Devaluation of the College Degree
If you graduated from college in the 70’s or 80’s, get ready to be extra proud of that degree. The next generation of college graduates will also be receiving degrees. But many of them won’t be worth much compared to yours. I will explain.I have focused this week on the poor return on investment received from higher education in the U.S. and the roles that government and the educational establishment have played in getting us to the sad state of current affairs. I’ve discovered that the news from the White House on future plans for higher education is even worse than I thought.
First, President Obama wants to get private lenders out of the government subsidized student loan business. I actually am in favor of that because there is way too much student borrowing going on. The President has also decided to take funds used for loan subsidies and put them in the Pell Grant program. That doesn’t sound too bad except for this: He wants to make Pell Grants an entitlement program, just like Social Security and Medicare. My hopes have been dashed on the rocks of intrusive, misguided government.
Here is the educational policy statement from the White House web site:
In addition to increasing the maximum Pell award to $5,550 for the 2010-11 school year, the President’s budget makes the program’s funding more transparent by converting the program from a discretionary to a mandatory program. This would end the unreliable practice of “backfilling” billions of dollars in Pell shortfalls each year and provide certainty to families about the level of Pell Grant funding available each year.
I highlighted the really bad part. Taxpayers (those of us who remain after all of the refundable tax credits are handed out) will now be force feeding Pell Grants to a gazillion students so that Obama can pursue his dream of returning the U.S. to a position where we have the highest percentage of college grads. That means that even more mail carriers, restaurant servers, and retail clerks will have degrees. Awesome.
Here is the second – and probably worst part of the Obama initiative. He is not going to rely on having more federally funded students in college to increase the number of actual college graduates. Nope – he wants an initiative to increase graduation rates:
State and local governments provide the bulk of the operating funds for the public colleges attended by 76 percent of undergraduate students, but there is little national focus on increasing college completion. The budget would include a five-year $2.5 billion fund aimed at improving college success and completion, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. States would have considerable flexibility in the types of programs that can be funded, but new programs must include a rigorous research component. This effort will expand the knowledge base about what works in increasing college enrollment and graduation and disseminate these best practices. States would be able to use a portion of the funds to continue college outreach and information activities now supported through subsidies in the guaranteed (FFEL) loan program.
Do you see what is happening? Increase success rates for “students from disadvantaged backgrounds”? (Isn’t that educrat-speak for “dummies and slackers?”) We are already doing that in high school through social promotion and lowered standards. Ask any public university and they will tell you that millions of students arrive lacking basic skills needed for college work, such as the ability to write a coherent sentence in English other than text-message slang.
So now we are going to use federal funds (and the threat of withdrawal of same) to push colleges to increase their graduation rates. What does that mean? Many in the next generation of college graduates will come out with a degree that is meaningless. The “best practices” adopted by some colleges will be “graduate everyone” because that clears the path for them to stay on the Pell Grant tuition gravy train.
So hang on to that old school diploma and display it proudly. I predict that it won’t take long for employers to learn that many of the new Obama plan diplomas are comparatively low in value. If we are lucky, these students may learn what they should have been taught in high school.
I still like my Five Minute University proposal.
Image credit: valobstruction