We're all shocked, shocked to learn that rich people cheat to get their kids into elite universities.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department revealed a massive effort by wealthy parents and a shady "admissions consultant" to bribe and cheat their way into getting kids into a slew of elite schools.

Prosecutors say William Singer, the ringleader, sold two forms of services. For tens of thousands of dollars, parents could pay to have a proctor correct their kids' incorrect answers as they took the SAT. Or they could pay hundreds of thousands to bribe coaches at elite schools to designate applicants as desired athletes, thus circumventing the minimum requirements for grades and test scores.

One California family allegedly paid $1.2 million to Singer, who in turn allegedly paid Rudy Meredith, the women's soccer coach at Yale, $400,000 to claim that the family's daughter was a coveted recruit even though she didn't play at all.

If you think this is about one shady "consultant" at a few schools then I've got a bridge to sell you. Higher education has always been a bit of a racket -- ever since aristocrats started sending their second, third, and fourth sons off to University. In order to be sustainable a grift can't be too obvious, and it needs to provide some value to its marks while it skims a little off the top for itself. Higher education has abandoned that social contract, and it's in for a reckoning.

In his book "The Case Against Education," George Mason economics professor Bryan Caplan makes a compelling case that most of the value in diplomas from elite colleges isn't in the education they allegedly represent but in the cultural or social "signaling" they convey.

Imagine you're deposited on a desert island, forced to fend for yourself. Would you rather have the knowledge that comes with taking a survival training course, or just the piece of paper that says you took the course? Obviously, you'd rather know how to identify poisonous plants and sources of water than have a diploma that says you know how to do things you can't do. Now, ask yourself: Would you rather have the Yale education without the diploma, or the diploma without the education?

From an economic perspective, the piece of paper is vastly more valuable than the education, particularly in the humanities (and Caplan runs through the numbers to demonstrate this). The paper opens doors and gets you callbacks from employers and entrée into elite social circles where whom you know matters more than what you know. The education might make you a better person, but the parchment is the ticket to opportunity. It's no guarantee of success, but it's a profound hedge against failure.

Parents know this, and parents without special advantages (wealth, fame, connections) resent it.

"Elite" education -- and to a lesser extent, higher education more generally -- has become a scheme for inter-generational power transfer disguised as meritocracy.

Do you think I'm exaggerating by calling higher education a grift? Here's how America's young people are being robbed blind by our universities.

If you're wondering why the majority of Americans under 30 say they prefer socialism, debt is a major reason. Student loans are killing them, and they never go away. Thanks to extensive lobbying efforts here in Washington, student loans, unlike other forms of debt, cannot be erased by bankruptcy.

The student loan crisis is a modern problem. Just 13 years ago, the average new college graduate owed $20,000 in student loans. Today, that number has jumped to $37,000. Student debt is rising far faster than the earnings of American workers, the very earnings that are supposed to justify student loans in the first place. ...

In 1990, a quarter of American adults lived with their parents. Today, the number has risen to 35 percent. The home ownership rate for millennials dropped eight points from the generation before. Unable to afford homes, millennials are getting married later and less often. They're also having fewer kids. It's not because they don't want children. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who want children has not changed in 25 years. And yet fewer children are being born, thanks in part to rising debt levels, America's middle class cannot replace itself. ...

A hundred schools now have endowments over a billion dollars. They are hedge funds with schools attached. What have colleges done with this money? Well, they've hired massive staffs of like-minded people for one thing. From 1987 to 2012, the number of administrators on college campuses more than doubled. That's far bigger than the increase of actual students going to college. College administrators routinely make six-figure salaries. What exactly do they do for that money? Not a single thing that makes this a better country.

College presidents often get seven-figure salaries. Their pay is probably the only thing in America rising as fast as tuition costs. Academic publishers are getting rich from all of this, too -- from the debt boom. Prices of textbooks have tripled in the past 20 years. Printing hasn't gotten more expensive; non-academic books are cheaper now than they were two decades ago. But students are a captive market, and they are being exploited ruthlessly. Nobody says a word about it.

Parasitical universities are killing their hosts, and destroying our cultural and intellectual inheritance in the process.

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Educated vs. Credentialed.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.mwilliams.info/mt5/tb-confess.cgi/9065



Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info