What’s Your Kid Really Getting from College?
William McGurn
Wall Street Journal


Anne Neal is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), and in her closing remarks in the above article gets to the heart of the issue.

“Still, when it comes to what our colleges and universities are charging them for their degrees, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators have a point. Too many have paid much and been taught little. They've been ripped off—but not by the banks or the fat cats or any of the other stock villains so unwelcome these days in Zuccotti Park. 

"If these students and grads understood the real issues with their college debt," says Ms. Neal, "they would change their focus from Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the Ivory Tower." 

The focus of higher education changes from time to time. After sputnik in the 1950’s, the focus was engineering, science and mathematics. When we successfully sent a man to the moon, the academic mood shifted to the studies surrounding civil rights, the feminist movement, psychology, sociology, etc. Now please understand, there is nothing inherently wrong or lacking in these areas of study. But the question becomes one of “how do I earn a living with such a degree”. My own beloved bride has a degree in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Cellular and Molecular Biology. The best she could do for employment after graduation was as a lab tech in a food processing plant for about $10 and hour. Our nephew had exactly the same sad experience after he graduated from UC Santa Cruz with the same degree. Fortunately he was able to get into teaching (high school), and ultimately went back to school and is now a lawyer.

Higher education is an expensive proposition. Here in California we are fortunate to have a long history of mostly state funded higher education. At present, a full time student will pay $5500 in “tuition”, and another 1500 in various fees (Student body Assc, Univ. Union, Health Center, and Instructionally Related Activities for field trips, special class materials, etc.) The State of California, (you and me folks), then contributes $8500 to the pot, making the total cost of Higher Ed in the CSU approximately $15,500 a year. And to top it all off, we in California are one of the least expensive institutions in the world. OOPS, don’t forget on campus housing costs, which will run between $7500 and $10,000 depending on dining plan.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure, but here is some food for thought.

1. Realize that a college degree is no longer an automatic ticket to high paying job.

2. Revise our curriculum to reflect today’s needs, not just the pie in the sky philosophy of some 1960’s wilted flower child.

3. Get back to the basics of critical thinking which should require a core curriculum with substantive courses in composition, literature, American history, economics, math, science and foreign language.

4. Prepare our young people to be productive, not just activists, protestors, change agents, or instruments of some political agenda of their favorite professor.

5. And perhaps most important, kick the butt of the K-12 group (parents included) who keep sending us High School students who can’t read, can’t speak the language, can’t spell, can’t do simple arithmetic, don’t know history or how this country works, and don’t have clue about money, finance or credit.

6. Lastly – Does everyone need or belong in college? We used to be a nation of tradesmen, people who worked with our hands, and made some of the world’s greatest products and inventions. We need more plumbers, electricians, draftsman, cabinet makers furniture makers, contractors, mechanics, tool & die makers, manufactures, etc.. 

7. We need fewer, lawyers and politicians, MBA’s and other financial manipulators, and teachers with political agendas and no courage to get into real politics.

Education at all levels, needs a major D&C, (dusting and cleaning).