As often has been said, if everybody is a genius, then nobody is. The wisdom in this apothegm is little changed by the modification: if everybody has a certification of genius, then nobody has. Especially so if the certification is a bachelor’s “degree.”
The goal of ensuring every citizen is possessed of a bachelor’s “degree” is thus silly. If everybody has a “degree” then there is no use asking to examine the “degree” of any person.
There would still be an advantage in asking in what subject is a person’s “degree.” But this question is only a proxy to asking what a person knows and what he can do. To the extent a “degree” signals this information, it is useful. But when knowing a “degree” only makes it slightly more probable than not that a person has a set of desirable skills, then again, having the “degree” is of little value.
Which is why it makes sense, if you view college as extended-beyond-high-school jobs training, to do what China is doing. Their “Ministry of Education announced this week plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates…The government will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting those studies in which the employment rate for graduates falls below 60% for two consecutive years.”
They are doing this because of the tremendous increases in its citizens attending college, and because they recognize that all “degrees” are not equal. “In 2010, 72% of recent graduates found work, up from 68% in 2009, according to the Ministry of Education.” So it can work—although how much of this increase in jobs placement comes from toning down college programs is unclear.
We should recognize that the vast majority of those seeking college “degrees” do so only for the certification, so that they can find a job. There is no other reason that a person would elect a “Business” major except that they are hopeful of job.
The people in majors like “Communications”, “Food Science”, “Marketing”, and on and on are not budding scholars, nor should they be treated like them. We should end immediately the pretense of creating “well rounded” graduates and switch the majority of college undergraduate education to jobs training. Eliminate off-topic mandatory courses—which themselves are enrollment sops to what would otherwise be forlorn departments.
If the kids don’t sign up for certain majors, out the door those majors should go. Many departments in college are just superfluous as many suspect, only kept alive because of Enlightenment politics. Let enrollment vote on what to keep and what to eliminate.
Jobs training should only take two to three years, not four. Right away, the college bill is cut 25% to 50%. Make classes pass or fail, lest any ego be bruised by a grade less than A. Students who play sports for the financial benefit of the school should be paid whatever measure befits their semi-pro status. These kids should not be required to take any classes either, save what the sports program themselves thought relevant.
Keep a core—a Marine Corps, if you like—of intense classes for those who have the brains and ability to manage, for those in the minority who would go on to be scholars, or who would go to college in an effort to gain an education, to become learned, to better themselves intellectually. This will never be more than 5% of our youth. Graduate school can be kept as it is. The only change: entrance exams and personal interviews as criteria for entry, and not blind certification (i.e. “degree” production).
Glenn Reynolds (the Instapundit) would have colleges back the loans of it students. His argument is that a college will not make a loan which it knows is risky. This would back-door the reductions spoken of above: if the colleges themselves won’t fund the kids wanting to go into a field, then that field loses the bucks, and thus eventually the headcount.
But so much for caveat emptor in this system. Plus it seems to forget that as part of Obamacare, Congress slipped in a measure which has we the taxpayers administrating and backing student loans. Having loans bunched up inside the colleges provides yet another way for Congress, through the metastasized bureaucracy, to dictate which programs should be funded and which not. All it would take is a politically connected university (Harvard, Yale, etc.) to come running and the dollars would flow from its ex-students, who fill most of the seats of the government and bureaucracy.
No, let the citizens themselves in conjunction with employers (i.e. the “market”) decide what they want to fund.