Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quote of the Day: Opening the Floodgates

I think most college professors would agree with this quote from Jerry Bowyer, Forbes contributor:

"There has been a severe contraction in the quality of higher education in America. Did we really think we could open the floodgates and not affect the quality of graduates? Can you turn college into the new high school, and not get high school-like results?  Grade inflation will only keep the problem concealed for so long before the general public becomes aware that outside of a few highly challenging programs and majors, the quality of American higher education is plummeting. Graduates are mastering fewer facts, can’t think critically about the facts they have mastered, and can’t express whatever ideas they have mastered in clear, cogent, grammatically correct sentences. Employers already know this."

MP: Government housing policies turned "good renters into bad homeowners" and created an unsustainable housing bubble.  It's now becoming apparent that government education policies have turned "good high school graduates, many of whom should have pursued tw0-year degrees or other forms of career training, into unemployable college graduates with excessive levels of student loan debt that can't be discharged," and created an unsustainable higher education bubble.

37 Comments:

At 5/22/2012 7:13 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

"It's now becoming apparent that government education policies have turned good high school graduates... into unemployable college graduates with excessive levels of student loan debt that can't be discharged"
_____________________

I don't care...

...unless there's a federal bailout. Which there probably will be, at some point in the future.

More wasted money that we don't have.

 
At 5/22/2012 7:19 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

"...government housing policies turned "good renters into bad homeowners."

If the goal is more renters, along with more homeless, we're doing very well.

 
At 5/22/2012 7:29 PM, Blogger AIG said...

There has been a severe contraction in the quality of higher education in America

This is perhaps the most "wrong" anyone has ever been.

 
At 5/22/2012 8:28 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

I've watched it happen consistently over the last 20 years teaching undergraduate students at four different institutions of higher learning - it's really unmistakable and not even controversial.

 
At 5/22/2012 8:46 PM, Blogger arbitrage789 said...

"There has been a severe contraction in the quality of higher education in America".
________________

And let me add: too many lawyers and "financial engineers".

(not enough real engineers)

 
At 5/22/2012 8:56 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

i think this raises excellent issue:

college grads used to the be top 10 or 15% of all students. now they are the top 40%.

college isn't magic. you can't take a 60th percentile person and turn them into a 90th percentile one.

you either dumb down the courses to accommodate the less capable, or you fail a ton of kids. what other option is there?

calls to expand top schools through distance learning or bigger enrollment all face this same issue: you can put more kids in the class, but can you do it without lowering the level of the class?

some of this may lie with the parents as well. parents used to yell at the kid for getting bad grades. now they yell at the teacher and demand higher marks for their kids work. that is not the way to breed kids that put in the time.

i can sure tell you that an awful lot of employers are NOT happy with the product currently getting turned out.

i thought this editorial was epic.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304451104577389750993890854.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet#articleTabs%3Darticle

"Fact One is that, in our "knowledge-based" economy, knowledge counts. Yet here you are, probably the least knowledgeable graduating class in history."

he sure seems to agree with mark, and i agree with both.

 
At 5/22/2012 8:59 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

"Graduates are mastering fewer facts, can’t think critically about the facts they have mastered, and can’t express whatever ideas they have mastered in clear, cogent, grammatically correct sentences. Employers already know this."


Which has almost nothing to do with the probabilities of success in a commercial market.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:00 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I've watched it happen consistently over the last 20 years teaching undergraduate students at four different institutions of higher learning - it's really unmistakable and not even controversial.

I had several professors, Dr. Perry, who will agree with you.

One of my professors complained how, when he first started teaching, he could assign three or four books for his students to read per semester. Says he's lucky now if students will read one book (and that's even after excluding several chapters).

 
At 5/22/2012 9:03 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

If the goal is more renters, along with more homeless, we're doing very well.

Nice.

I suspect the value of home ownership will decline substantially as job security declines.

Maybe there is an opportunity for a kind of expanded time share program, where people can get the advantages of home ownership and the freedom to move or trade time shares at will.

It costs way too much to buy/sell for frequent movers.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:05 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Says he's lucky now if students will read one book (and that's even after excluding several chapters).



Obviously, he does not teach advanced inorganic or physical chemistry. In some courses, you are lucky to get through a few chapters, let alone a few books.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:05 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Which has almost nothing to do with the probabilities of success in a commercial market."

spoken like someone who has not had any.

critical thinking and the ability to express ideas effectively are THE most important things in a knowledge economy.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:26 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

spoken like someone who has not had any.



Spoken like someone with no knowledge of the subject.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:30 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

critical thinking and the ability to express ideas effectively are THE most important things in a knowledge economy.



================================

I don't think so. In a knowledge economy, the most imprtant thing is to be able so sell your ideas, whether they are right or wrong.

The upcoming presidential election will be a good example.

The winner will be the one who sells his ideas, not the one (NECESSARILY) whose ideas turn out to be right.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:42 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Even though I earned my living as a chemist, and scientist, I can;t say I ever made a dime off of my advanced physical chemistry classes.

The main thing I learned from that class boiled down to the idea that there is no free lunch, which no one needs an advanced degree to understand.

Some times you have all the ingredientgs to create something more valuable, but the process happens slowly without the right catalyst. The question then, is not whether you need the catalyst, but whether it is worth the cost.

In economics, sometimes the catalyst is entrepreneurs, sometimes it is government, and sometimes a process just goes viral, like crystals suddenly forming in a solution, each one triggering the next.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:44 PM, Blogger AIG said...

It is so ludicrous to imply that the quality of higher education has gone down...that I can't believe I am addressing this.

Anecdotal experience aside, are there any "facts" to back up such a claim? Such a claim, desperately calls for some evidence.

Of course, I can give all the evidence in the world to point out the opposite, but I don't really need to. Just look around at all the things that are created every day through those universities.

PS: Jon Murphy, what your professor said is called "old fart syndrome". His students today read and gather and analyse 10 times more information that he did when he was their age, without having to read 4, 3 or even 1 book per semester.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:53 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Just ask any college professor who has been teaching for awhile and you'll find almost universal agreement that the average quality of undergraduate students has declined consistently, in terms of the basics: basic math skills, basic grammar and writing skills, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.

As just one example, I used to assume that college students knew how to calculate a simple percentage change, and learned about ten years ago that that's no longer a valid assumption. I had to start reviewing the Percentage Change formula and provide examples in class, etc.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:54 PM, Blogger AIG said...

college grads used to the be top 10 or 15% of all students. now they are the top 40%.
If only there was such a thing as "college". When "college grads" were the top 10-15% of students, having a BS in engineering was considered the top of the top that the market would ever want. Today, if you have a masters in engineering, you're average.

That same 10-15% from back in the day, today isn't in that 40%...they're still in the top 10-15%. But now they have to get 6-7 years to higher ed level of education to get there.

That's the difference. "Higher education" has moved far beyond just the BS/BA level, because the level of knowledge the market wants today is a lot higher. The amount of value they create, likewise, is proportionally larger.

That's why US universities attract all the smart people around the world. That's why all the best schools in the US today are research institutions. That's why Microsoft and Apple and Google etc can't get in line fast enough to recruit from them.

 
At 5/22/2012 9:59 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"I don't think so. In a knowledge economy, the most imprtant thing is to be able so sell your ideas, whether they are right or wrong."

lol. and you do not think that that takes critical thinking and the ability to express your ideas? you have to be joking.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:00 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Sorry Dr. Perry, that may be your experience, but it's just anecdotal evidence.

Furthermore, you're assuming that the "quality" of the final product of higher education is related to the ability to perform a mathematical problem by hand without the use of the Excel formula for percentages :)

I agree with you that today's college students...can't...do math by hand. Heck, I can't do math by hand anymore.

But that has no relation to what that person can do given the tools the market offers them.

We can't skin animals anymore in order to make clothes. We don't need to.

Likewise the amount of value that today's higher ed. institutions can create is considerably higher than before exactly because we don't NEED to do math by hand anymore.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:04 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

aig-

so what? the point that far more peiple get higher education stands and thus, they are of lower percentiles. you actually disprove your own point. why require a masters as the basic credential if a BS is still as good?

to get back from the top 40% to the top 10%. that's why.

those classes are still hard. it's how you separate wheat from chaff.

and for you to demand "facts" from jon and then trot out this totally unsupported whopper is just beyond laughable.

"PS: Jon Murphy, what your professor said is called "old fart syndrome". His students today read and gather and analyse 10 times more information that he did when he was their age, without having to read 4, 3 or even 1 book per semester."

10 times more huh? i presume you have facts on that?

what possible basis do you have for that? do you even know any undergrads?

 
At 5/22/2012 10:05 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

There has been a severe contraction in the quality of higher education in America

This is perhaps the most "wrong" anyone has ever been.

=================================

I sure don't see it, and I work with a bunch or really smart young whippersnappers.

The thing is, that they grew up steeped in a broth of stuff that wasn't even invented when I was their age. I expect them to know and understand things that I do not.

Even so, experience counts. just today I was working with a young engineer with a complicated software tool. He handed off a particular problem to me, which I fixed in a jiffy.

AHe asked how I did it, and I showed him a couple fo things. Look, I said, this is a common tool, and something like it exists in many applications, though the utility varies. But if you plan your work, knowing this tool is available, you can set some flags that will be invaluable later. If not, the planning did not cost you much. Most people don't even know it exists, let alone ahow to use it, and even fewer know enough to plan for its use.

I'm [pretty certain he did not get it at the moment, we had a deadline to meet. But I also think that one day he will be working a similar problem, and the light will go on.

At the same time, I showed him another advanced feature. One that few people use. But I showed him the power of the tool and also the danger, since it is not well documented.

I don't think I am smarter than him, or my education is better: we are just different. The problem at hand, is how to capitalize on those differences to create a brew that is more valuable than either of us could produce alone.

I just showed him some tools: his application of those tools is outside my experience. All I needed to know was that an application was possible.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:08 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

oh, and fwiw, i still correspond with some of my old econ and poli sci profs from college. i have heard them echo mark's sentiments in the past.

this is NOT an isolated phenomenon.

also aig, us high school students keep doing worse on easier and easier standardized tests. so what, they suddenly get smart when they hit college? the do all the work students used to do and more? this sounds like magical thinking on your part.

it would be interesting to compare old papers and theses and compare them across years. i wonder if anyone has ever tried it?

 
At 5/22/2012 10:13 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I agree with you that today's college students...can't...do math by hand. Heck, I can't do math by hand anymore.

===============================

Amazingly, I still can. I can even still recreate some old derivations.

But I am not sure i see the point.

I recall a study that was done when hand held caculators first became readily available.

Some students were taught using calculators and sopme using traditinal methods.

A third group was taught using calculators that were programmed to be innaccurate.

Guess which group got the most accurate estimation methods and the most critical thinking skills?



What is laughable about much of political discourse is that there are still people who think they can win or get ahead by deceiving people or telling half truths.

All they really get is a more critical audience.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:15 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

oh, and fwiw, i still correspond with some of my old econ and poli sci profs from college

==================================

Econ and POLITICAL SCIENCE?




bwaaawaahaahaa.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:17 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

why require a masters as the basic credential if a BS is still as good?


==============================

Morganovitch and i agree, for once.

Why use a dump truck when a wheelbarrow will do the job cheaper?

 
At 5/22/2012 10:25 PM, Blogger AIG said...

so what? the point that far more peiple get higher education stands and thus, they are of lower percentiles. you actually disprove your own point. why require a masters as the basic credential if a BS is still as good?
It's not as good. That's my point. By "good"...the only way to measure it is by the value the market places on it. The response of higher ed. to this market demand, has been to move to higher levels, and produce far better "range of products" than it did before.

Just like in taxes, its the top margin that matters :)...back then it was BS, now it's a lot higher.

those classes are still hard. it's how you separate wheat from chaff.
The classes are still the same. There's just a lot more at higher levels now. That's my point.

Since a lot more now enter and graduate at the BS/BA level, a lot more move "up-market" to gain a competitive edge, and the market seems to reward this. The market reward, is the only measure of "quality" that I can think of.

10 times more huh? i presume you have facts on that?
what possible basis do you have for that? do you even know any undergrads?

I know lots. Ask them any question. Wait 5 minutes. You'll get an answer. And they didn't even need to read a book...all they had to do was Google it :)

Even so, experience counts
Of course. No one doubts that.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:27 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Why use a dump truck when a wheelbarrow will do the job cheaper?

Because to develop things like Google, and the platform on which this blog runs, or the knowledge to design a complex piece of machinery...you need a level of knowledge that you usually requires a lot higher level of education than anyone gets at the BS/BA level.

That's the whole point. All the technological revolution of the past years feeds on the higher quality of higher education, and breeds it.

 
At 5/22/2012 10:38 PM, Blogger AIG said...

The "evidence" that higher ed has gotten a LOT better, is in front of our eyes, everywhere. And it can be measured by the amount of compensation the market places on that product.

this is NOT an isolated phenomenon.
Of course it isn't. Everyone says that their generation was better, and the new generation is worst. Everyone. Even I catch myself looking at 18 year olds today and thinking "boy these guys are way stupider than we were!".

And everyone of us is wrong on that.

also aig, us high school students keep doing worse on easier and easier standardized tests. so what, they suddenly get smart when they hit college?
Standardized testing, the way it exists today, captures the characteristics that the market values less and less.

No one cares if you can remember the formula for the circumference of a circle off the top of your head, at a moment's notice. No one. Yet that is what a standardized test, tests.

The market values skills that allow you to get and analyze and add value to information, as quickly as possible...not to remember things.

it would be interesting to compare old papers and theses and compare them across years. i wonder if anyone has ever tried it?
Compare them for what, typos? We don't need to know how to write today either :) Word automatically corrects us :)

But I am not sure i see the point.
My point is that these are now redundant skills. We build computers to do these skills.

If you ask junior high teachers today, they complain to no end about how AWFUL the handwriting of students is. Bot so what...they will never write a letter in their life. They will at most, sign their name. Maybe we won't even need to do that anymore.

---------
Progress is measured by the value you add to existing information...not the ability to memorize existing information.

 
At 5/23/2012 2:31 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Is it really the quality of education has gone down or the education standards went up?

When I was in grad econ, it was a very tough program and many students failed, some failed miserably.

Most of the professors had Ph.Ds from excellent schools and we went through some new methods, much of it that didn't exist in the past, e.g. in cointegration.

I think, undergrad and grad school have become increasingly harder than high school, which generally teach the basics (although, there are many poor high schools).

 
At 5/23/2012 2:44 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/23/2012 7:25 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I've watched it happen consistently over the last 20 years teaching undergraduate students at four different institutions of higher learning - it's really unmistakable and not even controversial.

I agree that universities accept many more students who should never go to university. But the question is why would they pass students who were incapable of mastering the material being taught? Or why they would teach material that was not suitable for university. The program that I graduated from made it clear that it kicked out around 50% of the freshman class in the first semester. Kids who were incapable of doing the work had to find other disciplines to go into. The high failure rate did not seem to discourage applicants from trying to get in.

 
At 5/23/2012 8:46 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

vangeiv: " Or why they would teach material that was not suitable for university."

Do you think it might have something to do with capital expenditures and administrator salaries? As long as somebody funds remedial classes, why not teach them and rake in the tuition and fees?

 
At 5/23/2012 11:27 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"But the question is why would they pass students who were incapable of mastering the material being taught?"

simple. universities get prestige based on how many students get into top grad schools. they have become "credential factories". everyone gets an A and 2/3 of harvard grads get honors. the average gpa at harvard is something absurd like 3.5 vs 2.5 in 1950 for exactly this reason.

 
At 5/23/2012 11:32 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"The "evidence" that higher ed has gotten a LOT better, is in front of our eyes, everywhere. And it can be measured by the amount of compensation the market places on that product."

this makes no logical or grammatical sense.

"
The market values skills that allow you to get and analyze and add value to information, as quickly as possible...not to remember things. "

do you just make up facts as you go along? the standardized tests have far more logic and reasoning problems than they used to. they have more word problems for math. they have more essays and more reading comp.

that is precisely what the market values.

the tests have changed, it's you that have not kept up.

the ability to read and understand at grade level is more important than at any time in history. so is the ability to solve math word problems and the ability to communicate clearly in written form.

that is THE crux of a knowledge economy. that IS what is being tested and precisely where students are failing.

 
At 5/23/2012 11:35 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

hydra-

i have 4 degrees in econ, poli sci, philosophy and physcis, all from brown. i got them in 4 years, 2 with honors.

if you think that's academic underacheivment, i'd love to hear what you think a good education is.

 
At 5/23/2012 2:13 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Do you think it might have something to do with capital expenditures and administrator salaries? As long as somebody funds remedial classes, why not teach them and rake in the tuition and fees?

That is a great short term incentive. Keep the money flowing by accepting substandard students that are moved into useless areas such as gender or race studies, PR, communications, etc., and let future employers worry about their competence or critical thinking skills. Keep standards high in the academic areas that require high math and reading skills and let those graduates build the reputation of the institution.

 
At 5/23/2012 2:25 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

vangel-

and we shall call them "morlocks" and "eloi" on all official school documents.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home