“College is where liberal professors teach ‘ridiculous’ classes and indoctrinate students who hang out and protest all day long and cry on our dime. They’ve become elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market” (Washington Post, 2017).

Wow! That’s quite an indictment of American colleges and universities. But, is it accurate? Let’s break it down:

Claim #1: They are elitist. It’s starting to look that way. Due to rising costs, fewer and fewer students have access to higher education. One year at a private institution can run as high as $59,000, while tuition at a public school can cost upwards of $25,000 per year. Shockingly, tuition has outpaced inflation every year for the past decade! Sadly, student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt.

How did this happen? In part…misplaced priorities. A quick search of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board revealed that the four highest paid employees at the University of South Carolina are members of the athletic department. Not only that, their salaries are outrageous!

  • Athletics Coach #1 $1,100,000
  • Athletics Coach #2 $650,000
  • Athletics Director $537,187
  • Athletics Coach #3 $475,000

All four of these individuals make more than the university president ($325,031) and the provost ($400,400). Get this…the chairman of the federal reserve – the guy who oversees the entire US banking system – “only” makes $201,700.

Claim #2: Colleges fail to provide practical skills for the job market. Here’s a bit of anecdotal evidence. My husband and I were having dinner one night at a fancy restaurant in downtown Charleston (as an aside, we only do this during Restaurant Week, when it’s a bit more affordable). While chatting with our waiter, he mentioned that he was a recent college graduate, a business major. Apparently, he earned more money waiting tables than working at an entry-level position in his field.

As I have written before, one of my heroes is Mike Rowe, who tirelessly advocates for vocational education. Our over-emphasis on 4-year colleges, Rowe says, has resulted in graduates who are saddled with high debt and left without an in-demand skill set. Meanwhile, millions of jobs sit vacant, 75% of which don’t require a 4-year degree.

Claim 3: Universities offer “ridiculous” courses and nurture entitled students who protest and “cry.” In an earlier blog post, I wrote about this very thing. It seems that the trend in higher education is to value student satisfaction over actual learning. Unfortunately, this philosophy creates an insular environment populated with students who are resistant to ideas that run counter to their own belief system. We then churn out adults who have no clue how to think critically or engage in healthy debate.

Further, in their quest to become more appealing and boost revenue (by catering to students’ desires rather than their needs), universities have come up with all kinds of “ridiculous” courses. Sure, they sound cool and hip, but as Mike Rowe would ask, “Are they practical?” “Will they help you secure employment and succeed in the workplace?” Probably not.

Here are some of the coolest most ridiculous courses I found – offered at perfectly respectable schools! (Is it too late to change my major?)

Wasting Time on the Internet”  The University of Pennsylvania

The Sociology of Miley Cyrus”  Skidmore College

On Being Bored”  Brown University

Tree Climbing”  Cornell University

Tattoos, Piercing, and Body Adornment”  Pitzer College

Kanye Versus Everbody! [sic]  Georgia State University

The American Vacation”  University of Iowa

So, there you have it, folks….Claim #3 confirmed!

Until next time…

Written by : drallisonbrown

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12 Comments

  1. Molly Stevens January 29, 2018 at 5:23 am - Reply

    This is so true! The parents of these students are also a force to be reckoned with, demanding their children get into prestigious schools. These are parents who are still carrying their own student loan debt so you’d think they would want something better for their own children. And the thought of them learning a trade that would provide a solid income and job security makes them go into heart palpitations! Once someone is saddled with debt they then want the debts ‘forgiven’ because who wants to start out their life owing so much money you can’t buy a nice car and a house when you want them? So inconvenient to have to ‘pay the piper’ but if they have to do so they are stuck in jobs they hate just for the money, verifying the Biblical truth that the borrower is slave to the lender.

    • drallisonbrown January 29, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

      Molly, you hit the nail on the head! We talk about the student loan and debt crisis, but there are inexpensive ways to get a valuable, useful education. Currently, both of my children are going to the local community college for free! In South Carolina, students can go free for two years as long as they graduate HS with a 3.0.

      • Molly Stevens January 29, 2018 at 7:33 am - Reply

        Yes, there are many creative ways around the student loan debt crisis, but the government backed loans continue to inflate college tuition making a vicious circle of profit for both the government and colleges. They are not going to be the ones to break the cycle for sure, so it must be the students and parents. Will they wake up? I hope so!

  2. Angela Noel February 4, 2018 at 9:19 am - Reply

    This is an interesting post. For sure, there are challenges with higher education. Not everyone should go to college–or should feel like they have to in order to be valued in society. But everyone, I believe, should have access to training and skill building that enables them to contribute their work and talents in a way that earns them a living.
    Student debt is terrible. Much like healthcare, the costs of actually educating a person can’t possibly be as high as they appear on the “sticker price.” And I agree we can’t see student sensibilities as so precious. The world is messy. But, trying to figure out how to support respectful, meaningful and vigorous education seems pretty messy too.
    I don’t know that I agree with the hyperbole or generalizations that sometimes float around. Not every university is pandering to one side or the other. But the discussion on the ways to best educate and prepare the next generation should (and must) go on.

    • drallisonbrown February 4, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

      Angela, you know I agree with you! Higher education is critical! But, as an educator myself, I’ve seen the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction (towards universities instead of tech schools). During conferences, parents would become highly offended if I suggested that their child look into a 2-year technical college. “What? My child isn’t smart/good enough to go to a 4-year school?” Um…no, but a 4-year college isn’t appropriate for everyone, and vocational education can often make more sense (in terms of value for the money). Furthermore, if everyone abandons the vocational realm, you won’t have anyone left to fix your A/C or your plumbing, clean your teeth, ultrasound your growing baby, keep your car running, x-ray your bones, and…..you get the picture. I guess my point is, universities are making themselves less relevant by trying to market and then cater to the masses, while at the same time, becoming more unaffordable.

  3. Brenda February 4, 2018 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Student loan debt in Canada is also through the roof and yes to people working outside their field of study as no jobs available or entry level salary too low. Also have to pop in for a visit!

    • drallisonbrown February 4, 2018 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Brenda, I’ve read articles from all over the world indicating that these are not just problems in the US. Sadly, I think universities just might push themselves into extinction.

  4. Lisa Orchard February 4, 2018 at 10:26 am - Reply

    This is so scary. We’re worried about our kids because college looms on the horizon and we want to do the best we can in preparing them for adulthood. We’re big fans of Mike Rowe too and he makes a lot of sense. Hopefully, the costs will start decreasing and there’ll be more practical classes offered by the time my kids are ready to go.

    • drallisonbrown February 4, 2018 at 10:45 am - Reply

      Lisa, I agree that there should be more practical classes in college. To me, the bigger picture is that that universities and vocational schools both fulfill a unique and important role. We just need to get better at appropriately guiding our children down the right path. Universities are not the be-all-end-all. Society needs folks with skills in all areas!

  5. Erin - Unbound Roots February 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe how much college tuition has increased since I graduated with my B.S. in K-12 Education – 2003. Back then I was paying $4,000 per semester in a reputable state college that was (and still is) known for their education program. At the time, I was paying tuition with the money I made from my waitress job. Luckily, I made it without having to take out loans. If I had to do the same program today at the current cost of higher education, I would NOT do it. For me, it would not be worth going in debt over. Especially considering a teacher’s salary (I started at $26,000/yr). I do hope that something changes. Oh, and those athletic salaries are ridiculous!

    • drallisonbrown February 4, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Erin, you are right. It does seem like the cost increases are outpacing the normal cost of living.

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