We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
What is college for, and why is it so expensive? From John Leo:
Where does all that money go? Much of it to lavish spa-like facilities and grand new construction, including $100 million or so for multicultural centers and sports stadiums. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88 percent since 2001, to $307 billion. Jeff Selingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes about a “lost decade” of wild campus spending: “The almost insatiable demand for a college credential meant that schools could raise their prices and families would go to almost any end, including taking on huge amounts of debt, to pay the bill. In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a year for tuition, fees, and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that mark.” And now many are inching toward (or past) $50,000 a year...
I am old-fashioned. I think college should be spartan but spartan doesn't sell. It's about branding and sales.
To the slight extent that our higher education has increased social stratification, it is due to the mania for college credentials the system has helped unleash. Some people who can’t obtain the credentials that are increasingly required of job applicants—even for work that calls for nothing more than basic trainability—are shut off from good career paths. That is something of an obstacle to social mobility and if the higher education industry wanted to make amends, it could work toward alternative credentials that would be less costly and better indicators of employability. (There is already movement in that direction, but mostly from outside “edupreneurs.”)
I think the edupreneurs will own the future, especially for those who seek education mainly as an investment in their careers. Traditional colleges don't know whether they are centers for life-enrichment or job-training centers. They are confused about their mission because they do not want to see themselves as credential-salesmen. I have no problem with janitors with college degrees. Why not? I do have a problem with college for people who do not treasure the life of the mind.
Barrister my friend ... I'm in agreement with you on the "college should be spartan" question. It was in my day. As a middle Westerner attending an Eastern college [Columbia U.], I was not plentifully supplied with allowances and such, so I naturally gravitated to the push-pin boards which listed jobs for my "spare time", including waiting table etc. for local peoples' cocktail parties [pretty lucrative, but somewhat bruising on the bottom] which became easier as I got to know the male scholarship students who made me stay in the kitchen while they served the lubricious elderly [well they seemed elderly compared to my age at the time]. The pay was not exactly generous, but the money was mine-all-mine to spend or save.
When my Dad had been at Columbia [and boyohboy was that a long time ago] he got extra work washing dishes in a frat house. He was still good at it when he married and had children [us] so much so that the men of the neighborhood in which we lived came over one evening to plead with him that if he was going to help with the dishes, please to pull down the shades, because he was "ruining the curve."
I think that an essential part of the learning experience when you go away to college is to have enough pressure on you for extra spending money that you will take on extra jobs like we did. Looking back on it, it was fun.
It does seem the modern college is working against itself. It should be a place of contemplation and mental training but they keep building more and more distractions for the undisciplined students. Spartan surroundings were not some penance but rather a signal to cause the student to occupy himself with studies.
Of course, the universities have on the whole ignored the development of a rounded student. Concentrating on the abstract to the disdain of the practical. In the past, the life of the mind emphasis wasn't so damaging as the student arrived having lived a practical life, familiar with manual skills.
A classical liberal arts program meshed with useful manual arts training would probably be the best. Most would argue that neither are of direct practical value, i.e., fulfills a job description. The goal of higher ed, however, should be to discipline the mind and hand in the general sense. The particulars evolve so quickly that direct instruction is mostly obsolete by the time it is acquired.