Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The hell of being a French teacher at a NAM school in NYC

with 55 comments

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 11, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Education

College, part 8, cost disease

with 19 comments

So what’s driving college cost disease?

I think these points are pretty conventional, but not so conventional that journalists in the mainstream media and politicians widely believe in them.

1. The widespread and increasing availability of student loans means that people can afford to pay more, and colleges act like greedy corporations in that they charge as much as the market will bear. Even though student loans eventually have to be paid back, they feel like free money to 18-year-olds. And let’s not be too critical of 18-year-olds; do you remember what it was like to be 18? It’s up to more responsible and wiser adults to steer 18-year-olds in the right direction.

2. There has been a massive marketing effort to inflate the desirability of college. The message that is being given to high school graduates is that they will be economic losers without a college degree (which is not entirely false), and that college is this super-awesome-amazing experience that no one should miss (partially true to the extent that some college graduates, mostly those from upper-class families, do indeed look back to their college days like that).

I’m not sure who, exactly, is behind the marketing.

This point, however, doesn’t fully explain why people aren’t more price sensitive. People need food to live, so it’s even more important than college, but there’s price competition with food; there exists food that is very cheap.

3. Competition causes higher prices. Libertarian types hate it when I say that competition causes higher prices. But in many cases, it does.

The people who attend college are not paying with their own hard-earned money. They are almost entirely paying with other people’s money. Their parents. Financial aid. Student loans which feel like free money to 18-year-olds.

A low price could indicate an inferior school with less prestige than higher-priced schools. Furthermore, if students are paying with someone else’s money, will they pick the cheap bare-bones experience, or the experience with expensive gyms and student entertainment, better dorms, and expensively landscaped grounds?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 4, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Economics, Education

College, part 7: why do for-profit colleges suck so bad?

with 50 comments

A lot of conservative types reflexively support for-profit colleges, because everyone (on that side of politics) “knows” that the free market is always best! Despite the empirical evidence that for-profit colleges are a big scam.

For starters, it’s wrong to think that there’s no competition between colleges just because they are not-for-profit. Just like for-profit colleges, the nonprofit colleges have stakeholders, and management trying to increase value for the stakeholders, with value measured in prestige and the size of the college’s endowment, as well as some other measures.

Thus we see that for-profit colleges are coming into a market where there is a lot of competition from long established competitors with huge brand reputations that are impossible to crack. It’s more likely for a new business in the beverage industry to supplant Coke and Pepsi than it is for a new business in the college industry to supplant Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

There’s very little profit in providing a product that’s a good value to the customer. It’s a lot more profitable to sell something overpriced. As often as competition causes prices to decrease, competition can also cause prices to increase, because competing companies need to spend a lot of money on marketing to win customers from the competition, and then those marketing costs are passed on to customers in the form of higher prices.

For-profit colleges have to compete against publicly funded colleges that charge a reasonable tuition. It seems like a rather unobtainable dream that a company is going to make a lot of money in education by providing lower tuition than state schools but at the same time providing a better degree. Nope, it makes a lot more sense for the for-profit enterprise to offer a crappy education, and sucker in stupid people with advertising and using high-pressure salespeople, and then relying on the fact that the stupid people are paying with government loans and lack the future-time-orientation to realize that those government loans are real money they have to pay back later. The true entrepreneurial nature of the for-profit college is its innovation in making it as enticing and as easy as possible for stupid people to take out student loans and enroll. Whereas, the typical nonprofit college has an obtuse enrollment process and probably doesn’t advertise.

The Obama administration introduced some smart policies to crack down on giving away student loans to students attending crappy for-profit colleges, but that moron Betsy DeVos has reversed a lot of the good that came from Obama.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 30, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Business, Education

College, part 6, how a Harvard degree is like the best armor in WoW

with 38 comments

I’ve often described college degrees as a positional goods. In other words, the value of the degree is not in the intrinsic value of the degree, but in that not everyone has one. The person with a degree will, in many cases, have entry to a career denied to someone without a degree, even though the person with the degree didn’t learn anything in the course of acquiring the degree that would make him a better employee. Thus, to a large extent, college education is a negative-sum game. People are spending vast sums of money and giving up four years of their lives to steal a desirable career from someone else possibly more deserving.

I’ve also pointed out, over and over again, there there’s a huge difference between an elite degree (such as a degree from Harvard) and a run-of-the-mill degree. However, the pricing of college tuition doesn’t reflect those difference. A degree from Harvard will cost the same amount of money as a degree from Boston University, even though the Harvard degree is a lot more valuable. (In fact, the Harvard degree is actually less expensive in most cases.)

Who gets to buy which degree reminds me a lot of how things are set up in online role-playing games like World of Warcraft (WoW) or Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV). These games have a basic virtual currency, called “gil” in FFXIV and “gold” in WoW, but in order to discourage what videogamers call “RMT” (that is real-money transfer, people paying real money for virtual currency), they’ve created alternate currencies that can’t be traded between players (called “tomestones” in FFXIV, they are obtained from running dungeons) and only these alternate currencies can be used to buy the very best armor and weapons which are only for sale from NPCs (that is non-player characters).

In the same manner, admission to Harvard isn’t auctioned off to the highest bidder in U.S. dollars. Instead, Harvard looks at alternate currencies that can’t be traded between people, such as high school grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and leadership potential.

Another way in which a Harvard degree is like the best armor in WoW or FFXIV is that it can’t be traded to other people. Just like a Harvard degree, after you get your super-powerful armor after trading in the required number of “tomestones” to the NPC, you can’t give that armor to any other player.

People talk about a college bubble, but because college degrees can’t be bought and sold like stocks, houses or tulip bulbs, college education can’t be a bubble in the same manner.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 29, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Education

Computer science an increasingly popular major

with 133 comments

The New York Times reports that the number of computer science majors more than doubled between 2013 and 2017.

1. This invalidates the theory of certain blog commenters that everyone goes to college to major in bogus majors like women’s studies (which in reality is an extremely rare major). There is actually widespread, if not universal, acknowledgement by college students that they should be concerned with the marketability of their degree.

2. Perhaps the reason for this sudden increase (which I actually was surprised to learn about) is that the problem of young people getting saddled with student debt but with no corresponding high-paying job is becoming more widely known, and there’s a new rush to major in something practical.

3. The fact that people are going to college for vocational reasons goes completely against the liberal ideal of college as a humanist place where minds are expanded, and you can self-actualize by studying the world’s greatest works of literature, philosophy, etc. What college students really want is to major in something like plumbing or HVAC, but less blue-collar.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 24, 2019 at EST am

College, part 5 (getting into the cost issue)

Traditionally, Americans saw college education (especially humanist liberal arts education) as a luxury for rich kids and not any sort of necessity. In America, people were judged by what they could contribute and not by their degrees.

Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) dropped out of school after the fifth grade.

Abraham Lincoln, a successful lawyer before becoming a politician and then President, only had one year of elementary school education.

But that was in the 19th century. In the 21st century, good luck with having any sort of career success without having formal college degrees and then graduate school degrees. And because of this modern reality, parents, and young people, feel compelled to spend any amount of money necessary in order not to be left behind.

At the same time, there are a lot of misinformed choices being made. For most people, not having a degree at all is a better choice than attending a crappy for-profit school and getting sacked with loads of student debt. And unless students are able to get into an elite school like an Ivy League or equivalent, there’s no benefit to paying more money for a private school or out-of-state tuition above the low-cost local education available from public colleges and universities.

Why isn’t there anyone responsible working to get information out to the public to prevent young people and their parents from making bad choices? I guess part of the answer is that the mainstream media is so worried about people making the “wrong” choice of not attending college at all, they are afraid of saying anything that might discourage someone from attending college, any college, any degree, at any cost.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 23, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Education

College, part 4 (the humanist ideal of college)

I had hoped to reach the big issues of cost disease, but need to write this in response to comments on previous posts.

I totally get the humanist ideal of college, a place where minds are expanded, and you can self-actualize by studying the world’s greatest works of literature, philosophy, etc. The ideal of college is that you don’t go there for petty reasons of being able to make more money when you graduate, you go there for the intellectual experience.

In fact, it’s very prole to view college as jobs training. That’s how I viewed it going in, coming from a prole background myself, and very cognizant of my parents’ monetary disadvantages compared to most other people that I knew. Then I met these strange people at the lesser Ivy I attended who were studying the humanities and claimed that they were there strictly to learn and didn’t care about whether or not the degree would financially benefit them. It was an absurd way of thinking to someone from a prole background.

The problem with this model of college is that it doesn’t work for the majority of people whose innate intelligence isn’t high enough to self-actualize from studying the humanities, and it can also be a trap for people from non-elite families who get suckered into getting a degree that has no value to corporate America and don’t have the family connections that their wealthier fellow graduates do.

And on top of that, with colleges being taken over by leftists, probably education in the humanities is being replaced by leftist ideology, grievance studies, the traditional reading material being replaced by modern books written by women and “people of color,” etc.

Going back to the innate intelligence issue, it should be pointed out that SJWs DENY the truth of innate intelligence, and part of their reasoning for believing that everyone should go to college is the belief that college makes people smarter, and if only everyone went to college then there would no longer be any stupid people. And even if there were truth in people getting smarter from studying the humanities, we know that nearly all proles who go to college study vocational subjects, or “psychology” because … actually I am very confused about why psychology is such a popular major; perhaps it’s just known to be an extremely easy major, what we used to call a “gut major” in the 1980s.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 14, 2019 at EST am

Posted in Education

College, part 3.1

This is an intermission. I liked this paragraph written by Matt Taibbi (whose father Mike my mother fondly recalls meeting):

So here’s the con so far. You must go to college because you’re screwed if you don’t. Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money. The third part of the con is the worst: You can’t get out of the debt. Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt – preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns – even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.

College is certainly a much better deal for students whose parents are rich so they can graduate without any debt.

(It’s unfortunate that the author had to take a stab at Trump, but maybe that was necessary in order to make the article more palatable for the Trump-hating but college-loving mainstream media. Maybe they wouldn’t publish an anti-college article unless it could also be made to appear to be an anti-Trump article. And it’s true that Trump has done nothing for the prole whites who got suckered into college debt they can’t pay off. He hired Betsy Devos to be Secretary of Education, and she makes the problem worse by reversing the Obama Administration’s crack-down on for-profit colleges, which was the only good thing to come out of the Obama Administration.)

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 11, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Education

College, part 3

While the rest of the world is convinced that college helps people make more money, strangely I have to convince certain blog commenters, because there’s a belief among some in the HBD-sphere that IQ is everything, and therefore someone with a high IQ would make just as much money without a college degree.

There’s also an idea, which is more mainstream, that it doesn’t matter what school you go to, any school is the same. That’s also absurdly false, I don’t know how anyone can believe it. I know from personal experience that if you want to get hired as a lawyer, you had better have the most elite degree possible, because if your degree is outside of the Top 14, you’ll never get hired by a big firm and it’s a lot harder to even get hired by small firms. It’s unlikely you’ll have Michael Cohen’s luck to get hired by Donald Trump, and if anything Michael Cohen disproves that IQ matters above all else, because that guy doesn’t seem all that bright to me.

There is indeed a correlation between high IQ and having a higher income, but my own research into this matter is that people with higher IQ are able to obtain better educational credentials, and then the better educational credentials (if they are lucky and have other necessary things going for them) enable people to get into a higher-paying career track. Without the degree, no one will want to hire you into any good career tracks.

People like to say that employers only care about your experience at prior jobs and not your education, but the problem is that without education you can only get hired for crappy jobs like retail or working at call centers, which only gives you experience to work at other crappy jobs.

Even if you are lucky enough to get hired (for example some people with hot in-demand computer skills have been known to get good jobs without a college degree), you’ll eventually hit a glass ceiling for people without college degrees.

None of this is to say that there is anything intrinsic in years of formal education that makes people better employers or better at making money, but because our society is set up so that only formal learning with a degree is valued, and self-learning is not valued, that’s the way it is. And it’s why I called education a positional good in my recent Lionomics post. The benefit of a degree is that it gives you a positional advantage over people without a degree, and a prestigious degree gives you a positional advantage over people with a degree from a directional state school.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 11, 2019 at EST am

College, part 2

I guess I don’t have to convince any of my readers that college doesn’t make you smarter. I’d be willing to say that education after the age of 17 has absolutely ZERO impact on intelligence.

On the other hand, I do have to convince some people that the rest of the world doesn’t think that way. What the rest of the world thinks is a very complicated mix of contradictory nonsense, but once again I have to remind you that people don’t believe what they believe because they’ve thought about it logically. A lot of people really do believe that college makes people smarter.

Education and training can, in some cases, impart useful knowledge and skills. I think college does this a little bit, for certain majors. Engineering majors have to know a lot more about advanced math than they did before they entered college. I have never worked as a real engineer (I don’t consider a title I may have had as “software engineer” to mean that I was a real engineer), but I would think that at least some of that knowledge is a necessary foundation for doing their job. And a degree in computer science would at least ensure that graduate has some basic computer programming skills, along with a bunch of advanced math that’s not relevant for 95% of people working as software “engineers.”

I don’t think I need to work too hard to convince readers of the paragraph above, there’s definitely a theme in the comments that engineering or STEM are the only “real” majors.

On the other hand, commenters routinely vastly exaggerate the number of people majoring in SJW majors like “gender studies.” The vast majority of college students are majoring in something that probably sounded career related to the student. “Business” is the most popular of all college degrees, demonstrating that most people go to college for the practical benefits they imagine from having a degree in “business.” The second most popular degree is in “health professions and related programs,” which sounds like a pretty practical degree for someone who’s not smart enough to get into some elite field. Although I suspect that a lot of those degrees are bogus degrees which confer no useful job skills, such as “healthcare management.” And definitely, the vast majority of people with “business” degrees learn nothing of any practical use. But a degree in nursing teaches real-world job skills and is a great choice for a prole who wants to make decent money (for a prole).

You hear over and over again how important it is to have a college degree in order to earn more money, and that’s despite the fact that it’s crap to just say “college degree” because there’s such a vast earning difference between a degree in engineering degree and one in “fashion design.” And also a vast difference between a degree from Harvard, and a degree in the same subject from a directional state school. If you did a proper study where you actually looked at degree quality (both in terms of prestige and the usefulness of the particular major), you’d find a pretty solid correlation between degrees and earnings potential.

However, except for the uncommon degrees where people are trained to do actual job tasks are that are in demand by employers, the overwhelming majority of degrees are pretty useless as far as creating an actual skill-based reason for why the degree holder should earn any more money on account of having the degree. This is a combination of the students not being smart enough to get anything out if it (I bet that the typical holder of a degree in “business” can’t even understand the financial statements in a company’s annual report), learning topics of no commercial use like Russian History or 19th Century English literature, and a vast oversupply of specialized degrees compared to jobs.

For the most part, people earn more money with a degree because our economy values the degree regardless of whether or not the degree holder has any useful skills compared to someone of equivalent intelligence without a degree.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 10, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Economics, Education

%d bloggers like this: