for Dummies... and Non-Dummies
by Gary North: Central
Banking: Success Through Failure
retail. Non-dummies don't.
I spoke to a group of about 150 high school and college students.
Most of them were products of home schooling. This is the ideal
audience for my presentation on the way to beat the collegiate rip-off:
a B.A. from an accredited university or college for $11,000 to $15,000,
I gave five
one-hour presentations. The students seemed alert. No one went to
sleep. There were not too many people chatting. I saw no iPhones
or iPads. All in all, it was a good audience.
It was not
a hard sell. My recommended approach is to make use of loopholes
in the collage system. There are seven of them: (1) night school,
(2) dual-track (high school/college), (3) daytime community college,
(4) quizzing out (CLEP, DSST), (5) distance learning, (6) portfolio
courses (life experience), and (7) in-state resident tuition. I
recommend #4 for most people, especially adults who want to earn
their degrees. I
have a free department on my site for adult-re-entry people.
them with a few horror stories, mainly of young women who ran up
debts of $100,000 to $200,000, and who now find themselves saddled
with a lifetime of debt, with rotten jobs that a high school student
could do, low pay, and no way out, since the bankruptcy law was
re-written to close this loophole. There is no protection for college
debt. These women are not marriable. No young man is going to pop
the question when the answer is "yes, along with my $200,000 of
have assembled some of these stories here.
They have destroyed
their lives. No one warned them. Their naïve parents encouraged
them. The parents may have gone into debt, too.
their money are soon parted. Colleges prey on these people.
lectures, I sprang a trap on them. The usual response is, "that's
all right in theory, but it won't work for me." I introduced a young
man who is a member of my church. He turned 18 last December. His
combined birthday and high school graduation present was a B.A.
degree from an accredited university that specializes in quizzing
out and portfolio courses. His total cost: $11,000. He beat the
system. So did his family.
He did not
mention this, but his sisters are following his path.
This was a
show-stopper. The assembled teenagers could not go home with this
excuse: "It can't be done. Not really." It can be done. Really.
He paid less
for his B.A. than the parents of students at a typical private college
of mediocre reputation (if any) pay for school up to the first mid-term
exams of the freshman year. The
typical private college today charges over $27,000 a year in tuition.
Add to this
another $6,000 for room and board, plus textbooks at $150 each per
course. Don't forget a new wardrobe for daughters. Don't forget
travel costs for coming home on vacations.
aware of an $11,000 degree program? No. Are students? No. Do parents
care? Not really. "I want Billy Bob to have a college experience."
The main experience is overcrowded classes taught by graduate teaching
assistants for the first two years, plus football games, a lot of
free sex ("hooking up"), and then, for half of the entering freshman
class, flunking out or dropping out. For those who actually finish,
they walk away with $23,000 in debt and move home. They can't get
CENTURIES OF BUREAUCRACY
university, Bologna, was begun in 1088. It was a law school. It
taught the newly rediscovered system of Roman civil law, as interpreted
by Justinian in the sixth century. Then came the University of Paris
in the mid-twelfth century and Oxford in the early thirteenth. They
offered young men a chance at getting lifetime jobs in law, the
church, or the state. In other words, they sold security.
was formal: grammar, logic, and rhetoric to get in, plus arithmetic,
geometry, astronomy, and music. If you survived four years, you
got to study theology and philosophy. Was any of this useful academically?
Only if you planned to become a bureaucrat or other functionary.
system was created mainly for political and social control. It gave
the church and the state a formal way to screen candidates for the
highest levels of the enforcement system. The university was about
power most of all.
had their own goals. They wanted independence. They got it. That
is why graduation ceremonies involve caps and gowns. The robes symbolize
authority. The universities were a separate legal jurisdiction.
The faculty members could not be removed at will by higher authorities.
There was a layer of protective legality and bureaucracy in between
them and the source of their funding.
This was the
sweetest of all deals. The faculties screened access by their own
rules. They did not have to raise their funding. They had control
over the curriculum. They had control over the students. They could
not be fired easily. It was the bureaucrat's dream: control without
called academic freedom. It culminates in tenure: career immunity
from everything except the worst kind of moral infraction. What
is a worst-case moral infraction? Anything on the six o'clock local
TV news that leads to an investigation by the legislature (state
university) or the board of trustees, where large donors dominate
(private university). To quote the legendary Lakers announcer, Chick
Hearn, "No harm, no foul," with harm being defined as the threat
of budget cuts.
have the sweetest career deal on earth: comfortable income, little
work (once tenured), complete control in the classroom, graduate
students who teach freshmen and do research that can be appropriated
by senior professors, four months of paid vacation, a paid sabbatical
year one year in seven, and free faculty parking lots. They get
paid to read.
OUTPUT, AND PUTTING OUT
In the United
States, the revenue flow into higher education is in the range of
$400 billion a year. This is an immense industry. What does it produce?
Myths, mainly. The main one is the myth of the educated student
with an inquiring, open mind. The reality is closer to Animal
young men who went to college frequented taverns. There, they met
young woman who plied an ancient trade. Today, young women are on
campus, and the price competition is severe. Prices are so low that
there is a new phrase on campus which my era did not enjoy: a particular
kind of buddy. This buddy provides a no-commitment form of amusement
on short notice which has a strong market at zero price. The price
is close to zero.
"Not our Jenny Sue!" Well, somebody's.
at least mothers, have turned a blind eye to these collegiate extra-curricular
activities for 900 years. Fathers may have provided more winked
eyes than blind eyes: "Ah, to be young again."
are ready to fly the coop on this basis is understandable. Five
years of textbooks and whoopee at parental or taxpayer expense seems
to be a sweet deal for students. It's a kind of high-hormone version
of the faculty's experience: high income and low responsibility.
It is an illusion,
as most front-loaded subsidies are. "Buy now, pay later" is the
American way of life. It moves into high gear in college.
I spoke to are not part of this subculture. My sense of the group
was that they don't want to be part of it. There have always been
teenagers who got the message early. But there is an enormous risk
of tossing them into an environment which is inherently hostile
to the outlook that these students bring from their homes. This
risk has been there for 900 years. What is different today is that
there are millions of students on campuses today. This is no longer
an experience limited to the sons of an elite. It is open to sons
and daughters of middle-class families. Turning a blind eye has
become a national pastime.
of the mixed-sex dormitory floor in the 1960s was the tip-off. The
colleges no longer pretended to serve as "in
The idea that
a college could police the sex lives of adult males was always naïve.
The system finally gave up in the 1960s. It more than gave up. The
mixed-sex dormitory floor indicated that something more sinister
was afoot. ("Sinister" comes from the Latin word for "left.")
From the beginning,
faculties have seen their task as bringing enlightenment to the
children of an entrenched elite. There has always been a degree
of resentment by faculties of the privileged position of the economic
and political elite, despite the fact that faculty members prosper
in terms of the largess of that elite. This dependence has made
the resentment greater.
From the Progressive
Era in the United States (Social Democracy in Western Europe) in
the early twentieth century, college faculties have been drawn to
the idea of central planning by an elite of scientifically trained
experts. The faculties have seen themselves as the core of this
scientific elite. They have seen their task as persuading students
of both the legitimacy of scientific planning and the benefits to
This has required
them to indoctrinate the students in an outlook hostile to entrepreneurship.
Ludwig von Mises called this the anti-capitalist mentality. He wrote
a book with this title. You
can download a copy here.
economist Joseph Schumpeter, wrote about this in the early 1940s
in his book, Capitalism,
Socialism, and Democracy. Chapter XIII, "Growing
Hostility," describes the intellectuals' war on bourgeois life.
has intensified. The New Left of the late 1960s provided a new generation
of college professors. These ideologues have dominated academic
life for a generation. They have been as self-conscious as their
predecessors of the Old Left in undermining students' confidence
in bourgeois values, including the free market's ability to create
wealth. But the Establishment outlook of New Deal liberalism has
given way to far more hostile critiques.
dorm floor is the cutting edge of the university's systematic undermining
of the older bourgeois values. David Brookes' book title, BoBos
in Paradise, is on target. The fusing of the bohemian subculture
of the 1950s and the bourgeois commitment to upward mobility has
led to a new culture. The acceptance of parents of the mixed-sex
dormitory indicates the success of the older liberalism in undermining
the old values.
But the Old
Left found that it could not call a halt to the acids of modernity.
The student revolutionaries of the late 1960s were the children
of the Old Left. They turned against the university, which had been
their liberal parents' island of protected liberalism. The Old Left
was not replaced. It still participates in the Establishment's hierarchy
of power. But it has serious competition on campus from the aging
campus revolutionaries of 1967 and their ideological heirs.
In the past
year, the number of Establishment media reports on the high cost
of college or even a supposed bubble has increased. The subject
has always been on the back burners of the intelligentsia, but the
decline of jobs for new college graduates has finally caught the
attention of the media. The story sells, because parents are finding
that their children have returned home, degrees in hand, along with
a pile of IOUs to Sallie Mae and other student loan bureaucracies.
These is a
hint of revolution. I don't think much will come of this for years.
Parents are still enamored by the myth of the college degree as
the ticket to a successful life. Faculties have been marketing their
wares on that basis ever since 1088. But the cold winds of economic
reality are sending a chill in the halls of ivy.
ever figure out that their kids can earn an economic useless degree
for $11,000 instead of $111,000, they may decide to let their kids
earn their degrees "North's way." But probably not. The lure of
the conventional is always great. "It's just not done that way."
"Why not?" "Because it just isn't."
school families are the ideal candidates, because they have long
since made the break from conventional education. They have larger
families. They cannot afford to send all the kids to college. So,
they look for alternatives.
is something else. Their children have learned how to learn outside
of the classroom. They are more confident in self-education. This
is the cheapest way to earn a degree: outside a classroom.
the children of the besieged middle class send their children off
to the delights of campus tomfoolery, the anti-government-schools
home school families will take advantage of the academic loopholes.
I left the
students with this message: never pay retail for college. I hope
they take my advice. I think their parents will agree.
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2011 Gary North
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