, are just downright hurtful. Mr. Chaney, a gay white man who teaches courses about diversity, was particularly bothered by one student's note: "I'll pray for you." Other students have accused him of having "an agenda."

"Because of those types of comments, I don't read all of my evaluations," he says. "I collect them, but they're sitting in a file cabinet." Thinking about the harsh feedback, he says, "makes me hypersensitive and hyperaware to the point where it is difficult for me to be fully present in the classroom."

Valuable Data?

Such concerns aside, do student evaluations work as a tool for measuring professors' classroom work? Philip B. Stark, chair of the statistics department at the University of California at Berkeley, has studied the question. His findings: Evaluations are little more than popularity contests, it's easy to game the system, good professors often get bad ratings, and bad professors often get good ones.

Mr. Stark has argued that

"fear of bad ratings stifles pedagogical innovation and encourages faculty to water down course content."

His study concluded that

"relying on averages of student teaching-evaluation scores as the primary measure of teaching effectiveness for promotion and tenure decisions should be abandoned."

But many administrators aren't ready to abandon evaluations just yet. For them, faculty concerns are overstated. Evaluations, the administrators say, are just one tool to help them make decisions about tenure, promotion, and hiring.

How important a role they play varies by institution. Christine W. Thorpe, an assistant professor of human services and chair of the department at the New York City College of Technology, another CUNY campus, says her faculty colleagues are rated on a five-point scale. When she sees a score under a four, that's a red flag.

New adjuncts with low scores are generally not asked to return, Ms. Thorpe says. If professors who have been teaching for a number of years find their scores trending downward, Ms. Thorpe pulls them in for a talk: It could be a sign that their strategies are stale.

"We tell that instructor, We know you've been committed to the department, but your scores are low. What's happening? Can you improve this?," Ms. Thorpe says. "My intention is not to fire them but to help them improve their teaching experience."

But if two or three semesters go by with no change, she says, "I try to phase them out by reducing the number of classes they are given to teach, and then I bring them in and counsel them out of teaching." (She sometimes proposes that terminally low-rated instructors take a break before possibly returning to the classroom.)

Ms. Thorpe says that the evaluation scores of full-time faculty members are monitored just as closely - especially professors fresh out of graduate programs, which are notorious for not teaching Ph.D.'s about pedagogy. And she points out that evaluations aren't the only tool for tracking that development: Peer observation plays a large role as well.

Ms. Thorpe and other administrators say they are aware that student evaluations are sometimes rife with bias and accusations. "We take all of this under consideration," she says. "We don't just run with an accusation and penalize a professor."

If evaluations aren't going away, administrators can at least make sure to put them in context.

There's much to be gained from building a student-evaluation data set, says John A. Holland, director of the writing program at the University of Southern California, which employs many faculty members off the tenure track. "It's very important that we look at the data carefully to understand a professor's interactions with students over time," he says. "I have a whole history of evaluations to look how they perform in a cumulative fashion."

But "there can be aberrations," he says. So once he has his results, Mr. Holland sends the data to instructors. Those with low scores are invited to come in and discuss them. "We have a mentoring relationship with newer faculty," he says. "Mentors can talk through how to improve."

"Student opinions are only one measure - not the exclusive measure," he says, but a symbolically important one. "We want students to know that their opinions do matter. Evaluations are not just a blow-off at the end of the semester."

♦ ♦ ♦

What Do You Think About Student Evaluations?

We conducted our own informal poll to gauge faculty attitudes about student evaluations, and we were surprised by the response: Nearly 2,000 of you submitted responses. Click here (or on the image below) to see the full results.

[May 19, 2015] Graduates future explained in one chart

May 19, 2015 | Zero Hedge

[May 19, 2015] An Adjunct's Farewell by David J. McCowin

May 12, 2015 | The Chronicle of Higher Education

To my students at Assumption College:

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you, but to answer the question many of you have asked: No, I will not be teaching at Assumption College again next year. Although I did receive an offer to return, the conditions that led me to decline that offer are most likely unfamiliar to many of you and your families. This letter aims to remedy that.

I am an adjunct (part-time) instructor. As such, I receive drastically less pay than full-time faculty members, and I receive zero benefits. Assumption College pays me $3,500 per course, which is more than many other institutions pay. But "more," in this case, is still not even close to "good." According to my own conservative calculations, I devote roughly 220 hours to every course I teach – including construction, delivery, administration, and evaluation – which means that my compensation equates to $15.91 per hour (less at other colleges). At Assumption, the department for which I teach typically has very few courses available for adjuncts (at other institutions, the number of adjunct-taught courses is often far higher), so I have never taught more than two courses per semester there. (With special administrative approval, I once taught four courses at another college in one semester.)

Because I earn so little, I must seek adjunct employment at more than one institution. This semester, for example, I taught at three different colleges. This is not atypical for many adjuncts. In central and eastern Massachusetts, securing adjunct work at multiple institutions is far easier to do, however, than in most other regions, given the number of colleges and universities here. But teaching more courses is incredibly taxing and time consuming.

In the past year, for example, I have taught 14 college courses for various institutions (equating to far more than 40 hours per week), and my total income barely touched $30,000, with zero benefits. By comparison, full-time instructors at various institutions typically teach eight to 10 courses per year, with starting salaries in the $50,000-$60,000 range or much higher, depending on the institution.

I know all too well, however, that I am one of the "lucky" ones. My personal situation (with a working spouse, and with access to more regional opportunities) is far different than that of many adjuncts. It is estimated that 25 percent of adjunct instructors nationwide receive some sort of public assistance. The issue of adjunct working conditions has achieved "hot-button" status in recent years, but little meaningful change has occurred. Two years ago, at another institution where I teach, the trustees responded to adjunct complaints by bumping the pay up roughly $200, to $2,900 per course, and my academic dean mailed me a miniature duffel bag with the school's name on it. This is what passed as a morale boost!

Some part timers have joined adjunct faculty movements nationwide, conducting marches and launching protests such as boycotting teaching for a day. I personally have not attached myself to such movements, as their motives and methods strike me as oddly miscalculated and misguided. But I fully acknowledge that I am one of the lucky adjuncts, which is also why I feel compelled to make this principled stand in a public manner, in solidarity with those who cannot.

So why would a person do such work for pay that is frankly insulting? I truly believe that most of us do it because of our love for our academic disciplines and for teaching itself. Some adjuncts have retired from other jobs and seek only part-time work. Others, like me, started teaching as adjuncts in the hope that it would be a path toward a full-time position. In fact, I have been a finalist for a full-time faculty position on several occasions, so I've come very close (again, I'm lucky).

But the humiliation is too much at this point, and I've decided that I'm not going to do it anymore. Plenty of full-time faculty members agree. Department chairs are typically responsible for hiring new adjunct instructors, and on nearly every occasion in which I have been hired, the chair has awkwardly delivered the bad news regarding pay in similar fashion. To paraphrase: "The pay is abysmal. I'm almost embarrassed to tell you what it is." My humorous deflective response has always been, "Well, let's just keep that between us, so I won't have to endure embarrassment as I wait in line with my colleagues for the copy machine."

But it's not funny anymore. Truly, it never was. Administrations, not department chairs, are responsible for making decisions about the pay of adjunct instructors. And for most, it's not a priority. Surely, though, the marketing brochures you received from colleges and universities did not highlight their cost-cutting methods in staffing classrooms. They're strangely quiet on this growing issue, which suggests a lack of pride in their own policies.

I already miss being in the classroom. And I always will. It's what I need to do. But I need to find an alternative that doesn't degrade my expertise and passion on a daily basis. For now, I'll be teaching only online courses. Without having to worry about a 45-minute commute and gas money, my meager profit margin is looking brighter already.

David J. McCowin has taught survey, advanced, and graduate courses in history, religion, and interdisciplinary studies as an adjunct at seven colleges since 2000.

[May 13, 2015] Best and worst graduate degrees for jobs in 2015 by Jill Hamburg Coplan

The article looks more like universities sponsored advertisement then analysis. "Get into statistics bro and you will be rich" They are probably greatly exaggerating salaries and job availability, but still this is some food for thought. Also such statements as "Average rate of employment growth for all occupations is 10%, making anything higher a fast-growing field" clearly does not improve credibility of the article. For example, my impression is that now IT is shrinking outside of military contractors. So, in a sense, if you add to your degree high security clearance you have better chances in IT ;-)
Apr 27, 2015 | Fortune
Data shows that some graduate degrees can lead to median earnings of $130,000 a year; other grad degrees, however, lead to far less lucrative careers.

PayScale crunched the numbers for Fortune and identified the grad degrees that lead to lucrative careers - and those that lead to high stress and low pay.

It's that time of year when college graduates ponder their future plans, and those heading for more higher learning put down deposits for grad school tuition. In a knowledge economy, the pay gap is the widest it's been in a generation, between those with more education, versus those with less. Which degrees are the best investment?

Salary may not be the sole motivation for pursuing a graduate degree, of course. But it makes sense to know the outlook for someone on your educational pathway before ponying up – or, taking on a huge long-term debt (in the U.S. today, average tuition for a graduate degree runs $36,000 to $63,000 a year.)

To determine the best and worst graduate degrees for jobs, Fortune consulted the careers site, PayScale. The site considered the full-range of graduate degrees, including Ph.D.s, master's degrees, and law degrees.

The ranking is based upon these factors:

Perhaps not surprisingly, PayScale's analysis finds the best graduate degrees are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, with median, mid-career salaries topping at $131,700. "The top of the list has consistently been dominated by STEM degrees, especially statistics and computer science in the last five years," said Katie Bardaro, the director of analytics and lead economist at PayScale.

The top degrees median mid-career earnings are roughly on par with each other, but it's worth noting that some – such as a doctorate in statistics – lead to careers with lower stress.

Also, on the best degrees' list, there are some emerging fields. Those who earn a graduate degree in biostatistics (which is in our top 10 list), work in healthcare, biotech, and life sciences, using computer models to, for example, predict cancer growth in a cell. The degree still isn't offered by many schools but is gaining traction, Bardaro says.

And what about the worst degrees? Overall, the "worst" graduate degrees are in the arts and education, leading to careers that bring in as little as $48,100 in mid-career, according to PayScale data.

"Art-focused degrees and education dominate the bottom, year in and year out," Bardaro said. Teachers and social workers whose salaries are funded by tax dollars are hard-pressed to see pay raises, in spite of their benefit to society." Yet, she notes, some of those degree holders– such as those who earn a master's in divinity - rate as high as "best" degree holders for job satisfaction.

Best Grad Degrees for Jobs

  1. Ph.D., Statistics

  1. Master's, Biostatistics

  1. PhD, Computer Science

  1. Master's, Human Computer Interaction

  1. Ph.D., Physics

  1. Juris Doctor (JD)

  1. Master's, Telecom Engineering

  1. Master's, Applied Math

  1. Master's, Statistics

  1. Master's, Engineering

  1. Master's, Computer Science

  1. Master's, Software Engineering

  1. Ph.D., Economics

  1. MBA

  1. Master's Information Science

Worst 15 Graduate Degrees

  1. Master's, Interior Design

  1. Master's, Educational Administration

  1. Master's, Early Childhood Education

  1. Master's, Criminal Justice

  1. Master's, Reading & Literacy

  1. Ph.D., Educational Leadership

  1. Master's, Health Administration

  1. Master's, Studio Art

  1. Master's, Construction Management

  1. Master's, Fine Arts

  1. Master's, Divinity

  1. Master's, Educational Leadership
  1. Master's, Social Work (MSW)

[Apr 19, 2015] Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon?

Apr 18, 2015 |

timothy on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:22AM writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists.

For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average."

According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).

Bo'Bob'O (95398) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:41AM (#49500291)

The third factor (Score:5, Insightful)

I surely wouldn't qualify as one of the 'termites' in the study, but there still things in my life I take to quickly. There is a third metric that I am in my coming to respect even more: motivation and inspiration.

There is a big difference between having the ability to do something, having the need to do something, and having a want and drive to do something. That last one seems to get people much further then being at the very top in intelligence. It also provides a framework of interaction and social connection between peers, if it is truly a passion.

So maybe it takes being the best and brightest to be first chair violinist in a prestigious symphony, but being brilliant alone won't get you there. Meanwhile hundreds of others have a long and successful career they make out of their perseverance.

radtea (464814) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:57AM (#49500359)

Re:The third factor (Score:5, Interesting)

You've likely encountered this quote, but it bears repeating:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. -- Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of US (1872 - 1933)

E-Rock (84950) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @01:39PM (#49500767) Homepage

Re:Persistence is not omnipotent. (Score:5, Insightful)

Persistence doesn't mean trying the same thing over and over until it works. Persistence is trying to achieve your goals over and over again until you're successful.

So you might bang your head on the wall a few times, realize that won't work and then try different things until you break it down.

NixieBunny (859050) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @12:08PM (#49500403) Homepage

Re:The third factor (Score:4, Interesting)

Happiness has a lot to do with attitude. I find that being generally happy is easy if you use your abilities to put yourself into situations that make you happy. I used to work for a place that got to be more and more like Dilbert.

Instead of drowning in it, I broke loose and made a new life, using my brains to create interesting, fun things. I found part-time work in the sciences, and have extra time to make wacky inventions and volunteer with kids, teaching them how to do similar things.

I am careful to take on projects only if they are likely to make me happier. The latest was building the red telephone for this []...

Bengie (1121981) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @05:37PM (#49501635)

Re:The third factor (Score:2)

If you have no peers, you can get lonely and no amount of attitude can completely help a human who is lonely.

lkcl (517947) <> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:42AM (#49500295) Homepage

Read "Outliers" (Score:5, Informative)

this is nothing new: i believe the same study was the basis of the famous book "Outliers", which is a fascinating study of what makes people successful. if i recall correctly, it's completely the opposite of what people expect: your genes *do* matter. your attitude *does* matter. your circumstances *do* matter. working hard *does* matter. and luck matters as well. but it's all of these things - luck, genetics, circumstances *and* hard work - that make for the ultimate success story. bill gates is one of the stories described. he had luck and opportunity - by being born at just the right time when personal computing was beginning - and circumstances - by going to one of the very very few schools in the USA that actually had a computer available (for me, that opportunity was when i was 8: i went to one of the very very few secondary schools in the UK that had a computer: a Pet 3032).

so, yeah - it's not a very popular view, particularly in the USA, as it goes against the whole "anyone can make it big" concept. but, put simply, the statistics show that it's a combination of a whole *range* of factors, all of which contribute, that make up success. just "being intelligent" simply is not enough.

drinkypoo (153816) <> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @02:27PM (#49500967) Homepage Journal

Re:Read "Outliers" (Score:4, Insightful)

bill gates is one of the stories described. he had luck and opportunity - by being born at just the right time when personal computing was beginning - and circumstances - by going to one of the very very few schools in the USA that actually had a computer available

Yes, and by having rich parents. That is the single most reliable predictor of economic success. As such, it is anything but surprising that Gates was successful.

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) <> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @11:44AM (#49500299) Journal

Scientific American begs to differ (Score:3)

Some ten or fifteen years ago, Scientific American published an article about the positive correlation of "general intelligence" with virtually every measure of success in life.

Like earning enough money to be comfortable, having the emotional intelligence to have a successful marriage, etc.

They showed that "general intelligence" which is correlated with but not directly measured by things like SAT scores, was basically a ticket to (or highly correlated with) a good life, and even good health.

And the article was mighty persuasive.


the_skywise (189793) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @12:03PM (#49500387)

The problem isn't intelligence - per se (Score:5, Insightful)

(See? I used per se, so I'm... oh never mind...)

Intelligence and being highly observant are great skills both in society and from an evolutionary/survivalist standpoint.

But in a society I've found it brings up two downsides:

Guilt, because your intelligence allows you to avoid pain or achieve a higher level of comfort in society. You weren't "superman" you just made rational choices based upon your understanding of how the system works and now your friends and family are suffering because they didn't and you want to help them which requires more energy and effort or you can't which means your intelligence has limits and all you can do is watch them suffer.

Stress and anxiety. Once you figure out that you can problem solve and improve your quality of life it's natural, like any athlete, to grow and push your boundaries. But intellectual pursuits aren't as cut and dried as physical ones - It's easy to know that you can only bench press 200lbs and that's what you need to work on - Less so when you're trying to solve problems like familial and social discord but nobody will listen or trying to improve your company's fortunes by making proper investment choices. More to the point, I'm an engineer and there's nothing more frustrating trying to solve a problem you've encountered with your design that YOU pushed for, can't figure out why it's not working, might not work AT ALL and the boss is breathing down your neck (oh and the company is on the line). There's plenty of days I've driven by a building crew and daydreamed about just running the earth mover or driving a dump truck.

In an Agrarian society - in a pre-industrialized world these issues just didn't come about for intellectualism - Partially because it wasn't as much of a survival skill. (And that's probably why steampunk is so romanticized today)

reboot246 (623534) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:29PM (#49502135) Homepage

This may be why (Score:5, Interesting)

The danger when you have the intelligence to do anything you want to do in life is doing nothing. You hesitate to focus narrowly on one field of study because that means you'll have less time for all the others.

I won't say what my IQ is, but it's up there. My grades, especially in science courses, were practically perfect. People were expecting me to go into all kinds of careers, including medicine, chemistry, physics, computer science, etc.. But, I'm interested in everything! Always have been. I chose a career that didn't need much thought so I could keep up with what was happening in science and technology. It's worked. How many 62 year olds do you know who build their own computers? Or just bought two new microscopes? Or diagnose their own problems before going to the doctor?

I know a lot of successful people. Most of them have very little time for fishing, hunting, camping, going to ball games, watching television, listening to music, playing with the children & grandchildren, or working in the garden. I have all the time in the world to enjoy life. Isn't that what it's all about?

Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 18, 2015 @01:12PM (#49500661)

Re:*Grabs a bowl of popcorn* (Score:5, Interesting)

I do not know if I qualify as a genius, but I would like to think I am above average in intelligence. I topped my undergraduate class in engineering, scored near perfect score in my GRE (2380/2400, back when it actually included an analytical section with puzzles), and was a graduate student in quantum computing at a top school.

I subsequently dropped out because I realized two things:

  1. Most of my classmates were really good at the subject (e.g., people who won International Math and Physics Olympiads). They started their PhDs at a really young age, and were almost bored by the coursework. Homework that I would spend a Saturday doing were completed while still in class by these bored teenagers.
  2. Most of them really loved the subject (i.e., people who loved doing physics at the expense of all else, such as dating, money, or having a social life). Or the subject was so easy that they had the time to pursue other things.

I realized I neither loved physics unconditionally nor was I good enough at it to warrant the pursuit of a PhD, not to mention the subsequent post doc and so on. All this happened at the same time that I fell in love with my now-wife, started a company, and subsequently got into management consulting to make money instead.

I do not mean to phrase this as a tautology (i.e., doing a PhD is mutually exclusive from making money or having a social life), but in my experience, the biggest sacrifice was watching classmates who were relatively mediocre (in my opinion) get "business" degrees and do exceedingly well in life in terms of money and relationships.

Most of my cohort completed their PhDs and now have very successful academic careers. I still love math, theoretical physics, and computer science. I keep myself apprised of most of the publications in the field, and occasionally, write a paper or two myself, and I certainly miss the challenge of advanced math and physics. I still envy my peers, and I am sure some of them envy me.

But now being in an unhappy relationship, being a parent, having the burdens of a pointless life (the hardest thing I do is a spreadsheet that just helps some fool company make millions of dollars), I question my past choices. So much possibility lay ahead of me, and I gave it all up for what? For a few bucks, beers, and a few lays?

I'm probably considered successful by the measure of the quintessential American dream -- by ~30, I was a rising star at a top management consulting firm, had over 7 figures to my name, owned a large home in one of the best neighborhoods in Boston, and had a beautiful wife and son. I drove expensive cars, wore bespoke suits and expensive watches, spent time mountaineering in the Alps and the Himalayas, and traveled the world. But still, I always felt that I had missed something. That I will never come ahead of time. That no matter how successful I become in life, I will probably never have a theorem named after me or spend my days basking in the beauty of math.

No amount of sex or expensive liquor or material goods can equate the joys of just proving a theorem. I will forever have this knowledge, that I could have been more, and chose less. My life now reminds me of a Pink Floyd lyrics -- "Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?".

justthinkit (954982) <> on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:51PM (#49502227) Homepage Journal

Here is what you are missing (Score:3)

Here is what you are missing -- helping others.

Most of the activities of my life have been trivially easy for decades. Helping others remains challenging.

If you really are "so smart", you are able to see what a disaster this world is today. Well, get busy changing it. You will be up against the most powerful, greedy, selfish & moneyed people on the face of the Earth. Challenge enough for me. What about you?

Spugglefink (1041680) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @05:35PM (#49501619)

Re:The biggest problem: the "long view" (Score:5, Interesting)

I can relate to that. People who live more in the moment are happier, because the long view always involves decline, death, and dying. I'm petting and really enjoying my dog, and somewhere I'm thinking how I might have another eight years before I have a 120 pound problem who is pissing and shitting huge logs everywhere, who is going to be a royal bitch to dig a hole for one day. I'm having sex with my wife, and somewhere I'm thinking how much it's going to suck looking at her when she's 80. The big picture long view always seems to have a down side, and it's depressing.

I can relate to the expectations thing too. Everybody looks up to you, and a lot of them are jealous of you, and it makes it that much harder to choose an ordinary life. I'm a truck driver, and I like my profession fine, but I constantly feel a need to apologize for not owning the trucking company or being a professor or something; for not aiming higher in general. I've found a lot of people don't like me, because they don't think they're good enough for me for some reason, and yet I feel the same toward them. I'd love to just be normal, and not have to think so much about everything. Too much knowledge can be crippling, instead of helpful. It's hard to invest in a business idea, knowing every conceivable way it might fail, and what all the odds are.

My mother was even more intelligent than I am, and she died young, of alcoholism. She was a miserable woman.

Intelligence is overrated. One side effect for me is that I can never enjoy the opiate of a nice handy sky daddy to make me feel less infinitesimal in the scheme of things. We evolved to see sky daddies in everything, and I have the same need in my brain as any other human, but there's nothing to plug into it. I haven't found the religion yet that wasn't just totally inconsistent and goofy.

captjc (453680) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @10:06PM (#49502711)

Re:The biggest problem: the "long view" (Score:3)

That has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with outlook and perspective. Lets just say, I'm a pretty smart guy and the best piece of advice that I was ever given was to focus on the now. It is easy to foresee problems and possible scenarios and it is good to take measures to prevent the obvious. However, the sooner you realize that shit happens that you will never be able to plan for or there are simply various inevitable outcomes that will be sad and painful that you simply will not want to deal with, the sooner you will realize that there is just no point in worrying about them.

It has almost become a catchphrase for me, "Cross that bridge when you get to it." Focus on what can be dealt with now. Try to keep yourself in the best possible situation that you can and don't worry about what is around the corner until it is within sight to actually deal with it. Friends will come and go, loved ones will leave you, cars and tools will fail you when you need them the most, at some point your job will end, and eventually you will die. These are simple truths of life but if you spend even a second worrying about any of them before there is anything you can do about them, it is purely wasted energy that could be put to use tackling the problems that you do have.

I'm not saying it is easy to change the way you look at the world. It can take some work if not serious effort and it is easy to let yourself fall into ruts of depression and self-loathing. I know, I was there. That is nothing but perverse mental masturbation that does nothing but waste your energy and destroy what little happiness you can achieve. If you can learn to refocus yourself to only what you can affect, the happier and more productive you will become.

[Apr 17, 2015] How Children Of The 0.001% Choose Their College

Apr 16, 2015 | Zero Hedge

Why endure a five-hour drive from Manhattan to Cornell in a rental car, when for just $150,000 you can undertake a 12-leg American college tour in the comfort of your own Gulfstream G200? As The NY Post reports, "dozens of families are taking advantage of the convenience by visiting colleges this way," which includes introductions to "high-profile alumni," such as athletes and successful businesspeople.

"It's less about the decadence, more about the timesaving," insists Jet Edge president Bill Papariella, adding that the tour costs the customer around $80,000. But as The NY Post reports, while most high school seniors complete the dreaded college circuit in a rental car or their folks' worn-out station wagon, an increasing number of parents are spending tens of thousands of dollars on private jets to ferry their privileged kids to college campuses.

"It's becoming a bigger part of our business," says Anthony Tivnan, president of leading private-jet charter company Magellan Jets, which organized the 12-leg, $150,000 trans-America tour for the son of a California-based financier and his relatives in August 2014.

"Dozens of families are taking advantage of the convenience by visiting colleges this way."

The service is so popular, last month Magellan launched a special package for "budget-minded" college-goers. The National Bank of Mom and Dad can now buy 10 hours of flight time aboard a Magellan jet for a bargain price of $43,500.

The deal includes varsity wear for the entire family emblazoned with the letters and emblems of each college - Princeton hoodies for everyone! - plus matching notebooks, and pointers from an independent admissions adviser.

Magellan even goes so far as to offer introductions to "high-profile alumni," such as athletes and successful businesspeople, either in person or by phone.

"We take care of everything," explains Tivnan. "Many commercial airlines don't have direct flights into airports near the universities, making it difficult to see multiple colleges in one day.

"Fly privately and you can visit as many as five or six colleges in the space of two or three days."

Of course, the types of families who use these services are card-carrying members of the 1 percent. "We have a lot of private individuals, in real estate, investment banking and hedge funds," says Papariella. "It's not so much Fortune 500 CEOs, who live [under the microscope]."

Manhattan-based author and social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, whose much-anticipated memoir, "Primates of Park Avenue," somewhat wearily tells The Post that it's another symptom of what she terms "privileged parenting" among wealthy families, and the "luxe-ification of childhood."

"It's cradle-to-college coddling," she says.

"That basic reproductive impulse to shield kids from predators, disease and starvation is now rerouted to protect them from discomfort and inconvenience."

"Their kids are growing up fast, and these tours are bittersweet," she says. "But the most difficult part is further down the road, when they hire a jet to drop them off at college [for good].

[Apr 14, 2015] Rank Delusions by John Quiggin

Elite universities are first and foremost institutions for elite children education...

April 9, 2015 | Crooked Timber

That's the title of a piece I had in the Chronicle of Higher Education in February. CHE is paywalled, but they kindly agree to let me republish here, after a suitable interval. The article (or at least a near final version) is over the fold.

Every year, U.S. News & World Report, Times Higher Education, and others update university rankings. Reactions are paradoxical. On the one hand, university administrators and faculty members scan the lists for evidence of small movements up or down. On the other hand, everyone knows that the top 10, or 20, or 50 names will be much the same as they have always been.

The Duke sociologist Kieran Healy points to a four-tier classification of leading universities made in 1911, and compares it to the most recent U.S. News ranking. Of the top 20 universities in the ranking today, 16 were in the top class in 1911, one (Notre Dame) was in the second class, and three (Duke, Rice, and Caltech) had not yet been established under their current names.

The United States is not unusual in this respect. In most countries with an established higher-ed tradition, the list of high-status universities has changed little over decades or even centuries. There have been some modest shifts in the relative status of different kinds of universities (for example, private versus public in the United States), and there are some impressive new institutions in Asia and other areas of rapid economic growth, but the impacts are marginal.

Broadly speaking, the 1911 list would not raise any eyebrows if it were used as the basis for the next U.S. News ranking. For those seeking to answer the question "What makes a great university?" the answer appears to be "having been great 100 years ago."

Now compare the Dow Jones Industrial Average for 1911, which included such companies as the American Smelting and Refining Company (now Asarco), U.S. Rubber (now Uniroyal), and U.S. Steel. Some of those companies have vanished altogether, and others have survived as subsidiaries of a larger enterprise, but only General Electric is still included in the Dow Jones index. Most of today's Dow Jones companies did not even exist in 1911.

What accounts for the remarkable stability of university rankings in comparison to the instability of big business, and for that matter, other nonprofits? More important, what implications does this have for university management and higher-education policy?

Several features of universities are important in explaining these outcomes. First, unlike other enterprises, universities almost never die and rarely merge. The 14 universities that formed the Association of American Universities, in 1900, are all still in existence, as are all those admitted since then.

Second, and directly related, universities are what are called, in the literature on industrial organization, "single-plant firms." The vast majority have one (or at most two) main campuses, with a few peripheral offshoots. Apparent exceptions like the University of California system are in reality a set of distinct universities, linked only by notionally shared governance.

Those structural facts put an upper bound on the feasible size of a university. A single campus can't accommodate more than about 40,000 undergraduate students without running into diseconomies of scale, such as constraints on the size of lecture halls. The biggest state universities reached that size in the 1970s, and their enrollments have remained broadly stable ever since. Elite private universities operate on a much smaller scale, typically 3,000 to 5,000 students, and most have maintained that size since the 1950s.

Taken together, those facts rule out many of the mechanisms by which markets reward success and punish failure. A successful university doesn't typically create new campuses or even greatly expand its enrollments. (Some American universities are attempting to test that proposition by establishing offshore campuses such as those of Yale in Singapore and NYU in the UAE. If only they'd learned from the experience of their Australian counterparts who followed the same path in the 1990s, with results ranging from disappointing to disastrous.) Conversely, poor performance may create stresses of various kinds, but almost never leads universities to close down, or even to radically contract.

As a result, growth in the university system has occurred primarily through the creation of new universities, or through the upgrading of vocational-training institutions such as teachers' colleges. At least initially, the new entries are almost always at the lower levels of the status hierarchy. The creation of a new research university, such as the University of California at Merced, is a rare event.

Those facts are enough to explain part of the difference between the relatively stable ranking of universities and the ever-changing rankings of top companies. With no departures, and limited possibilities for growth, the only way that universities can change their ranking is through a change in the (perceived) quality of their research and teaching. This is necessarily a slow process.

Moreover, universities are nonprofit enterprises that nonetheless generate substantial operating surpluses. In the absence of shareholders, the surplus generated by a university is available to improve the university's standing, for example by hiring star professors, establishing new research centers, or adding facilities to attract students.

But while those structural features explain why the relative status of universities doesn't change much from year to year or decade to decade, they don't explain the near-constancy of the rankings over scales of a century or more.

In statistical terms, we can think of university status as a process characterized by mean reversion. That is, if a high-status university performs poorly for some time, perhaps because of poor leadership or bad hiring decisions, it is likely to recover the lost ground over time. Conversely, a lower-status university that does well for a few years will find it difficult to maintain its enhanced status.

The crucial factor in explaining mean reversion is the existence of exceptionally durable assets of various kinds, the most important of which are human and reputational. A long-established high-status university has a large body of alumni, Ph.D. graduates, former faculty members, and research collaborators. Apart from obvious benefits such as alumni donations, that group can be looked to as a source of legacy students, opportunities for graduate placements, and senior hires keen to return to their former affiliation.

One way to test that idea is to look for other examples of status competition where rankings remain stable over long periods. An interesting case is that of European soccer leagues. Unlike American sport leagues, these mostly lack a draft or salary cap. Mobility is supposed to be achieved through a system of promotion and relegation, in which the winners in lower-division competitions move up, while the bottom-placed teams in the higher division move down. In practice, however, promoted teams usually struggle, while those relegated one year often return to the higher division the next.

Moreover, while most teams are privately owned, few of the owners seek to extract profits. Rather, returns are plowed back into the team and used to attract better players. That in turn produces winning records, which attract more fans and more revenue. Once attracted, fans, like alumni in the university context, are commonly lifelong assets.

Not surprisingly, the results are the same as in competition between universities. Most of the European leagues, notably including those of Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, are dominated by the same two or three clubs, decade after decade. The Scottish competition provides a typical, if somewhat extreme, example. In 118 years of competition, two clubs (Rangers and Celtic, known collectively as the Old Firm) have won 99 times between them.

The Scottish League also provides a good example of mean reversion. A financial scandal in 2012 led to the Rangers' being declared insolvent and ejected from the competition. A reformed club was admitted to the Third Division (roughly the equivalent of the bottom tier of minor-league baseball), but with its top management, most of its money, and many star players gone. Crucially, however, the new Rangers retained the membership and fan base of the old one. It is rapidly ascending the status ladder and is set to resume its rivalry with Celtic in a season or two.

What should we learn from all this?

Most obviously, there is not much point in worrying about university rankings, whoever may issue them. Differences from year to year in a given ranking, or between different rankings, will inevitably be dominated by random noise. But even if changes in rankings reflect actual differences in performance, mean reversion ensures that this will mostly wash out over time. For the kinds of decisions for which rankings should matter, such as which university to attend, year-to-year variations are of no significance.

Second, it seems unlikely that university presidents, or other top managers, can make much difference in the way their institutions perform. As much as a decade at the helm is still simply too short to produce any sustained shift in rankings. Conversely, the departure of presidents and other top administrators, even under a cloud of disgrace, seems to have little or no impact on the status of the institutions concerned.

But the big question is whether the stable hierarchy is beneficial or harmful to the teaching and research mission of the university system as a whole. If harmful, what can be done about it?

As regards research, the advantages of stratification are obvious. The institutions at the top of the status hierarchy have continued to produce the bulk of research in leading journals, to earn Nobel Prizes and similar awards, and so on. Nevertheless, there are plenty of cases where this self-perpetuating elite might benefit from the challenge of outside perspectives.

For undergraduate education, American experience has shown that a highly stratified system works poorly. Competition for status encourages high-ranked institutions to restrict enrollments and to provide a high-quality experience to a small number of students, which inevitably implies high tuition fees. Since new entrants to the system inevitably enter with lower status, a steep and stable hierarchy implies that an increasing proportion of students attend poorly funded institutions that struggle to provide a quality education.

What, if anything, can be done to flatten the hierarchy and increase mobility within it? Sporting leagues have adopted solutions such as salary caps and draft systems for the recruitment of new players. Analogs could be imagined in the university context, but seem unlikely to command much support.

A more plausible response is a shift in public-financing priorities. If, as we've seen, success or failure in the status race is largely preordained, financing systems designed to reward and "incentivize" success are misconceived. Support should be allocated on the basis of need rather than used to amplify historical advantage. In this respect, President Obama's initiative to expand access to community college is a step in the right direction.

John Quiggin is a fellow in economics at the University of Queensland; a columnist for The Australian Financial Review; a blogger for Crooked Timber; and the author of Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (Princeton University Press, 2010).

Tom West 04.10.15 at 4:22 am

The institutions at the top of the status hierarchy have continued to produce the bulk of research in leading journals, to earn Nobel Prizes and similar awards, and so on.

I think there's a case for strongly recognized elite institutions.

In many areas where an objective evaluation of value is nearly impossible, a strong, universal status hierarchy allows all participants to establish value in a manner shared by all participants. Bereft of the hierarchy, value judgment can often end up all over the place, which can heavily diminish external respect for the field, and in the worst case, can call the worth of the entire field into question.

I suspect most people (and certainly most institutions) prefer the illusion of certainty over the reality of randomness. Unchanging rankings that conform to expectations help satisfy that preference.

Sebastian H 04.10.15 at 6:03 am

"For undergraduate education, American experience has shown that a highly stratified system works poorly. Competition for status encourages high-ranked institutions to restrict enrollments and to provide a high-quality experience to a small number of students, which inevitably implies high tuition fees. Since new entrants to the system inevitably enter with lower status, a steep and stable hierarchy implies that an increasing proportion of students attend poorly funded institutions that struggle to provide a quality education."

For the elite this is surely a feature, not a bug.

TM 04.10.15 at 12:52 pm

Further to 1: In a system where higher education is publicly funded and each institution gets a roughly constant amount per student, as is common in parts of Europe, it is hard to see how a strong hierarchy between institutions could develop, unless of course the intention of creating elite institutions is built into the funding formula. In both cases, there is nothing to explain.

In the US, isn't there a strong correlation between endowment and ranking, and isn't that – and the tendency of the rich to continue giving to those who already have – the most obvious explanation for the self-perpetuation of the system?

Tom West 04.10.15 at 3:45 pm

Tom West, can you provide examples for the argument in the second sentence of your second paragraph?

First, I hope it was obvious that I'm not terribly serious about my thesis. It's mostly a reaction to a lifetime of observation that (1) for most things it's really hard to objectively measure quality on any but the coarsest of scales and (2) people get very unhappy on the odd occasions when (1) is revealed.

It was also based on my observations as to what happens when groups fail to reach an authoritative consensus on issues upon which reality indicates there probably shouldn't be one. Often, the funders lose confidence and withdraw. In the absence of elite institutions that we "know" are the best, would public and private funding dry up?

So I was mostly making light that we're happier when we have an unjustified certainty, and elite institutions provide that certainty.

And yes, I was thinking about academic hiring, where in the absence of an institutional background in which to guide the evaluation of candidates, there'd probably be a lot more nasty apples vs. oranges type faculty battles on who to hire (candidate quality being highly multi-dimensional).

Vasilis Vassalos 04.10.15 at 8:43 pm

Italy is a good example of a system where a uniform state funding scheme has led to a much less stratified university system. Strong departments have developed in various universities – although it seems there is correlation between university size and budget on one hand and the importance of the city/region in which it is located (the proxy presumably being political clout of the local reps).

There is also I think stricter hierarchy for universities in the same city.

Vasilis Vassalos

BTW, I'm no expert on Italian universities, what I posted is my impression based on interactions with many Italian colleagues and a few discussions about the system. As for Germany, the system was so egalitarian that the German government a few years ago took pains to introduce stratification by identifying Excellent universities and bestowing them with lots of additional funding (thus helping them become even more excellent)

TM 04.11.15 at 3:40 am

JQ: When I studied in Germany (where all Universities are run by the respective state except for one Catholic and a handful of private ones, the latter having little relevance), I never for a minute considered the comparative "status" of my University and neither did any of my fellow students. Rankings didn't exist at the time although they probably now exist and there has been a push towards a more elitist approach (establishment of "centers of research excellence" with EU and state money, stuff like that). There also was no tuition at the time; meanwhile experiments with relatively low tuition rates were started and abandoned in most states.

In the German context, the age of each respective University I think has little consequence because there isn't really any mechanism that would allow some sort of advantage to accumulate. Most universities were either founded by some prince or king of a territory that doesn't exist any more, or are recent foundations of the post war states wishing to expand higher education. The universities each have independent status (no "state system"). There is no reason why the state would want to favor one over the others (*). Oxbridge and Paris are different because of (1) long-standing institutional continuity, and probably (2) an intentional policy of promoting stratification. There is no reason why that stratification should happen all by itself, absent such policies. Post-war Germany and others never pursued such a policy (*), the stated goal was universal access.

(*) This is of course not to say there is no stratification in the educational system. There are several functionally defined tiers within higher education, from more academic to more vocational (one should actually count the vocational system itself as part of higher education, although that is rarely done). But there is no perceptible hierarchy within each tier.

Harold 04.11.15 at 8:21 pm
This is so wrong.

There ought to be disincentives for selective private primary and high schools as well, IMO, if not outright bans on them.

Shirley0401 04.13.15 at 5:46 pm

@Marshall 04.10.15 at 5:05 pm

"President Obama's initiative to expand access to community college is a step in the right direction."

My experience suggests that expanded access will be counterproductive unless way more attention is paid to quality. Actually I think it would be better to focus on improving the general ed/liberal arts/capital-Education preparation in the high schools, beyond AP ticket-punching.


Rare instance where I've actually got some experience. I worked with high school students for years, and the on-the-ground reality is that whenever "expectations" for all students were "raised," it inevitably results in many different forms of watering-down. The reality is that when we want 100% of students to take/complete/pass something, the standards have to be revised down to allow for kids who lack motivation and/or support and/or stability and/or proper nutrition and/or medicine and/or [insert thing some student somewhere lacks here] to still take/complete/pass that course/test/whatever.

Personally, I find a lot to like about variations of the German model - incentives for those who can, and want to, succeed/excel/achieve, and cascading options for those who don't make the cut. As much as it pains my lefty heart to admit it, part of the problem with expecting everyone to succeed results in success not meaning a whole lot.

Don't get me started on AP ticket-punching. The mystifying belief that every child can simultaneously be "accelerated" and/or "above average" has infected the entire middle/upper-middle class population of the last school at which I worked. For many of these parents, a failure of their child to achieve at a level in the top decile is adequate reason to have said child screened for disabilities, considered for special services, and/or enrolled in expensive "enrichment" programs.

[Apr 10, 2015] Tyler Cowen's Three-Card Monte on Inequality Beat the Press

Tyler Cowen used his Upshot piece this week to tell us that the real issue is not inequality, but rather mobility. We want to make sure that our children have the opportunity to enjoy better lives than we do. And for this we should focus on productivity growth which is the main determinant of wealth in the long-run.

This piece ranks high in terms of being misleading. First, even though productivity growth has been relatively slow since 1973, the key point is that most of the population has seen few of the gains of the productivity growth that we have seen over the last forty years. Had they shared equally in the productivity gains over this period, the median wage would be close to 50 percent higher than it is today. The minimum wage would be more than twice as high. If we have more rapid productivity growth over the next four decades, but we see the top 1.0 percent again getting the same share as it has since 1980, then most people will benefit little from this growth.

The next point that comes directly from this first point is that it is far from clear that inequality does not itself impede productivity growth. While it can of course be coincidence, it is striking that the period of rapid productivity growth was a period of relative equality. At the very least it is hard to make the case that we have experienced some productivity dividend from the inequality of the post-1980 period.

And many of the policies that would most obviously promote equality also promote growth. For example, a Fed policy committed to high employment, even at the risk of somewhat higher rates of inflation, would lead to stronger wage growth at the middle and bottom of the wage ladder, while also likely leading to more investment and growth.

While Cowen talks about immigration as being a question of low-paid workers who might drive down the wages of the less-educated, they are millions of bright highly educated professionals in the developing world who would be happy to train to U.S. standards and compete with our doctors, lawyers, and other highly-paid professionals, many of whom populate the one percent. This policy would also lead to both more rapid growth and greater equality. (We can repatriate a portion of the earnings of these professionals to their home countries to ensure they benefit as well.)

And, we can have a modest financial transactions tax that would eliminate waste in the financial sector while also reducing the income of many of the richest people in the country. Were it not for the political power of Wall Street, we undoubtedly would have put in place financial transactions taxes long ago. (We do still have very small taxes that are used to finance the operation of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission.)

It is also important to remember that the well-being of children depends to a large extent on the well-being of their parents. If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968 (as it did between 1938 and 1968) it would be over $17 an hour today. The children of a single parent earning $34,000 a year would have much better life prospects than the children of a single parent earning $14,500 a year. In this sense there is a very direct relationship between inequality and mobility.

The long and short is that we know of many measures that can both reduce inequality and increase growth. And, if we want to make sure that everyone's children have a shot at a better standard of living in the future then we should make sure that their parents have a better standard of living today.

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Financial predators produce nothing of value
written by RandallK, April 05, 2015 10:49

The "take-over and loot" artists of Wall Street produce nothing of value and are burdensome to taxpayers - we support the agency which partly funds the stolen pensions - yet rake in more money annually than most wage earners.
What did collateralized debt products produce? Nothing, or close to nothing would be my answer.
We not only need to tax the sales of stocks and bonds, we need to bring back Glass-Steagall(sp?) and make a number of financial products illegal.
Then there's the matter of "too big to fail and too rich to jail," to correct.

Mobility for Whom, to Level What Playing Field Where - For Winners Take All
written by Last Mover, April 05, 2015 11:41

The concept of mobility helps us distinguish between "good inequality" and "bad inequality." Reductions in inequality can follow from a leveling in either direction - by elevating the poor or pushing down the wealthy. It is the plight of the poor that we most need to improve.
Somehow these discussions never get to the part where MNCs used their newfound global mobility to pit workers in different nations against each other in head to head competition and drive wages to subsistence levels in some cases.

That really gave workers a chance to perk up with new mobility opportunities to be more productive as they earned what they were worth, didn't it. After all, it wasn't like MNCs had a lock on the market and overpaid themselves with productivity gains they didn't actually earn, instead extorted with market power. LOL.

These discussions also conveniently ignore the intentional immobility of white collar professionals designed to shield them from competition, especially from abroad, like doctors and CEOs. Cowen would rather talk about reducing regulations on barbers, hairdressers and interior decorators so they can be more mobile and productive. LOL.

written by loneract, April 05, 2015 1:14

The Upshit seems to contain outright lies 2/3 of the time. Usually when Leonardt or Cowen is writing.

Marko, April 05, 2015 4:42

Tyler Cowen is right up there with Laffer , Mankiw , et al in his diligence at defending the perks of the 1%.

The goal is to shift the focus of attention away from anything involving those elites , typically by concentrating instead on poverty or mobility. They can imagine a system of high mobility and low poverty ( as measured relative to median income ) among the 99% in which the 1% captures an even larger share of the income pie than they do currently. Think of plantation slaves as the 99% and plantation owners as the 1% and you get an idea of what their ideal "win-win solution" looks like. High relative mobility and low relative poverty among the 99% , continued concentrated income and wealth flows to the 1%. Problem solved.

Summers is right , for once. The big action in inequality is in the trillion dollars of current gdp that used to flow to the bottom 90% of income-earners that now flows to the top 1%. Similar dynamics apply for wealth.

Ignore the misdirection and focus on the big problem : big money.

watermelonpunch, April 05, 2015 8:16

I'm not sure what that Tyler is rooting for here.

Is he saying that everyone ought to start at the bottom?
For example, someone with a science aptitude born into a wealthy family, ought to be forced to put off their education to mop floors for 2 years, to "earn their chops"?

Because that's the only way I can see his argument having an internal logic at all.

Otherwise, it just sounds like he's saying that people with various disabilities or other limitations, should rightfully (in his mind) be relegated to substandard living conditions struggling for survival with limited access to the benefits our civilization affords "their betters" ... as long as if a child born into that penury has some bit of a chance to "strike it big" if they have enough smarts & ambition & luck.

I fall back to the obvious ... that we - CIVILIZATION AS A WHOLE - NEED people operating the sewage treatment plants, fixing the roads, collecting the trash, cleaning hospitals, working on the farms, packaging & transporting foods etc., and wiping butts when people get too old & infirm to do it for themselves.
Civilization as a whole should be GRATEFUL there are those people who are willing & able to do those things, and recognize that people who do these vital things in society by paying them a fair wage.

In fact, I'd argue that some of these jobs are HARDER and require more aptitude that a lot of "higher jobs" Cowen thinks pay more out of "good inequality".

I'd like to see the branch manager at my bank try to swing the trash cans on my block like my city's garbage crew. (Or live in a neighborhood where the rubbish is piled up for that matter.)

How many accounts department managers would last 2 minutes on a roofing job?

I can think of one manager I knew at a company who would leave her dirty oatmeal dishes in the little bathroom sink all day. Under NO circumstances do I think that woman should ever be trusted to work in a hospital or kitchen.

And then the story I heard from someone about a warehouse manager who would throw fits yelling & start throwing things around when he'd get stressed out. Is that the guy you want alone with you wiping your butt in your hospice room when you're 92?

Would any of us want to buy food sold in a dirty grocery store? And how much luck is a doctor going to have to save your life in a filthy operating room?

Tyler Cowen's shell game is an insult to every citizen.
And it's a injury to every citizen with limitations whether they're born with them or acquire limitations by tragic accident or simply aging.

Richard H. Serlin, April 05, 2015 10:59

High Inequality and High Mobility = Very High Risk Lives

Well, Cowen is always happy to mislead for the libertarian/plutocratic cause, and he has to, as the truth gives no chance to his side in a democracy.

But this extreme inequality is fine of we have high mobility is so wrong, because high mobility is high chance to go up, and high chance to go down. If it's just high chance to go up, that's just growth (which is decreased when you don't invest in the 99+% to give as much as possible to the 1%, or 0.1%).

High inequality with a high probability of plunging into the abyss because of high mobility? That's just a terribly risky life for you and your family, and risk decreases utility and welfare. Who wants to live in a world made that dangerous. And certainly the high mobility that the rich will allow is among the 99%, not among the 0.1%.

bakho, April 06, 2015 5:33

If Cowen is truly concerned about mobility, he would promote policy to encourage mobility.
Improve childhood nutrition
Universal PreK
Health Coach Programs
Programs that would give teens facing double digit unemployment, their first job and on the job training.
Programs that would improve the skill set of youth who are not college bound.
Free Community college, etc.
Raising the MinWage
Less inequality in distribution of resources among communities

I have yet to see him promote any of these measures.

A little parity perhaps?
written by Kat, April 06, 2015 8:34

I just read an AP story about the plight of some poor, poor Americans that had property confiscated under the Castro regime. Congress is on the case-- after all the descendents of these "victims" are so poor they cannot even afford to repair their concrete steps. I did not see skills training mentioned as a fix for their plight.
I think if you thought really, really hard you might be able to come up with a few examples of the US government using its force to confiscate property or support the confiscation of the value of labor from a person. In these cases training is the key to redistributive justice.
And I have yet to see skills training as an answer to all the job creators who simply cannot make a go of it without subsidies and tax breaks.

written by Bloix, April 06, 2015 9:57

"We want to make sure that our children have the opportunity to enjoy better lives than we do."

I have never met an upper middle class parent who wants his kid to have "the opportunity" to have a better life. These parents do not say, "I want my child judged fairly on his merits, and if he winds up as a barista that's fine with me."

written by urban legend, April 06, 2015 2:19

All wage workers need to be organized. The elite forces have spent 200 or so years trying to give the public ill thoughts about labor unions, with but a very brief reprieve roughly between roughly 1934 and 1947 -- with Taft-Hartley "right-to-work" reinforced by the anti-union propaganda film, "On the Waterfront," signalling a return to corporate and corporate media-bashing of all collective bargaining activities. Those toxic forces are really feeling their oats right now, having even compromised the Democratic Party with fundamentally anti-worker people like Rahm Emanuel and Arne Duncan. Only the unions themselves, a few stalwart Democratic office-holders and some bloggers are offering resistance.

There have been embers of recognition that the engineered weakness of labor has coincided with -- and almost surely played a huge causative role in -- the disconnection between productivity and labor compensation. It is going to be a long and continuous, never-ending slog to start the country in the other direction. It's a simple story to make: labor union weakness = low wages = poor demand = weak economy for almost everyone, including small businesses. Hillary Clinton could campaign on that equation, even without attacking Wall Street (other than the dishonest players, whom she must make clear she will not defend), and present herself as the true champion of business because she, unlike the Republican candidates who pretend to be pro-business but actually are the opposite, will follow policies that will promote the growth of demand for their goods and services.

FDR proved you could talk common sense economics like this to the American people. Obama looked like he was campaigning on the equation, but it turned out he was only a little for it and was even actually against it in some respects. He made virtually no push-back against the negative propaganda about unions that has prevailed for three generations. Let's hope this time can be different. But it won't be different unless the people who understand the equation put heavy pressure on all Democratic candidates to think and talk that way.

written by Bob Hertz, April 06, 2015 7:45

I fully support all the posts that call for greater bargaining power for workers.

However, I do wish to point out that many many workers with tiny or nonexistent productivity gains have seen very nice increases in their incomes in the past two decades.

College professors and senior nurses and federal statisticians do very valuable work.
But most of them work fewer hours than they did 20 years ago and have fewer students or patients than 20 years ago.......yet this "EdMed" complex has had very nice wage gains, to say nothing of benefits that private sectors workers can only dream of.

If you rented a meeting hall and had a gathering where the only attendees would be those whose incomes had gone up faster than inflation, I do NOT think that the hall would be filled with persons who increased their productivity. I think it would be filled with persons who had credentials and connections.

accelerating inflation
written by Dishwasher, April 07, 2015 2:01

And many of the policies that would most obviously promote equality also promote growth. For example, a Fed policy committed to high employment, even at the risk of somewhat higher rates of inflation, would lead to stronger wage growth at the middle and bottom of the wage ladder, while also likely leading to more investment and growth.
I agree with you on doctors, lawyers, and other highly-paid professionals.

On minimum wage, to me a minimum wage is a second best solution, a wage subsidy or a basic income guarantee better distributes the burden of helping low income workers.

written by Dishwasher, April 07, 2015 2:23

Above I should have said isn't it accelerating inflation that helps debtors and wage earners and not just inflation? And it cannot continue to be accelerated without very bad consequences.

[Apr 03, 2015] Search engines like Google or Yahoo make people think they are smarter than they actually are
et Al, April 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Slashdot: Google 'Makes People Think They Are Smarter Than They Are

Karen Knapton reports at The Telegraph that according to a study at Yale University, because they have the world's knowledge at their fingertips, search engines like Google or Yahoo make people think they are smarter than they actually are giving people a 'widely inaccurate' view of their own intelligence that can lead to over-confidence when making decisions. In a series of experiments, participants who had searched for information on the internet believed they were far more knowledgeable about a subject that those who had learned by normal routes, such as reading a book or talking to a tutor. Internet users also believed their brains were sharper….

This is none more obvious that in the retarded comments you read in the Pork Pie News Networks. It is one thing to look up a 'fact', but to understand it within context, its limitations and not stretch it way beyond reasonable interpretations to fit your argument takes it in to altogether different territory.

I think the good news is that as the Internet is still quite young and people are learning that a) the first answer you find may not be true; b) it helps to do more research if you could be bothered. It's not hard to differentiate between the political bs'ers and the properly curious.

The best thing I think is that we are also learning to ask the right questions in the right way. Most of us can now spot obfuscation through deliberately complicated answers (as is technique often used by people who think they are clever) and are starting to spot what isn't there, or what isn't said simply through logic and following the process or the steps that should lead to a logical conclusion. If that is not done, followed or points to some other conclusion, then the red flags (I don't mean communist ones!) should go up that something is not quite kosher and should be treated with care. Still, it's early days.

kirill, April 3, 2015 at 3:06 pm

People are brainwashed from birth to believe that knowledge of facts is the same as intelligence. I have seen this trope in numerous TV shows and movies. It is total rubbish. People spend years at university and in post-doctoral studies engaged in problem solving. No amount of Google searches is going to teach internet Einsteins that skill.

et Al, April 3, 2015 at 3:23 pm

I can't be as pessimistic as you. Yes, brainwashing does start very early, but this is just the beginning of a brave new world (if we don't become nuclear toast first) and the new industrial revolution has only just started. The field is wide open and old actors will be turfed out or overturned by the new and hungry.

If the turdification of higher education continues in certain countries, then those countries are simply hollowing out themselves from the inside. They simply will not be able to find sufficient numbers of competent people to maintain what they have.

It is one of the many reasons that I am for free education and unlimited free (or at least heavily subsidized) return to education and retraining until you pop your clogs. In fact, I think it is essential if we are going to live longer and more productive lives. If the state (us) fund it, then we all benefit from it over the long term. So far Western countries have been able to attract some of the best foreign talent from other countries and benefit from it, but the rest of the world is catching up fast.

[Apr 01, 2015] 'Why More Education Won't Fix Economic Inequality'

Apr 01, 2015 |

Speaking of Larry Summers:

Why More Education Won't Fix Economic Inequality: Suppose you accept the persuasive data that inequality has been rising in the United States and most advanced nations in recent decades. But suppose you don't want to fight inequality through politically polarizing steps like higher taxes on the wealthy or a more generous social welfare system.

There remains a plausible solution to rising inequality that avoids those polarizing ideas: strengthening education so that more Americans can benefit from the advances of the 21st-century economy. This is a solution that conservatives, centrists and liberals alike can comfortably get behind. After all, who doesn't favor a stronger educational system? But a new paper shows why the math just doesn't add up, at least if the goal is addressing the gap between the very rich and everyone else.

Brad Hershbein, Melissa Kearney and Lawrence Summers offer a simple little simulation that shows the limits of education as an inequality-fighter. In short, more education would be great news for middle and lower-income Americans, increasing their pay and economic security. It just isn't up to the task of meaningfully reducing inequality, which is being driven by the sharp upward movement of the very top of the income distribution. ...

reason said...

More redistribution will do it, from both directions.
1. It means more income for the disadvantaged people.
2. It means more money flow in disadvantaged PLACES.
The most direct redistributional tactic is a "national dividend", just give people more money, and pay for it by increasing excise taxes, marginal rates on top earners, higher inheritance taxes and higher rates on capital income.

Bud Meyers

"We have empirically simulated what would happen to the distribution of earnings if one out of every ten men aged 25–64 who did not have a bachelor's degree were to instantly obtain one."

Why stop there? Say everyone in the work force right now instantly had a Ph.D. --- what would change as for the jobs and pay being offered?

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Bud Meyers...

If everyone in the US work force had a PhD then would there still be a Fox News? Just asking.

My idea of more education starts at the bottom with public daycare and universal pre-K. Most of the damage is already done well before ones college years. College just adds insult to injury.

Noni Mausa

Indeed. Pointing to better incomes to highly educated people, and inferring that everyone will be better paid if they all have better education and training, is like pointing to better climbers getting out of the water on a sinking island, and saying we need to teach everyone better climbing skills. The engineered, artificially tiny peak will accommodate just so many people, and its current residents aren't keen to share.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to cm...

Actually my anecdotal experience was just thrown in to lay the groundwork for "If everyone was smart then maybe hard work would pay better."

Since you like to really think things over, here is what I was thinking when I took my midday walk:

Under a capitalist economic system then:

1. Wealth accumulation is facilitated by "wasting" (i.e., profiting from the unpaid costs of negative externalities) resources (land, water, air, people - all in the broadest sense) through the prerogatives of capital ownership.

2. Wealth accumulation is mostly a matter of hiding from those less wealthy how much you have profitted from their relative misfortune.

Also, I really enjoyed physical labor. I still do. I wish it had paid better. Then I would not have the problems that I now have with scheduling enough of my time to maintain any degree of physical fitness. As I see it, the big problem with physical labor jobs are low pay and in very many circumstances you are exposed to pollutants and other hazards that will shorten your useful life as a laborer and often just shorten your life.

A strong back may even be more likely to know its limits than a strong mind.

Syaloch said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...

This isn't about dumb vs. smart, it's more about the fantasy some have that our salvation is through more education so that everyone can have a comfy office job doing "knowledge work". That's never going to happen, there will always be lots of hands-on work that needs to be done to keep the toilets clean, the shelves stocked, etc. So in addition to providing better access to education, we need to make sure that even the "lowliest" of jobs -- I put that in quotes because I don't look down on this work at all, I have great respect for the people that work so hard in these positions -- provide decent incomes. That means a higher minimum wage and/other measures that obligate companies to pay these workers a living wage.

BTW my favorite job I ever had was as head of a crew that painted school buildings inside and out across my local school district. It was often hard labor -- spray painting the underside of bleachers in protective suits on 90 degree summer days was particularly fun -- but it was very satisfying to see the end result of our meticulous work.

Benedict@Large said in reply to Noni Mausa...

If there are 100 dogs and only 95 bones, it doesn't matter how well you train the dogs; only 95 dogs will find a bone.

The proponents of more education as a solution to inequality only succeed if all the bones are not found, or if more bones magically appear once the 95 bones are found, but neither of these possibilities are much discussed by the more education adherents.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Benedict@Large...

If we all had more education then we would all know that there is no such thing as ceteris paribus. OTOH, I am not quite sure about a free lunch.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to RueTheDay...

That's right! Limiting the dissemination of knowledge is how just 1% can have so much power over 99% in a republic governed by elected politicians. However, it is really better education rather than JUST more that is needed by the 99%. And more begins with universal pre-K not graduate degrees.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to cm...

Although you might guess that with a significant rise in ability at the high end then there might also be a significant improvement in productivity. The problem is that most of those productivity gains will be captured in returns to capital by the 1%.

There is a system effect. All of us that read and comment at EV know more because of all that everyone else here knows. It even appears that after a while many learn to communicate better with each other, but not everyone crosses that threshold.

Bud Meyers said...

Excerpts from Robert Reich (March 22, 2015) "Why College Isn't for Everyone"

Not every young person is suited to four years of college. They may be bright and ambitious, but they won't get much out of it. They'd rather be doing something else, like making money or painting murals.

They feel compelled to go to college because they've been told over and over that a college degree is necessary. Yet if they start college and then drop out, they feel like total failures.

Even if they get the degree, they're stuck with a huge bill - and may be paying down their student debt for years. And all too often the jobs they land after graduating don't pay enough to make the degree worthwhile.

Last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates were in jobs that don't even require a college degree.

The biggest frauds are for-profit colleges that are raking in money even as their students drop out in droves, and whose diplomas are barely worth the ink-jets they're printed on.

It's time to give up the idea that every young person has to go to college, and start offering high-school seniors an alternative route into the middle class.

Denis Drew said...

Berkeley professor Martín Sánchez-Jankowski learned in his nine years in five NYC and LA poverty stricken neighborhoods that ghetto schools (to take the extreme of poor education in our society) don't work for the circular reason that students (and teachers!) don't see anything enough remunerative awaiting them in the labor market to make any extra effort.

Talk about a connection between bad education and inequality. As always (with me) it's the labor market, folksies.
* * * * * * * * * *
Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang writes that all this college doesn't make the economy that much more productive -- ergo, for our discussion doesn't make labor that much more in demand, on an absolute scale -- but we have to get it because everybody else gets it and we have to compete in the labor market relatively.

He uses the example of Switzerland -- a presumed example of high productivity -- going from 15% college to 40% in a generation -- but it was already as modern and productive as could be. Germany has 16% college -- but its production line workers are highly trained and retrained and retrained for economic tasks -- while American production lines try to reduce every task to simple and simpler, making workers interchangeable.
* * * * * * * * * *
Sure as the pricking of my thumbs something unraveling inequality this way comes.

Apply RICO and the Hobbs Act to the practice and (in the case of consultants) profession of union-busting -- firing workers who try to carry out the federally prescribed steps to establish collective bargaining with their employer -- and when the prosecutions begin all the busters may head for the hills waiting (how ever many years it takes) for the cases to reach a conclusion in the higher courts. Meantime we can unionize the country right out from under them -- be too late to do anything about no matter how the rulings come down (could work).

Be nice if every firm were a co-operative -- where labor squeezed the consumer as hard as ownership? Combine ACROSS THE BOARD UNIONIZATION -- with -- CENTRALIZED BARGAINING (all similar jobs under one contract with different employers) and you have the equivalent of A NATION OF CO-OPS.

Ask Germany; ask Denmark. Remember, unions are the average persons only political counterweight -- which should make right-to-work legislation allowing free riding employees a serious (devastating) First Amendment infringement on the mass of employees.

Denis Drew said in reply to Denis Drew...

Under "virtual co-ops" the market will clear at a higher price for labor then under what I call our current "two-tier" labor market (unorganized) where labor's price is set relative to other labor instead of consumer preference (bring back the steam looms!).

Actually today's American labor market is NOT clearing because the price of labor is too low to clear: e.g., 100,000 out of (I estimate) 200,000 Chicago gang-age males are in street gangs because the minimum wage (to cite one thing) is $3.50 below LBJ's 1968 $10.75 DOUBLE THE PER CAPITA INCOME LATER!

The proportion out of the labor market may be worse. Somebody pointed me to a Forbes article stating half of Ferguson's African-American males are missing from the census.

"While the problem of missing African American men is especially severe in Ferguson, young black men are absent from most U.S. cities. In the neighboring cities of East St. Louis, IL and St. Louis, about 38% and 24% of African American men age 25 to 34 are absent from their communities, respectively. On average, about 18 percent of young African American men are absent from large cities. (This calculation is based on the combined population of 33 cities with the largest African American populations, home to about one quarter of African Americans in the U.S.) In contrast, outside of large cities only about 4% of young black men are absent from their communities. The challenges posed by an absence of black men in Ferguson are problems faced primarily by larger cities."

Actually, there may be a ray of hope in this for the long run solution to Chicago's seemingly permanent drop-dead ghettos. Fix the American labor market as a whole and the men and women who live there may be very flexible about commuting or even emigrating to where the jobs are. Then, they can bring demand back into the neighborhood -- or send money back like foreign immigrants! Gradually, economically healthy neighborhoods can emerge.

WmT said...

Education, as long as it's offered to a population (students) on a competitive basis, is a stimulus to inequality. Those who are more successful in school will be more successful in careers. To offer more education to larger numbers means 1) reducing resources for more capable students to accommodate lesser capable students (those with lower academic standing), or 2) offering greater academic resources to larger numbers of students who are unable to utilize the educational value in subsequent careers.

A major cause of inequality is our competitive academic/career system. The result is a critically important source of innovation, specialized services and advanced standard of living. This is coupled with an unequal sharing of the rewards among a population with diverse capabilities and resources. For equality we must allow entry of all prospective students into all academic subjects without reservation, and hire without regard to academic or on-the-job performance.

DrDick said in reply to WmT...

Which assumes, contrary to the actual evidence, that resources currently go to the most intelligent and talented students rather than to the most wealthy and privileged. It also completely ignores the adverse effects of inequality on children's development.

WmT said in reply to Lafayette...

I agree that the statement is "pure bullshit." Apparently you thought it was a serious statement. I just made it to show how absurd some proposals are.

Sandwichman said...

"...more education would be great news for middle and lower-income Americans, increasing their pay and economic security..."

If it WAS more education, not more pious rhetoric about more education. The real problem with the education panacea is that education means different things to different people.

One of the chief ways that more education could increase pay and economic security is teaching people about the benefits of collective action and the treachery of the oligarchs.

But wait... that isn't education. That's class war and it has no place in the class rooms of our nation.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Sandwichman...

"One of the chief ways that more education could increase pay and economic security is teaching people about the benefits of collective action and the treachery of the oligarchs."

[TOTALLY, Dude!]

Peter K. said in reply to Sandwichman...

Yes we need more political economic history courses.

Lafayette said in reply to Sandwichman...

{One of the chief ways that more education could increase pay and economic security is teaching people about the benefits of collective action and the treachery of the oligarchs}

Dunno about that one. But I hope you are right.

The Bolsheviks were not the most advanced folks on earth. And much of the social movement in France during the 1930s came from the poor and down and out. Ditto the UK, and its miners.

The few outright riots we've had in the US were started by the dirt-poorest.

Certainly, the leaders of these movements were very intelligent people. But the great-push came from further down, who actually died rioting.

What education does is to broaden one's horizon, which means we learn how widespread Income Disparity is in the world. And with any luck how unacceptable it is.

One really needs to think hard to understand why 1Percenters should not exist. Especially in a country where "wining" is paramount, and a goal achieved of which to be very proud indeed. Who would not want to be a 1Percenter?

America's disparity is exceptionally bad. Like China's. But the reasons for both are very, very different. In fact, as China educates itself, it will be facing a near-death situation for the Communist state -- as the people learn about the widespread corruption at the top.

The ultimate revelation is that Income Disparity has no real reason to exist. It is because we allow it to be.

Even the most rudimentary forms of progressive taxation will change it fundamentally. The matter therefore becomes, What do we do with all that revenue?

And the best answer responds to the acute needs - namely a workable and affordable National HealthCare System, and Tertiary Education that is free or nearly free.

Of course, both of those objectives are going to kick a lot of noses out of joint. They will put a real fight, employing all the money necessary to convince us that "We are sufficiently well off as it is. Why change anything?"

That silly argument has worked well with a lot of people ...

anne said in reply to Sandwichman...

If it WAS more education, not more pious rhetoric about more education....

[ Agreed. ]

Peter K. said...

We need more education about the importance of civic duty!

And of the importance of monetary, fiscal and trade policy!
(and labor policy, etc.)

What's the matter with Kansas? They're gullible and dumb.

We need a Keynesian stimulus of economics education. Raise demand, productivity and improve the political economy.

Send John Taylor, Greg Mankiw, Martin Feldstein, Kevin Warsh, Glenn Hubbard, Stephen Moore, Larry Kudlow, and Art Laffer to re-education camp.

If they act up, send them down to remedial class with instructor Matt Young.

Peter K. said in reply to Peter K....

Sandwichman got there before me by 5 minutes.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Peter K....

Yeah, but it counts just the same. I got there in about 1962.

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...

I was in the 7th grade and rebelled against establishment brain washing perpetrated the sychophants.

I just use the PTSD from Viet Nam as an excuse. I was rebellious towards the establishment when I was 4 years old.


To contribute to the "education for everyone" effort, I offer my free MOOC
"How to Step on the Heads of your Peers".

Darryl FKA Ron said in reply to Julio...

Aggressive males served their purpose during the tribal stages of civilization, but their rat race vision of the world is more operant conditioning than nature. Even in battle there are a lot more betas than alphas, and generally betas are more alert and competent. We are not helpless without the aggressive alpha. Defense is stronger than offense.

Civilization is being limited by a vestigial tribal member. We need not drive them out of the clan of man, but we will need to put them in their place.

Julio said in reply to Darryl FKA Ron...

Agree with all your comments.
In addition, "degrees for everyone" as a cure for inequality seems as dumb to me as "everyone step on their neighbors head".

Fred C. Dobbs said...


more & better education
will inevitably lead to
more innovation, better
jobs, improved products,
an expanded GDP; the whole
ball of wax.

If not, we're all screwed.

Ok, in the short run, not so much.


"This is a solution that conservatives, centrists and liberals alike can comfortably get behind. After all, who doesn't favor a stronger educational system?"

I don't think that we can take it for granted that conservatives want a stronger educational system. Nixon advisor Roger Freeman said, "We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That's dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education."

Just because conservatives may want to privatize elementary and secondary education and attack teachers' unions does not mean that they actually want to improve schooling for the poor and minorities, i. e., for the Future Proletarians of America.

Freeman's comment underscores an aspect of better education for all that Summers, et al., ignore: politics. A better educated proletariat is a more politically, socially, and economically aware proletariat, one that is more likely to take political action to improve their lot. As Freeman said, that's dynamite!

Roger Gathmann

It might not directly lead to lesser inequality, but if a large enough portion of the population was endowed with degrees and a downward trending career, it might create some nice lumpen anger that would very soon find the keys to great equality. There are two approaches - top down and bottom up. The education approach is a soft top down approach, whereas the fixing of limits beyond which wealth cannot go, the radical shrinking of the financial sector, the reform of IP law, the rearrangement of corporate law so that every corporate charter had enforceable provisions having to do with social benefits and the rights of stakeholers - oh, I can see a number of weapons that would be easily seized here in fortress america.
Unfortunately, so far, the educated tend towards the right, economically, even if ultimately it isn't in their economic interest. Such is the pull of class, such is the narrative induction into certain class sentiments that is the real effect of the great college and university machine.

dilbert dogbert:

MMMMMM???? Seems like something like what was described in "Red Plenty". How many educated inputs are needed in each endeavor to optimize the output of the economy. Sort of like in the Soviet economy where "more" was better. How did that work out???


I have a theory and a few of cases that support this. Inequality drops if you increase education level (qualifying what education means as you will see; it is not about degrees, it is about critical thinking). And the effect comes from a kind of (personally) unexpected place.

Inequality is the result of abnormal returns for a small group of people (entrepreneurs initially, then their inheritors). In countries with very educated people you don't see much entrepreneurship, not because they don't have entrepreneurial orientation but (and this is theory) they live in a hyper-competitive environment. The entrepreneurial rents disappear almost instantaneously, because similarly educated people (and here is the qualification of education) can imitate a successful business easily. I have seen it, in my country examples, the complain I hear is "if you find a way to make money tomorrow you will have 20 people competing with you doing the same thing." Therefore, it is almost impossible to sustain a superior return over the rest of the population to generate the levels of inequality we currently see. This is no redistribution by taxation (though most of my country examples use some form of it), this is redistribution by competition. If everybody runs at the same speed, the winner is most certain the result of a random draw and nobody will win by much.

And I am not talking about socialist societies, my examples are market economies. So inequality, as I see it, is the result of several structural reasons, one of which is unequal education. BTW, I agree with Fred C. Dobbs.

[Mar 23, 2015] Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.
Notable quotes:
"... easy student loans are a subsidy to colleges, ..."
"... 1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU. ..."
"... Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy. ..."
"... The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget. ..."
"... JUST HAD AN IDEA THAT MIGHT LIMIT THE DAMAGE OF THESE PHONEY ONLINE COLLEGES (pardon shouting, but I think its justified): ..."
"... of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think? ..."
"... Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. ..."
"... Because every event in todays economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles? ..."
Thomas Piketty on a theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!:
Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy in the US: ...the amount of household debt and even more recently of student debt in the U.S. is something that is really troublesome and it reflects the very large rise in tuition in the U.S. a very large inequality in access to education. I think if we really want to promote more equal opportunity and redistribute chances in access to education we should do something about student debt. And it's not possible to have such a large group of the population entering the labor force with such a big debt behind them. This exemplifies a particular problem with inequality in the United States, which is very high inequality and access to higher education. So in other countries in the developed world you don't have such massive student debt because you have more public support to higher education. I think the plan that was proposed earlier this year in 2015 by President Obama to increase public funding to public universities and community college is exactly justified.
This is really the key for higher growth in the future and also for a more equitable growth..., you have the official discourse about meritocracy, equal opportunity and mobility, and then you have the reality. And the gap between the two can be quite troublesome. So this is like you have a problem like this and there's a lot of hypocrisy about meritocracy in every country, not only in the U.S., but there is evidence suggesting that this has become particularly extreme in the United States. ... So this is a situation that is very troublesome and should rank very highly in the policy agenda in the future in the U.S.

DrDick -> Jeff R Carter:

"college is heavily subsidized"

Bwahahahahahahaha! *gasp*

In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.

cm -> to DrDick...

I don't know what Jeff meant, but "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, don't you think? Subsidies don't have to be paid directly to the recipient. The people who are getting the student loans don't get to keep the money (but they do get to keep the debt).

DrDick -> to cm...

No I do not agree. If anything, they are a subsidy to the finance industry (since you cannot default on them). More basically, they do not make college more affordable or accessible (his point).

cm -> to DrDick...

Well, what is a subsidy? Most economic entities don't get to keep the money they receive, but it ends up with somebody else or circulates. If I run a business and somebody sends people with money my way (or pays me by customer served), that looks like a subsidy to me - even though I don't get to keep the money, much of it paid for operational expenses not to forget salaries and other perks.

Just because it is not prearranged and no-strings (?) funding doesn't mean it cannot be a subsidy.

The financial system is involved, and benefits, whenever money is sloshing around.

Pinkybum -> to cm...

I think DrDick has this the right way around. Surely one should think of subsidies as to who the payment is directly helping. Subsidies to students would lower the barrier of entry into college. Subsidies to colleges help colleges hire better professors, offer more classes, reduce the cost of classes etc. Student loans are no subsidy at all except to the finance industry because they cannot be defaulted on and even then some may never be paid back because of bankruptcies.

However, that is always the risk of doing business as a loan provider. It might be interesting to assess the return on student loans compared to other loan instruments.

mrrunangun -> to Jeff R Carter...

The cost of higher education has risen relative to the earning power of the student and/or the student's family unless that family is in the top 10-20% wealth or income groups.

50 years ago it was possible for a lower middle class student to pay all expenses for Northwestern University with his/her own earnings. Tuition was $1500 and room + board c $1000/year. The State of Illinois had a scholarship grant program and all you needed was a 28 or 29 on the ACT to qualify for a grant that paid 80% of that tuition. A male student could make $2000 in a summer construction job, such as were plentiful during those booming 60s. That plus a low wage job waiting tables, night security, work-study etc could cover the remaining tuition and expense burden.

The annual nut now is in excess of $40,000 at NU and not much outside the $40,000-50,000 range at other second tier or elite schools.

The state schools used to produce the bedrock educated upper middle class of business and professional people in most states west of the seaboard. Tuition there 50 years ago was about $1200/year and room and board about $600-800 here in the midwest. Again you could put yourself through college waiting tables part-time. It wasn't easy but it was possible.

No way a kid who doesn't already possess an education can make the tuition and expenses of a private school today. I don't know what the median annual family income was in 1965 but I feel confident that it was well above the annual nut for a private college. Now it's about equal to it.

mrrunangun -> to mrrunangun...

1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU.

anne -> to 400 ppm CO2...

Linking for:

Click on "Share" under the graph that is initially constructed and copy the "Link" that appears:

March 22, 2015

Federal debt, 1966-2014

This allows a reader to understand how the graph was constructed and to work with the graph.


The US spends half the money the entire world spends on war, that is success!

Massive student debt, huge doses poverty, scores of thousands [of annual neglect related] deaths from the wretched health care system etc are not failure!


Poor education is the enemy of meritocracy. Costly, bloated administrations full of non-educators there to pamper and pander to every possible complaint and special interest - that is the enemy of meritocracy.

Convincing kids to simple "follow their dreams" regardless of education cost and career potential is the enemy of meritocracy. Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy.

Manageable student debt is no great enemy of meritocracy.

cm -> to tew...

This misses the point, aside frm the victim blaming. Few people embark on college degrees to "follow their dream", unless the dream is getting admission to the middle class job market.

When I was in elementary/middle school, the admonitions were of the sort "if you are not good in school you will end up sweeping streets" - from a generation who still saw street cleaning as manual labor, in my days it was already mechanized.

I estimate that about 15% or so of every cohort went to high school and then college, most went to a combined vocational/high school track, and some of those then later also went college, often from work.

This was before the big automation and globalization waves, when there were still enough jobs for everybody, and there was no pretense that you needed a fancy title to do standard issue work or as a social signal of some sort.

Richard H. Serlin:

Student loans and college get the bulk of the education inequality attention, and it's not nearly enough attention, but it's so much more. The early years are so crucial, as Nobel economist James Heckman has shown so well. Some children get no schooling or educational/developmental day care until almost age 6, when it should start in the first year, with preschool starting at 3. Others get high quality Montessori, and have had 3 years of it by the time they enter kindergarten, when others have had zero of any kind of education when they enter kindergarten.

Some children spend summers in high quality summer school and educational programs; others spend three months digressing and learning nothing. Some children get SAT prep programs costing thousands, and high end educational afterschool programs; others get nothing after school.

All these things should be available in high quality to any child; it's not 1810 anymore Republicans, the good old days of life expectancy in the 30s and dirt poverty for the vast majority. We need just a little more education in the modern world. But this also makes for hugely unequal opportunity.

Observer -> to Observer...

Data on degree by year ...

Observer -> to Syaloch...

One needs to differentiate between costs (total dollars spent per student credit hour or degree, or whatever the appropriate metric is) and price (what fraction of the cost is allocated to the the end-user student).

Note that the level of state funding impacts price, not cost; that discussion is usually about cost shifting, not cost reduction.

I'd say that the rate of increase in costs is, more or less, independent of the percent of costs borne by the state. You can indeed see this in the increase in private schools, the state funding is small/nil (particularly in schools without material endowments, where actual annual fees (prices) must closely actual match annual costs). Price discounts and federal funding may both complicate this analysis.

I think much more effort should be spent on understanding and controlling costs. As with health care, just saying "spend more money" is probably not the wise or even sustainable path in the long term.

Costs were discussed at some length here a year(?) or so ago. There is at least one fairly comprehensive published analysis of higher education costs drivers. IIRC, their conclusion was that there were a number of drivers - its not just food courts or more administrators. Sorry, don't recall the link.

Syaloch -> to cm...

Actually for my first job out of college at BLS, I basically was hired for my "rounded personality" combined with a general understanding of economic principles, not for any specific job-related skills. I had no prior experience working with Laspeyres price indexes, those skills were acquired through on-the-job training. Similarly in software development there is no degree that can make you a qualified professional developer; the best a degree can do is to show you are somewhat literate in X development language and that you have a good understanding of general software development principles. Most of the specific skills you'll need to be effective will be learned on the job.

The problem is that employers increasingly want to avoid any responsibility for training and mentoring, and to shift this burden onto schools. These institutions respond by jettisoning courses in areas deemed unnecessary for short-term vocational purposes, even though what you learn in many of these courses is probably more valuable and durable in the long run than the skills obtained through job-specific training, which often have a remarkably short shelf-life. (How valuable to you now is all that COBOL training you had back in the day?)

I guess the question then is, is the sole purpose of higher education to provide people with entry-level job skills for some narrowly-defined job description which may not even exist in a decade? A lot of people these days seem to feel that way. But I believe that in the long run it's a recipe for disaster at both the individual and the societal level.

Richard H. Serlin -> to Observer...


The research is just not on you side, as Heckman has shown very well. Early education and development makes a huge difference, and at age 5-7 (kindergarten) children are much better off with more schooling than morning to noon. This is why educated parents who can afford it pay a lot of money for a full day -- with afterschool and weekened programs on top.

Yes, we're more educated than 1810, but I use 1810 because that's the kind of small government, little spending on education (you want your children educated you pay for it.) that the Republican Party would love to return us to if they thought they could get away with it. And we've become little more educated in the last 50 years even though the world has become much more technologically advanced.


January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding as a share of Gross Domestic Product, 2007-2014

January 30, 2015

Student Loans Outstanding, 2007-2014

(Percent change)


As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?

July 25, 2009

Why Markets Can't Cure Healthcare
By Paul Krugman

Judging both from comments on this blog and from some of my mail, a significant number of Americans believe that the answer to our health care problems - indeed, the only answer - is to rely on the free market. Quite a few seem to believe that this view reflects the lessons of economic theory.

Not so. One of the most influential economic papers of the postwar era was Kenneth Arrow's "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Health Care," * which demonstrated - decisively, I and many others believe - that health care can't be marketed like bread or TVs. Let me offer my own version of Arrow's argument.

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don't know when or whether you'll need care - but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor's office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can't be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can't just trust insurance companies either - they're not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers' point of view - they actually refer to it as "medical costs." This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there's a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need - not everyone agrees, but most do - this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it's complicated, and you can't rely on experience or comparison shopping. ("I hear they've got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary's!") That's why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don't trust them - they're profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.

Between those two factors, health care just doesn't work as a standard market story.

All of this doesn't necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful healthcare systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn't work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.


anne -> to anne...

January 30, 2015

College tuition and fees, 1980–2015

(Percentage change)

1980 ( 9.4)
1981 ( 12.4) Reagan
1982 ( 13.4)
1983 ( 10.4)
1984 ( 10.2)

1985 ( 9.1)
1986 ( 8.1)
1987 ( 7.6)
1988 ( 7.6) Bush
1989 ( 7.9)

1990 ( 8.1)
1991 ( 10.2)
1992 ( 10.7) Clinton
1993 ( 9.4)
1994 ( 7.0)

1995 ( 6.0)
1996 ( 5.7)
1997 ( 5.1)
1998 ( 4.2)
1999 ( 4.0)

2000 ( 4.1)
2001 ( 5.1) Bush
2002 ( 6.8)
2003 ( 8.4)
2004 ( 9.5)

2005 ( 7.5)
2006 ( 6.7)
2007 ( 6.2)
2008 ( 6.2)
2009 ( 6.0) Obama

2010 ( 5.2)
2011 ( 5.0)
2012 ( 4.8)
2013 ( 4.2)
2014 ( 3.7)


2015 ( 3.6)

Syaloch -> to anne...

I believe so, as I noted above. The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

anne -> to Syaloch...

Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.

[ Look to the paper by Kenneth Arrow, which I cannot copy, for what is to me a convincing explanation as to the market defeating factors of healthcare. However, I have no proper explanation about education costs and am only speculating or looking for an analogy. ]

anne -> to Syaloch...

The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.

[ Nicely expressed. ]

Peter K. -> to anne...

"As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?"

Yes, exactly. They aren't normal markets. There should be heavy government regulation.

Denis Drew:


Only allow government guaranteed loans (and the accompanying you-can-never-get-out-of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think?

Denis Drew -> to cm...

A big reason we had the real estate bubble was actually the mad Republican relaxation of loan requirements -- relying on the "free market." So, thanks for coming up with a good comparison.

By definition, for the most part, people taking out student loans are shall we say new to the world and more vulnerable to the pirates.
* * * * * * * * * *
[cut and paste from my comment on AB]
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.

According to an article in the Huffington Post At Kaplan University, 'Guerrilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt, Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. Going so far as to falsely pad bills $5000 or so dollars at diploma time - pay up immediately or you will never get your sheepskin; you wasted your time. No gov agency will act.

According to a lovely graph which I wish I could patch in here the Post may actually be currently be kept afloat only by purloined cash from Kaplan:

earnings before corporate overhead

2002 - Kaplan ed, $10 mil; Kaplan test prep, $45 mil: WaPo, $100 mil
2005 - Kaplan ed, $55 mil; Kaplan test prep, $100 mil; WaPo, $105 mil
2009 - Kaplan ed, $255 mil; Kaplan test prep, $5 mil; WaPo negative $175 mil

Wonder if billionaire Bezos will reach out to make Kaplan Ed victims whole. Will he really continue to use Kaplan's pirated money to keep WaPo whole -- if that is what is going on?

Johannes Y O Highness:

"theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!: "

Too damn high
but why?

Because! Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles?

Opportunity cost! The burden of the intelligentsia, the brain work can by carried by robots or humans. Choice of the wealthy? Humans, hands down. Can you see the historical background?

Railroad was the first robot. According to Devon's Paradox, it was overused because of its increment of efficiency. Later, excessive roadbeds were disassembled. Rails were sold as scrap.

The new robots are not heavy lifters. New robots are there to do the work of the brain trust. As first robots replaced lower caste jokers, so shall new robots replace upper caste jokers. Do you see the fear developing inside the huddle of high rollers? Rollers now calling the play?

High rollers plan to educate small time hoods to do the work of the new robots, then kill the new robots before the newbie 'bot discovers how to kill the wealthy, to kill, to replace them forever.

Terrifying fear


Good bit of data on education costs here

This chart shows state spending per student and tuition ...

" overall perhaps the best description of the data is something along the lines of "sometimes state appropriations go up and sometimes they go down, but tuition always goes up." "

[Mar 05, 2015] 'How Higher Education Perpetuates Intergenerational Inequality '

Mar 04, 2015 | Economist's View
Bad news for those who propose education as the solution to inequality:
How Higher Education Perpetuates Intergenerational Inequality, by Tim Taylor: Part of the mythology of US higher education is that it offers a meritocracy, along with a lot of second chances, so that smart and hard-working students of all background have a genuine chance to succeed--no matter their family income. But the data certainly seems to suggest that family income has a lot to do with whether a student will attend college in the first place, and even more to do with whether a student will obtain a four-year college degree.

Margaret Cahalan and Laura Perna provide an overview of the evidence in "2015 Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 45 Year Trend Report," published by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the and University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD). ...

The report offers a range of evidence that the affordability of college is a bigger problem for students from low-income families even after taking financial aid into account. Students from low-income families take out more debt, and are more likely to attend for-profit colleges. Indeed, a general pattern for higher education a whole is that even as the cost of attending has risen, the share of the cost paid by households, rather than by the state or federal government, has been rising. ...

The effects of these patterns on inequality of incomes in the United States are clearcut: higher income families are better able to provide financial and other kinds of support for their children, both as they grow up, and when it comes time to attend college, and when it comes time to find a job after college. In this way, higher education has become a central part part of the process by which high-income families can seek to assure that their children are more likely to have high incomes, too.

This connection is perhaps underappreciated. After all, it's a lot easier for professors and college students to protest high levels of compensation for the top professionals in finance, law, and the corporate world who are in the top 1% of the income distribution, rather than to face the idea that their own institutions of higher education are implicated in perpetuating inequality of incomes across generations. ...

[He also has a long quote from Alan Krueger on this topic.]

pgl said...
"The report offers a range of evidence that the affordability of college is a bigger problem for students from low-income families even after taking financial aid into account."

Which is why governments should be doing more in the way of financial aid.

DrDick said in reply to pgl...

Less loans and more grants, as well as expanding state subsidies back to their pre-1980 levels (about 70% of the cost per student). This comes as no surprise to those of us who have watched the steady erosion of state support for higher ed, shift from grants and scholarships to loans, and the decline in low and middle incomes since the 1970s.

When I was in college, you could support yourself adequately on a part-time minimum wage job, but nowhere close now.

Zinsky said...

"The report offers a range of evidence that the affordability of college is a bigger problem for students from low-income families even after taking financial aid into account." - This also is why advocates of replacing public education with vouchers are so dead wrong. Attending a school of your "choice" entails a lot of other costs besides just tuition - namely, transportation, food, travel time and other cost categories. Wealth gives you choices. Being poor means you have few, if any, choices.

[Feb 01, 2015] Master Teachers

I agree that the exploitation of adjuncts is absolutely scandalous

Crooked Timber

Slanted Answer 01.30.15 at 3:44 pm


The comment about grad students being used for seminar fodder resonated with me. To address your question about whether undergrads would similarly be fodder for master teachers, I think the fact that master teachers would be focusing on teaching (which benefits the student) rather than on research (which benefits the faculty member) make the relationship less "fodder-like".

When I was in grad school, I remember taking some grad seminars where it seemed pretty clear that the course was designed primarily to advance the research interests of the professor teaching the course. The topic of the seminar would be one that the prof was writing on, the papers read would be one's the prof was responding to in his or her research, and the grad students were being used as a sounding board for the prof's ideas and to raise issues to think about with the literature. I often learned a lot from these courses and I agree with you that these settings can be pedagogically valuable, but it did feel more faculty-centered. I take it master teachers would be more student-centered and so these fodder issues wouldn't arise.

Harry - you mention in the post that there would be a different "track" for master teachers? Would that be a track that would start in grad school with students in a single department being filtered into research and teaching tracks? I realize that happens to some degree anyway, but, at least in the dept I was in, all students basically got a "research education" regardless so of the type of job they ended up getting. I think that the proposal is a good one, but I do share the worry about the Upstairs Downstairs issues raised in the post.

Metatone 01.30.15 at 5:47 pm

As an adjunct, I think it's worth noting that the biggest problem with non-teaching staff making the big decisions is that no-one, anywhere, seems to pay for class design.

So every change of class (or institution) tends to involve a large pile of unpaid and unacknowledged design work. This is made all the worse because the older the decision makers, the more they think that class is just about lectures and "you can do it off the cuff with some headings, if you know your stuff." So all the real work of making a good class for modern students (including group activities, new creative assignments that they can't just pay someone else to do, etc.) is just ignored.

Chris Armstrong 01.30.15 at 6:34 pm

Some such move is already happening to a degree in UK academia, where we see more and more teaching-only positions advertised, and where staff judged not to be 'research-active' may be 'encouraged' to move to contracts where they mainly teach (and therefore teach a lot *more* than they used to). In the humanities and social sciences there is, I think, quite a bit of resistance to this, but not for the kind of reason Harry discusses.

The fear is not at all, as far as I can tell, that research-active staff will somehow have the rug pulled from under them by these people – I've certainly never heard that argument. Rather, the assumption is that people on teaching-only contracts will be dumped on, asked to teach more than is reasonable, and paid badly for it.

For this reason I think even a lot of research-active staff, who would never be in this position, just worry that it's the wrong thing to do (even though in principle it might free them up to do more research) – there's a feeling of solidarity against it. You'll also find plenty of people willing to make the argument that, intellectually speaking, teaching works best when it feeds off research, so that good researchers *can* make good teachers, and teaching can even stimulate research – whereas asking people to teach who have little or no connection with research is less than ideal.

Harry's proposals 2) and 4) would definitely mitigate the dumped-on point, but I suspect that there would still be grumbling that a division between teachers and researchers was unhealthy, both for staff and for students.

harry b 01.30.15 at 7:00 pm

Chris - the big difference between the US and the UK is the REF (or whatever they like to call it), which is, effectively, a large research grant for people in the humanities and social sciences. So researchers (collectively) attract revenues by virtue of their research. There's no equivalent for the humanities and social sciences in the US - basically, in the humanities, for the vast majority of (successful) researchers their research is entirely subsidized by the teaching that goes on in their department.

I'm very skeptical of the argument that teaching works best when it feeds off research. Yes, the two can inform one another wonderfully. In my case, my teaching has really benefited my research (I'm not so sure the reverse is true though). But teaching involves very complicated skills that take a great deal of attention and practice to develop, master, and keep up (just as research does), and time devoted to that is more likely to bear fruit in the quality of instruction than time devoted to research.

There are many other professions in which different people within single units specialize in different skills.

CSC – -I don't have a good answer to that, but what you say sounds plausible. Well, I do have an elaborate plan for improving instruction but this isn't the place for it, I'll try to follow up (but not soon!).

mdc - I don't have any principled reason for thinking this should be a separate track; just practically that seems the best path. If my institution said that it was going to take teaching much more seriously in its tenure decisions, and really meant it, tenure track faculty would have lots of reason not to believe it (because the institution could say that, and mean it, but still it would be tenured faculty making the decisions, and it is very hard to enforce new criteria), and, anyway, they would know that if they wanted to move, other institutions would make research the sole basis of hiring/tenure. Having a separate track would help solve that problem.
Why aren't TT faculty more interested in teaching? Loads of reasons. Here are 3.
i) Great teaching is rewarded less than mediocre research, merely good teaching isn't rewarded at all
ii) quality is hard to observe, so employers focus on the much easier-to-observe quality of research
iii) teaching is not set up well to be rewarding. Eg, teaching 180 students in a lecture hall twice a week, its hard to get to know many of the students, whereas knowing people is what makes teaching rewarding; even in small classes you see a student for 16 weeks, not long enough to really see substantial development (part of the reward of teaching is seeing the student improve); teaching is specialized along the lines of research, so we teach only a few classes, so have relatively few repeat students; students are typically around for only a couple of years (when they are really focusing on their major); we're not trained to teach, and have no ongoing professional development, so we're not very good at it (doing things you are not very good at and are not improving at is not very rewarding - by contrast we are highly trained researchers, and masses of resources are devoted to our professional development in that, so we're quite good at it); we're hired as researchers not teachers…. etc.

I don't know why parents put up with it. (I say that as a parent whose kid, a freshman, is getting a staggeringly good intellectual experience right now at a large flagship public university, just in case any of her teachers are reading, so I have no complaints personally!)

Metatone @8 - great point!

Matt Karush 01.30.15 at 9:06 pm

As a history professor and a parent, I oppose your proposal. I think Margaret Atherton's point is on target. Given that we in the humanities have no outside source of research funding, we can't afford to give up our role as teachers. Once we do, administrations will have no need for us.

What needs defending is first, the value of humanities research and second, the value of a college education provided by research faculty. You say you're skeptical of the idea that the best teaching feeds off research, but your reasons are unconvincing. Based on my experience peer-reviewing my colleagues' teaching, I can tell you that my department is full of research faculty who are excellent teachers. And their excellence seems to me to be deeply connected to their research activity: they know the scholarship at a deep level, and they're able to teach students at that level. Their research activity doesn't make them distracted or narrowly focused. On the contrary, their scholarly success depends upon their ability to make their research findings speak to broad questions. In the classroom, they tackle those broad questions in a way that enables students to participate in the intellectual project of history.

The case of Spanish is important but not particularly relevant to other humanities departments (except perhaps composition classes in some English departments). There is a tremendous disconnect between the research activity of a Spanish literature professor and what goes on in a lower-level Spanish language course; analyzing fiction probably does not make you a better teacher of grammar. But nothing remotely like that disconnect exists in history classes – not even in 100-level, introductory courses. Even there, the expertise and scholarly engagement of research faculty provides significant value.

As a parent, I very much hope that when my children are ready for college, they get to have the experience of being taught by faculty who are actively engaged in research.

Z 01.30.15 at 11:43 pm

I happen to be strongly against the proposal (largely for the same reasons as Matt Karush, once researchers abandon teaching, universities will abandon all but the absolute star researchers) but will concentrate on your prediction about the science department being naturally more in favor. This seems unclear to me. The thing is, master teachers and research teachers alike will teach for 30 to 40 years and some of their students will in turn become high-school and junior high-school teachers teaching for an additional 30 to 40 years. So some high-school kids will lear science from someone who was exposed to the research science of 60 to 80 years ago. That doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

As an aside, I will note that France has a dual higher-education system in which the best high-school students generally opt for two years of intensive preparation teaching given by master teachers with a typically very high level but no research activity. The system is highly effective within its stated objectives.

Matt Karush 01.31.15 at 1:19 pm

I guess I'm a bit confused about what problem we're trying to solve. I agree that the exploitation of adjuncts is absolutely scandalous, but I'm not sure how the master teacher proposal addresses it. Why would administrations simply turn under-paid adjuncts into well-paid master teachers? I had thought you, Harry, were saying that we need master teachers because research faculty are poor teachers. In your response to me, you say that there should be some systematic professional development around undergrad instruction. That seems like a much more modest proposal.

"Master teachers" implies taking a step toward separating teaching from research. That's what I was objecting to.

How do I know my colleagues' teaching is excellent? I read their syllabi and assignments, I observe them in the classroom, and I look at student evaluations. It might not be a perfect system for assessing student learning, but it's not nothing. Presumably, it's similar to how you know your kid's professors are so good. (Incidentally, your kid's experience as a freshman sounds like it supports my point!)

In the current context, it's absolutely crucial to defend the value of research faculty in the classroom. The master teacher idea cedes too much to the opponents of the humanities.

Main Street Muse 01.31.15 at 1:41 pm

"TT faculty are responsible for a relatively small proportion of the revenues to the department, so have reason to be threatened by the establishment of an alternative (rival?) track that triggers a large percentage of the revenue…"

Please seriously consider what you are saying here – you are taking for granted that parents must subsidize the research of TT faculty (to the tune of $55K a year) – and in return, those higher valued TT faculty will probably never, ever teach their child at the undergraduate level. This is an unsustainable funding model for research – and one of the reasons why higher ed is so troubled today.

AB 01.31.15 at 3:26 pm

During my undergraduate degree in the UK I was taught in roughly equal measure by tenured research faculty (some very senior), teaching fellows, graduate students and postdocs. The mix was important.
Why do US universities, with the world's most expensive undergraduate degrees, value undergraduate teaching so little?

Jeremy Fox 01.31.15 at 3:35 pm

University of Calgary ecologist here. Similar to @13, UCalgary has what are called "instructors"–faculty with no research or scholarship duties, and who teach heavier loads (about double the load) of "professors" (faculty with research/scholarship duties).

The salary scale is a bit different for instructors, but in other respects (tenure, promotion, etc.) the two "streams" (as Calgary calls them) are alike. It works very well in my department (Biological Sciences). The instructors and professors respect and value each other as equals; we're all professionals, we just have different duties. Several of the instructors and professors work together to offer pedagogical workshops, which is raising the quality of teaching across the entire department. Instructors don't just teach large introductory courses; they also teach smaller upper-level courses in their areas of expertise (though not graduate courses)…I could go on and on, it just works really well, I think it's a great model, at least for science departments.

I don't know what instructor numbers are like in other departments, particularly humanities. Can only say I've never heard of any serious problems at Calgary (where "serious" means "serious enough for the faculty union (of which all profs and instructors are members) to raise it publicly").

rather B anonymous 01.31.15 at 10:55 pm

In my college, tuition accounts for about 25% of the revenue, but financial aid accounts for about 13% of the costs: essentially, it's a massive redistribution system from the children of the wealthy to the children of the merely middle class and, occasionally, the few children of the working class or poor. The upshot, though, is that the net revenue from tuition isn't as big of a chunk of the inflow as many people think.

Although it's rarely acknowledged (particularly by the humanists), the social scientists in the college support the humanists by (a) bringing in far more grants and IDC money on those grants; and (b) teaching far more undergraduate students per FTE (here, pretty much all tenure-line teaching by research faculty), which in turn allows the size of the incoming cohorts to be what they are. Incidentally, at my university, sociologists bring in the most grant money per FTE, followed quite distantly by economics, political science, and psychology (neuro psych is with the "hard" sciences); anthropology and the other interpretive social sciences are down with the humanities at about 1/10th the grant money per FTE as the average FTE in the non-interpretive social sciences.

What about the scientists, you ask? Yes, the scientists bring in much larger grants per FTE than the social scientists, they constantly have grants, and there are far more scientists running about the college and the campus. But scientists also cost much, much more to sustain: $1M startup packages for new assistant professors are common, and scientists need new buildings and lab space and equipment on a fairly short cycle in order to attract scholars who will then get the research grants to fill the buildings and the lab space and use the equipment. According to our (scientist) dean, the IDCs on the average science grant don't cover the costs of that grant. The IDC's on social science and humanities grants, by contrast, are pretty close to a "free" revenue stream for universities, beyond the initial investment in grant administration.

Given this, it's hard to see a sustainable financial model in which the university hires more non-research teaching faculty (or upgrades its adjuncts) at higher pay and with the perks of sabbatical etc AND doesn't also drastically shrink or eliminate its research faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. Financially, the smart thing to do would be to move some of those research lines in the humanities to the high-grant fields and subfields within the social sciences, but politically it's hard to see this happening. Ever.

[Jan 25, 2015] Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn't in their interests by Chrystia Freeland

University admissions should be based on talent, not money. this is what is wrong with the US university system: it is too rich kids friendly. Top 20% from lower middle class and below often just can't afford the education and their place is taken by kids who will never be good specialist in chosen field. Traditionally the USA compensated this by immigration, but this flow of talent became more and more problematic those days as conditions for immigrants engineers in the USA deteriorated and in many areas jobs for graduates disappeared.
Jan 25, 2015 | The Guardian

As the smartest of the super-rich now understand, income inequality must be addressed before it tears societies apart.

Not so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world's foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. "I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank's board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title," Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.

These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler's invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America's super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party!

Just three years later, inequality hasn't merely become a subject fit for polite company, it has become de rigueur. It was a central preoccupation at a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Mansion House and Guildhall last May. The event was organised by Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the opening speaker was Prince Charles. And at Davos, income inequality has gone from taboo to top of the agenda.

There's a good reason for this pivot. Rising inequality is becoming so pronounced it is impossible to ignore. The latest jaw-dropping statistic is Oxfam's calculation that by next year, the top 1% will own more of the world's wealth than the bottom 99%. What is less apparent is how those of us who have been worried about income inequality for a long time should respond to the embrace of this issue by the plutocrats themselves.

It is easy to be sceptical. But we should welcome the plutocratic critique of plutocracy. Here's why. Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won't bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world's largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.

The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn't just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them. Until now, these winners in our winner-take-all economy have backed a set of political measures – weaker unions, deregulation, lower taxes – which have exacerbated the distributional impact of the new economy.

As even Davos Man has realised, that is not sustainable. The weak economic growth that much of the western industrialised world is currently experiencing suggests that an economic system that hollows out the middle class will struggle to grow. And the vicious political polarisation should make us worry that an economy that produces cheap goods but even cheaper jobs will ultimately erode mass democracy.

Some think a violent confrontation between the new economy's winners and losers is inevitable. As Nick Hanauer, an American technology billionaire, warned last year: "If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us." He's right. After all, the last time we negotiated a comparable political and economic transition – the Industrial Revolution – it took economic depression, two world wars and communist revolutions in Russia and China before we were able to establish a new, economically and politically sustainable status quo.

That is a very high cost indeed. Which is why the smartest plutocrats understand it is in their best interest to work to build a 21st-century version of inclusive capitalism. For our own sakes, we should give them a chance to join the rest of us in figuring that out.

Chrystia Freeland, ex-deputy editor of the FT, is a Liberal MP in the Canadian parliament and author of Plutocrats (2012)

Scott Goddard 25 Jan 2015 10:47

To justify (or, that is, try and justify) inequality as being a natural denouement of respective skills and qualifications with correspondingly appropriate and reflective employment is categorically flawed. It ignores and discounts the inequality of education, that is to say, the ability of a small coterie of millionaires to send their children to the crème de la crème schools and educational centers.

I wrote a blog distilling the vast subject area of inequality (more specifically income inequality), about the phenomenon's historical backdrop of income inequality, its culture, causes, implications, and solutions.

To read the entire blog, it can be found here:

TonyB33 25 Jan 2015 10:03

I have a number of issues

Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century.

Actually world income inequality is falling, however it is rising within the west

This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services

i.e. World income inequality is falling and world living standards are rising.

"The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them"

With collapsing steel prices your first point is moot, and with a requirement of $0.5 USD to get into the 1% your second point is positively wrong.

Which is why the smartest plutocrats understand it is in their best interest to work to build a 21st-century version of inclusive capitalism.

The key problem here is the fact that the richest Billion people on the planet earn on average $1,000 a week the other 6 billion an average of $13.50 a week. With free trade, instant cheap communications, and a collapse in the cost of transporting goods how is it possible to keep expensive western labour in work.

With overseas Labour 98% cheaper and with six times as many workers, it is going to be impossible to bring these people up to western living standards simply because of the limitations on food and energy.e.g. The USA alone with 330 million people use 25% of annual oil production. If the other 6.7bn people on the planet used as much oil then oil production would have to increase by 2,000% It simply is not going to happen

What is going to happen is that living standards for some overseas entrepreneurs will rise and that living standards for most workers in the west will have to fall and that is exactly what is happening.

LeifKnutsen 25 Jan 2015 09:53

Capitalism, unrestrained by the requirements of Planetary life support systems, is guaranteed mutually assured destruction. Socially enabled capitalism is clearly a failed paradigm. Help end tax funded pollution of the commons for starters. Surely that can be non-partisen, you think? I would have no problem with "capitalism" if in fact it worked for the well being of the planet first and foremost. If folks got rich proportional to the amount of "good" they did and not because of the ammount of carnage, it would be a different ball game.

The question then becomes how do we get there. To that end I suggest a new international "Gold Standard" the "Green BTU Standard." Along with that of course is a level playing field where black BTUs are priced according to their negative planetary impact. Distributed Green Energy then becomes a cash cow in the hands of the masses. Distributed green energy becomes a cash cow in the hands of all. The more the masses improve the better the standing of the nation's financial standing. Export Green Energy, all the better. Soon all social services are cash on the barrel head. No deficits, no taxes. With no wars, the value of the BTUs go up. A healthy population, the same, as there is more GREEN energy to export in kind or value added.

A cooperative green economy where all profits are distributed to the people and all planetary disruption is paid for by the carnage perpetrators. The total reverse of what is currently in vogue.

When a few hundred supper rich can control more wealth than the bottom 90+%, something is seriously wrong. The planet is responding even if the people & rich are not.

Jones Murphy 25 Jan 2015 09:23

This was always true. Our economy was segregated by racists in order to undermine Civil Rights. It was not segregated by some unified 1%. That simply does not exist. Wealthy liberals face tenacious opposition from massively larger numbers of poor racists.

Jason Tan 25 Jan 2015 09:20

The thing I hate most about the 1% owing 99% statistic is that even thought every one can quote it, we're collectively too apathetic to do anything about it.

In this day and age where we're most of us are educated enough to get what it means and to understand that it is a fundamental injustice, like 8 year olds working in coal mines (and I imagine that practise will be making a comeback) or transporting someone for stealing bread for their children (3 strikes and you're in jail for life) we still sit back and accept it.

The rich must be pissing themselves laughing.
The most docile animals in the world, unless mobilised by it's master where upon they'll kill their own kind and exterminate to extinction any other, or even their own planet if it pleases their master?

I hate to say it - us.

pookamacphellimey 25 Jan 2015 09:05

Naive article. Like the powerful ever gave up their power without being forced to. Bring me my pitchfork!

SillyPolly 25 Jan 2015 08:52

"They?" I don't think there is any collective identity for the hyper rich at all. Most of them are so individualistic as to be unfriendable (if there is such an adjective) and are, almost to a man, (most of them are men) friendless. They certainly have no sense of being in association or fellowship.
As some on here have pointed out, it is almost impossible to prevent those with the most going on to acquire more.

This is the purpose of death duties but the rich manage to avoid these almost entirely, establishing dynasties in the process that simply must get richer and richer.

I believe I read that something like 5 families owned the whole of Spain at the height of its empire and that a similar ratio applies to modern day Brazil but I could be wrong.

An alternative is for those countries that are de facto safe havens and still pleasant places to live, like London, Paris, New York and so on, to charge absolutely enormous fees for residence. And I'm talking 5% per annum or the like.

The very rich would then have a choice; live in a shithole where some drugged up dictator might kill you and your family at any minute, or live amongst the civilised in relative safety.

Throw More Money at Education

Economist's View

This was retweeted a surprising number of times:

Throw More Money at Education, by Noah Smith: It's become almost conventional wisdom that throwing more money at public education doesn't produce results. But what if conventional wisdom is wrong?
A new paper from economists C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson and Claudia Persico suggests ... that spending works. Specifically, they find that a 10 percent increase in spending, on average, leads children to complete 0.27 more years of school, to make wages that are 7.25 percent higher and to have a substantially reduced chance of falling into poverty. These are long-term, durable results. Conclusion: throwing money at the problem works.
Here's the hitch: The authors find that the benefits of increased spending are much stronger for poor kids than for wealthier ones.

So if you, like me, are in the upper portion of the U.S. income distribution, you may be reading this and thinking: "Why should I be paying more for some poor kid to be educated?" After all, why should one person pay the cost while another reaps the benefits?

Well, let me try to answer that. There are several good reasons. ...

cm -> to gordon...

As meaningless or meaningful as "'we' have to make sacrifices".

And the benefit of education doesn't even go (exclusively) to the "other" person.

I suspect this comes down to the concept of the "two thirds society". Not least because of automation and productivity increase, there is a realization that conceptually, "two thirds" of the population are sufficient to carry the economy and do all the essential things, and expending resources on the remaining third beyond what is needed to retain a degree of social peace is a deadweight loss,

Because it doesn't lead to additional benefit for the elites, whose benefit basically tops out when there is a sufficiently large economy with economies of scale enabling a sustained technology base that can continue to deliver advances, and a consumer sector undergirding top of the line products and services (the top of the pyramid requires a broad base).

Compare early industrial times when then top of the line (modern) products were custom (to the point of haphazardly designed) and of correspondingly widely varying material quality and workmanship.

[Jan 12, 2015] Sleep Impacts Academic Performance in Children

Jan 12, 2015 | Farsnews
A good night's sleep is linked to better performance by schoolchildren in math and languages -- subjects that are powerful predictors of later learning and academic success, according to a study.

The researchers reported that "sleep efficiency" is associated with higher academic performance in those key subjects. Sleep efficiency is a gauge of sleep quality that compares the amount of actual sleep time with the total time spent in bed.

In findings published recently in the journal Sleep Medicine, the researchers reported that "sleep efficiency" is associated with higher academic performance in those key subjects. Sleep efficiency is a gauge of sleep quality that compares the amount of actual sleep time with the total time spent in bed.

While other studies have pointed to links between sleep and general academic performance, the Montreal scientists examined the impact of sleep quality on report-card grades in specific subjects. The upshot: with greater sleep efficiency, the children did better in math and languages -- but grades in science and art weren't affected.

"We believe that executive functions (the mental skills involved in planning, paying attention, and multitasking, for example) underlie the impact of sleep on academic performance, and these skills are more critical in math and languages than in other subjects," says Reut Gruber, a clinical child psychologist who led the study. Low academic achievement in children is a common and serious problem that affects 10-20 % of the population. "Short or poor sleep is a significant risk factor for poor academic performance that is frequently ignored," says Gruber, who is a researcher at the Douglas Institute and professor in McGill's Department of Psychiatry.

Gruber's research team, in collaboration with the Riverside School Board in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, studied 75 healthy children between 7 and 11 years of age. The children's nighttime sleep was monitored by actigraphy, which uses a wristwatch-like device to evaluate sleep by measuring movements. "We averaged the data over five nights to build the children's habitual sleep patterns and correlated the data with their report-card grades," Gruber says.

The takeaway for parents

The findings underscore the importance of identifying sleep issues that may otherwise go unnoticed, Gruber says. That doesn't mean parents need to rush out and have their kids tested at sleep clinics -- but it does point to a need for pediatricians to incorporate questions about sleep into routine checkups, she adds.

"I think many kids might have some sleep issues that nobody is aware of," she says. "And if the pediatrician doesn't ask about it, we don't know that it's there. Regular screening for possible sleep issues is particularly important for students who exhibit difficulties in math, languages or reading."

[Jan 12, 2015] Obama's free community college plan has $60 billion price tag

Is this an attempt to remove unemployed youth from the streets?
Jan 12, 2015 | RT USA

President Barack Obama proposed offering two years of community college free of charge to Americans "willing to work for it," and the White House announced Friday the plan would cost $60 billion over 10 years.

According to White House spokesman Ed Schultz, states involved in the program would contribute $20 billion, while the federal government provides the rest.

The initiative, which President Obama officially announced on Friday at a Tennessee community college, is said to be aimed at addressing growing income inequality. The White House says by 2020 it is estimated that 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree, and 30 percent will require an associate's degree.

"Community college should be free for those willing to work for it because, in America, a quality education should not be a privilege that is reserved for a few," Obama said in a speech at Pellissippi State Community College. He said a high school diploma is no longer enough for American workers to compete in the global economy and that a college degree is "the surest ticket to the middle class."

Forty percent of college students are enrolled at one of America's more than 1,100 community colleges, which offer affordable tuition, open admissions policies and convenient locations – and the courses are suitable for students who are older, working, in need of remedial classes or can only take classes part-time.

Obama plans to push the proposal during his State of the Union address on January 20, and will be seeking a Republican Congress to support his $60 billion idea.

The White House estimated that 9 million students could eventually participate and save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year if they attend full-time. Students would qualify if they attend at least halftime, maintain a 2.5 grade point average and make progress toward completing a degree or certificate program. Participating schools would have to meet certain academic requirements.

Tuition and fees at community college averaged $3,347 in the 2014-2015 school year, compared to $9,139 at public, four-year universities, and $31,231 at private colleges, according to The New York Times.

The federal government, however, already spends lots of money on student aid, according to National Public Radio – $47 billion on grants a year, $101 billion in loans (which are repaid), and another $20 billion in tax credits. When including state, federal and private money going to defray the cost of tuition – separate from state appropriations going directly to institutions – some $247 billion is spent per year.

Obama's plan would alleviate the financial burden on many who could now choose to attend community colleges for their first two years, but it does little to address the skyrocketing cost of tuition at four-year universities, where many community college students transfer after one or two years.

Federal Pell Grants for low-income students used to cover much or all of their costs at four-year universities, but now they cover just 34 percent of tuition, fees, and room-and-board – and states have been making reductions to their support for higher education since 2008. In Michigan, state financial aid plummeted by $135 million, or over 60 percent. In Iowa, spending on public universities dropped by 20 percent, or $141 million.

Still, the administration's proposal would help some 63 percent of those students who don't qualify for a Pell grant, said David Bergeron, the vice president at the Center for American Progress, and that is crucial for many Americans.

"Eliminating this barrier will ensure that more students go to college," Bergeron told The Times. "This sends a very simple message to everyone who graduates from high school. They can go to college for free."


great lets drive down the value of the degree by making it free. More competition for a high paying job means the employers have to pay less for the same work, and will surely create more jobs as the rich will have larger profit margins. That's how it works right?

Durandus von Meissen

If this is something that this President REALLY wanted to accomplish, he could/would have done it when his Party had control of the House and Senate. NOW he proposes such a measure when this is only guaranteed that it will NOT be implemented. He's fishing for Loyalty among a voting block, because former Democrats have abandoned the Party, and this broken political institution needs new recruits to fill the trenches. A fool's hope.

Max Super

With a good education behind you, there are plenty of good jobs available all across Asia. That is, if these American graduates choose to relocate and be an ex-pat. If not, McDonald's and WAL*MART in the USA are always hiring. But first, Obombya needs to take out the Tin Cup and knock on China's Door for money for his scheme.


Well it's better than wasting it on bombs and war. As is just about anything. These things are free if you need it here and cheap if you do have to pay. Our government already does this basically and uni is free up front and payed back through tax later. US system is not good for the poor who often have much smarter kids than the rich. Just look at the Politicians over there.

[Jan 02, 2015] Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere by Robert Reich

"...Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college "premium" keeps rising.... But here's the qualification, and it's a big one. A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter's wages are dropping.In fact, it's likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they're overqualified. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don't require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)
"...Second, advanced software is taking over many tasks that had been done by well-educated professionals – including data analysis, accounting, legal and engineering work, even some medical diagnoses. As a result, the demand for well-educated workers in the United States seems to have peaked around 2000 and fallen since. But the supply of well-educated workers has continued to grow."
"...Some young college graduates will make it into the top 1 percent. But that route is narrower than ever. The on-ramp often requires the right connections (especially parents well inside the top 1 percent). And the off-ramps basically go in only three directions: Wall Street, corporate consulting, and Silicon Valley."
November 24, 2014 | Robert Reich

Why College Is Necessary But Gets You Nowhere

Monday, November 24, 2014

This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.

The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I'll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it's worth going to college.

Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college "premium" keeps rising.

Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.

In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.

So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.

But here's the qualification, and it's a big one. A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter's wages are dropping.

In fact, it's likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they're overqualified.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don't require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)

Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.

As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.

What's going on? For years we've been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)

This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.

First, millions of people in developing nations are now far better educated, and the Internet has given them an easy way to sell their skills in advanced economies like the United States. Hence, more and more complex work is being outsourced to them.

Second, advanced software is taking over many tasks that had been done by well-educated professionals – including data analysis, accounting, legal and engineering work, even some medical diagnoses.

As a result, the demand for well-educated workers in the United States seems to have peaked around 2000 and fallen since. But the supply of well-educated workers has continued to grow.

What happens when demand drops and supply increases? You guessed it. This is why the incomes of young people who graduated college after 2000 have barely risen.

Those just within the top ten percent of college graduate earnings have seen their incomes increase by only 4.4 percent since 2000.

When it comes to beginning their careers, it's even worse. The starting wages of college graduates have actually dropped since 2000. The starting wage of women grads has dropped 8.1 percent, and for men, 6.7 percent.

I hear it all the time from my former students. The New York Times calls them "Generation Limbo" - well-educated young adults "whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects." A record number are living at home.

The deeper problem is this. While a college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class, the middle class is in lousy shape. Its share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the very top continues to grow.

Given all this, a college degree is worth the cost because it at least enables a young person to tread water. Without the degree, young people can easily drown.

Some young college graduates will make it into the top 1 percent. But that route is narrower than ever. The on-ramp often requires the right connections (especially parents well inside the top 1 percent). And the off-ramps basically go in only three directions: Wall Street, corporate consulting, and Silicon Valley.

Don't get me wrong. I don't believe the main reason to go to college – or to choose one career over another - should be to make lots of money.

Hopefully, a college education gives young people tools for leading full and purposeful lives, and having meaningful careers.

Even if they don't change the world for the better, I want my students to be responsible and engaged citizens.

But when considering a college education in a perilous economy like this, it's also important to know the economics.

[Jan 1, 2015] University Education Skeptic, 2014



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