Friday, November 23, 2012

Enough with Chicken Little

Is College Worth It?

The Atlantic did a post on a recent speech by Bill Gates which presented a lot of data about colleges and universities and their current problems.   As Gates points out governmental support for colleges and universities is declining and the declines are being covered in part by increased loans and fees.  Default rates, by the way Mr. Gates, are unsurprisingly rising.    At the same time graduation rates are, to use an inappropriate term, crappy.  If you go to a community college you have a 30% chance of getting a degree in three years.   The numbers just about double when you attend a four year institution for twice the time.   Gates also points out that we are falling behind many nations in our supply of college educated workers and that by sometime in the near future we will be something like 22 million degrees short.

I hate to be jaded here but anyone with the least bit of sense, knows those numbers.   There has been a lot of writing in recent months about a) Why it is not worth going to college (Peter Theil, for example), or why there are plenty of alternatives to a traditional four year degree (Udacity, Coursera, etc.)   What one would hope is that Mr. Gates, no college graduate himself, would do is not yammer about the problems but actually begin to think about solutions.

What annoys me most about this presentation is that he concentrates on public universities.   Indeed, they are about 80% of the market.   But were Mr. Gates the least bit creative he might have thought about different delivery and pricing mechanisms that would require less government spending, allow more options for students and improve the abysmal stats on things like graduation.

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