Friday, 23 October 2015 16:20

The Cost of a College Education--Editorial

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The Cost of a College Education--Editorial

Angus MacDonald

The cost of college is absurd. One year of college can cost more than $30,000. I graduated from Columbia University in New York City, one of the outstanding universities in the world, with a Ph.D. in philosophy, and paid my way as I took courses.

Some years ago I wrote to a college president and asked why tuition was so high. He did not reply. College costs have increased, it is said, because of increased salaries and equipment. That is nonsense. Salaries have probably adjusted for inflation and colleges do not have large expenses for equipment.

My guess is that the increased cost results from the assumption you cannot get a decent job without a college degree, and young people and their parents believe their future depends on a degree, which is correct; but this means colleges must restrict students to the room available. Restriction is achieved by the increase of tuition. Some will get scholarships, but the bulk of students have to choose between no college and poor prospects or enormous debt on graduation

We must define the nature of our colleges. They are trade schools with a pretense of education. That our colleges are odd is shown in their devotion to football. I upset a mother of a young boy recently when I told her I would give her or her son $25 if they could find one university, outside of the United States, that had a football team. Oxford, as I recall, has had a rowing team for decades but that is as far as they go in the perversion of scholarship.

Before the present emphasis on college young people got a job by going to work and increased their income as they increased their value to their employer. As many of you know, I was born in Australia. Young people could quit school and take job at 14. After grade school, one could go to a high school that was academic or go to a technical school. Some of my friends went to technical school and made good livings. I went to the academic high school and graduated at either fifteen or sixteen, I don't remember which, and worked for the Singer company, which sold cars. I did costing of repairs. Mr. Adams was my boss and took me with him when he got a better job. I still did costing. After a year or so, I left for a job at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. Put in the center of a huge factory, I gave requisitions to workers. In an hour or so, a union representative told me to go slow because I made the work look easy. I transferred to the mailroom. Not long after I was transferred to engine factory costing, then aircraft costing. I was in charge of twenty or thirty women. Looking back I have thought that, if I had stayed, I could have made a decent living for the rest of my life. However, I wanted an education and quit.

I did not come to the United States because I could make more money. Money was the last thing in my mind. At around nineteen I knew I was an intellectual misfit and Australia did not offer much opportunity for intellectual misfits. The United States had a large population that gave opportunity to people of all persuasions. Though leaving my home and family was tragic, coming to this wonderful country is the best thing I ever did.

The practical need in America is to reorganize education so that it is affordable and adequate. Colleges are trade schools. Do away with purely academic studies and put young people in a trade by going straight to graduate school. Our graduate schools are the best in the world and we must not lower standards. I would not be surprised if intelligent young people could make the grade. Also, we could create trade schools outside of the present colleges. When I was a teenager, my father thought I should know something about bookkeeping. He sent me to a man who taught this privately and I learned about double-entry bookkeeping. It wasn't much but it showed the basics I used when I began my own business. Private academies, outside of colleges, could be established for every trade needed: accounting, architecture, carpentry, plumbing. We need entrepreneurs who will seize the opportunity. Young people could learn on the job as they used to do, or we could set up little academies that would help employers. The great need is to avoid $30,000 a year of college education.

We could improve all schools if they were tougher. Sentimentalism lowers standards. We want to help minorities and the disadvantaged. Sorry, but minorities would be helped greatly if we demanded more of them. A large percentage of blacks dream only of being athletic stars. They have to pay as much attention to studies as to basketball and football. Some do and are successful. A huge problem for blacks is lost family life. That was not always so, and they have to get back to a better moral basis. What is true of blacks is true of Hispanics or any minority. Racial problems will disappear with application to what is important. Anything less is an insult. Without discipline, minorities will stay disadvantaged, and should.

There are habits that would increase education. One, we should abolish true-false exams, which are easy on the teacher but an educational disgrace. Everything should be written so students learn to think and write. Two, examinations should be monitored. Many of my examinations took several hours and monitors walked between desks so there was no cheating. It was not as onerous as it sounds, however. I was lazy in high school, not studying until two or three weeks before finals, getting up about 2:00 a.m. to learn a year's work. When my mother asked me how I did, my answer was "I beat so-and-so." "Who beat you?" was her reply. In spite of my failings, I learned discipline, which was important and helped when I decided to be serious. Grading was tough and could be anything from zero to a hundred. If person X got 85 and person Y got 90, both were good but Y was better than X. We grade in fractions of a second the time of a hundred yards run. Why can't we be meticulous in education?

Would general intelligence suffer if we dropped academic studies for trade schools? Shakespeare wrote before universal general education. Only a few want learning for its own sake, but there are many who, from personal need, will read history and decent literature. With almost universal education in academics, at a fearsome cost, we do not have a high level of culture. One only has to listen to politicians to know that. We need a return to simplicity, which can accompany learning, and is earned and of great wisdom. *

"I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him 'father.'" --Will Rogers

The quotes following each article have been gathered by The Federalist Patriot at: http://FederalistPatriot.US/services.asp.

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