Saturday, June 11, 2016

Gaming the System

Since the advent of populist politicians advocating for "free college" (not Bernie), the focus of most of the commentary has been on the fact that it will be far from free.  It will, in fact, be horrifically expensive (Bill Whittle video).

I'd like to take the a different tack - that not only will it be expensive, the degree will be worthless.  Talking about "free college" reflects the special economic idiocy of Bernie Sanders and the other idiots pushing the program.  

A college degree is valuable - to the extent that it still is valuable - because not everyone has one. Not everyone can master the work. If everyone has an Associates or Bachelor's degree (depending on who's making the speech), it will become equivalent to today's High School diploma. You actually see this already happening in that the only degrees that help graduates in getting hired are the ones with strong skills imparted. There simply aren't many jobs for holders of degrees in Offended Minority Studies.

If college becomes "14th grade", the perks and higher pay will go to the Master's Degree holders, the Ph.D.s or some degree that doesn't exist yet.  Or, as the case in an article Borepatch linked to, in South Korea where college is already free
A 2013 McKinsey study found that lifetime earnings for graduates of Korean private colleges were less than for workers with just a high-school diploma. The unemployment rate for new graduates has topped 30 percent.
I'm fond of saying that the only "law" you'll find in a non-science classroom that almost rises to the rigidity of physical law is the law of supply and demand.  In Korea, you see that when the supply of college graduates (weighted, I'm sure, by the fact that only a couple of percent of them can be in software or other engineering) is far more than the market demand, the price goes down. 

There's also the matter of students gaming the system.  After all, if they're being required to take "filler" classes that are really intended to spread the tuition money around, not "make them more well-rounded" as it's always claimed, they're going to do whatever they can to beat the system.  Like hire an unemployed college professor to write their meaningless term papers for them.  Students have been gaming the system for as long as there have been students.  Likewise, companies like Unemployed Professors (.com!) have been around for a long time.  You could always buy a term paper; and it's not that different from buying Cliff's Notes and copying it manually at your typewriter while adding bits of your own verbiage. 
I recommend you go the Unemployed Professors website to look around.  My first thought was it was the Onion, but the fact that it's real makes it just that much more appalling. 

So just what is that degree really worth?  The degree that everyone has, that didn't impart any real skills, and was filled with busy work?  We see in Korea.


  1. Well said!

    Even in the Engineering field, I've seen "Blackboard Geniuses" that were completely worthless in real-world situations. They had ZERO common sense, and not one single clue as to how to apply their "advanced knowledge" towards problem solving.

    I saw one of them come into the lab at Hughes and destroy several tens of thousands of dollars worth of test equipment in the blink of an eye.

    Took me several weeks to get that system running again....

    1. We had one who thought he could parallel lab bench AC lines to double the current. He swore he'd checked all the way back to the breakers and was sure they were different circuits, so he'd just plug the benches together with a cord with a plug on both ends.

      The fire wasn't bad, it pretty much self-extinguished, but killing the lights and leaving us with the stench of blown wiring wasn't pleasant at all!

      (I was in another building that morning and missed the actual "fire drill". When I got back all that was left was just the smell.)

  2. That beats mine!

    At least you "got something" (smoke and fire) for the money....

  3. The huge increase in stupid degree programs (black studies, woman's studies, etc.) correlates with the huge increase in federal funding and student loans for college. The rif-raf can't be expected to take Algebra, calculus or any serious classes in their pursuit of 'free stuff' don'tcha know. If colleges were to return to legitimate degree programs and if the government would get out of the lending business and stop subsidizing college then the problem would be solved.

    1. Which, of course, is the complete antithesis of the "free college" thing! Colleges raise tuition 3x faster than inflation because there's no limit to how much the .gov will give away. The demand for seats exceeds supply because all the mush-for-brains think they need a degree.

  4. The "free college education" would probably be as beneficial as the previous "free" 12 years of public school instruction.

    1. Yeah - they're in school for someone else, not for their own benefit. Nothing is worth paying attention to unless it's on the test. They're doing the school board a favor by doing well (they think) on the standardized tests - the states do grade the school on those scores, after all. At least here in Florida.