Graphic
|

Too Many Ph.D.s? Those Who Say Yes Are Just Wrong.

by Ken Mondschein

Two sides are shaping up in the debate on the troubled state of American higher education. The one, which I’ll call the Tories, looks back to the glory days of Baby Boomer expansion. The humanities and the right to a liberal education are sacred to this camp, as is tenure. Hard times should be made up by cutting sports and over-management; the professorate can take care of itself and the NBA and NFL can run a farm league like everybody else. The irony is that the Tories are the conservatives in the debate, but they essentially take a socialist position. (Caveat: I’m an unapologetic Tory.)

The other, which I’ll call the Whigs, argues that higher ed should be market-driven. Deployment of resources in departments and majors should make financial sense for the school, and the students should be prepared for careers as workers, not philosophers. The Whigs are the revolutionaries, despite their laissez-faire rhetoric, and their star is rising. This is more than an academic question (pardon the pun), but bears directly on the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiatives and his stated goal for every American to attend at least two years of college or trade school.

One of the deadliest weapons in the Whig arsenal is the statistic. Here, Richard Vedder argues that we have far too many college graduates—to the tune of seventeen million. Over 18,000 parking-lot attendants and 80,000 bartenders have BAs,  he says , and there are 5,057 janitors with Ph.Ds or other terminal professional degrees. Do we, Vedder asks, need so much education if people can’t get hired in the jobs meeting their qualifications? Is it that they have the degree, but not the actual brains to do the work? Are we, as a society, throwing our collective money away by educating the unfit? Or, as he puts it, “even if on average, an investment in higher education yields a good, say 10 percent, rate of return, it does not follow that adding to existing investments will yield that return.” (This is taken from Charles Murray’s very politically incorrect analysis of education in which he says that we can’t educate everyone equally because we’re not all equally intelligent.)

Both Whigs and Tories are arguing from a scarcity model: Tories say that we should increase things on the supply side, specifically by funding everyone’s college dream, while Whigs hold that we are working against market forces to keep demand unnaturally high. What Vedder says is that the college machine is reaching a sort of Malthusian crisis. Like a shark, colleges need to keep taking in freshmen to make a profit. However, the supply of college-ready people is finite. The result is either high dropout rates or a watering down of what a degree means. The solution is to restrict access to higher ed and to limit public subsidies—which very much goes against the Whiggish everyone-deserves-a-chance ethos. With supply limited, value will again rise.

But let’s suppose for a second that Vedder’s correct. What about the intangible value of a college education to those plumbers and parking-lot attendants? Are slinging hash and reading Nietzsche mutually exclusive? How many of those 317,000 waiters and waitresses with BAs are career garçons, and how many are struggling actors and singers? How many have taken a dead-end job because they had to move back to their rust-belt home town to take care of an ailing parent? How many have MFAs and are supporting an artistic vocation? How many of those janitors with Ph.Ds got them in Soviet Russia or online, or just got out of prison, or perhaps like being janitors rather than professors? How many are being discriminated against for being minorities, or handicapped, or lousy dressers, or just plain weird? Moreover, with so many people going to college, there will be people occupying both ends of the bell curve of ultimate benefits. There’s ample room in a country as large as the United States for all these types, including 5,000-plus Ph.Ds who make more money as janitors than adjuncts.

More to the point, can we simply evaluate the worth of a college education in terms of profit and loss? Weigh in below and let us know what you think.

First posted to The Faster Times. Used here with permission.

 

Short URL: http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=4206

Leave a Reply

Keep in Touch With AdjunctNation

Graphic Graphic Graphic

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Archives

Graphic

From the Archive

  • AAUP and California U Faculty Associations Join Forces (With No Mention of Adjuncts)

    The AAUP and the Council of University of California Faculty Associations (CUCFA) are joining forces in defense of academic freedom , shared governance and the economic security of those who teach and conduct research. The press release, below, has no mention of adjunct, contingent or part-time faculty. The following is the text of a media release […]

  • Precarious Employment and the Struggle for Good Jobs in the University Sector

    by Dan Crow Precarious employment is one of the hallmarks of what is euphemistically called “the new economy.” It has deep roots in the university sector. Recent decades have seen a move away from full-time secure jobs for academic workers, toward reliance on part-time, contingent, relatively low wage jobs. As a cost-savings measure, and as […]

  • Hire-A-Pirate Service Seeks to Make Rented e-Textbooks More, Ahem, “Affordable” For Students

    During August, just before the start of the new school term, TorrentFreak reported on LibraryPirate, a site with a mission of providing college students with an alternative to continuously rising textbook prices. Bemoaning what he sees as greedy profiteering, LibraryPirate’s admin says the year-old site’s aim is clear. “Our mission is simple and specific,” he told TorrentFreak. […]

  • Arizona State University Partners With Poynter Institute to Offer PT Journalism Faculty Certification

    The Poynter Institute and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University will launch an innovative online certificate program for adjunct faculty and others who teach journalism and mass communications classes at universities and colleges around the country. The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is widely recognized […]

  • Five Ways You May Be Killing Student Motivation

    by Chase Mielke “What are your thoughts on student motivation?” my principal recently asked. Knowing that I have an interest in motivation, as well as a love of working with at-risk students, he wanted to know my thoughts on why our achievement gap wasn’t narrowing. As a teacher, I of course had many thoughts. But, the […]

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Graphic

Want to see your advertisement on
AdjunctNation.com? Click here.

Recently Commented

  • Rick: If your looking for non-academic jobs, or “menial” jobs do not even mention your graduate...
  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...