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Bailing Out Higher Ed?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Vartan Gregorian, president of the non-profit Carnegie Corporation, about the fiscal struggles of America’s colleges and universities – especially those that are public – in the troubled economy.

“Education is very central to our democracy. You can neglect it, you can get it on the cheap, and you get what you pay for. And if you think education is costly, try ignorance because that will be far more costly.”

Last fall, Gregorian convened a group of educators to urge Barack Obama to invest in higher education. On December 16th, the group published an open letter [PDF LINK] asking that five percent of the economic stimulus package – estimated at 40-45 billion dollars – go to constructing and upgrading buildings at the nation’s colleges and universities:

“It is critical that any legislation include a substantial investment in states and their educational systems, particularly public higher education. That investment initially should focus on infrastructure: building essential classroom and research buildings and equipping them with the latest technologies. Construction would meet both the economic and the environmental priorities of the incoming administration... Our nation is losing ground on a number of fronts critical to our future prosperity and national security... Today, only the federal government has the resources and vision to meet these threats to America’s future.”

In a column for INSIDE HIGHER ED criticizing the letter’s proposal, Jane S. Shaw, president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, wrote:

“Why did these educators choose capital funding – that is, constructing “essential classroom and research buildings and equipping them with the latest technologies”? Wouldn’t tuition discounts, tax credits, more scholarships, or even faculty salaries be more directly related to the problems they decry?... There’s a reason why states are shelving these “shovel-ready” projects... they are doing so because tax payments have dried up... By asking taxpayers to rev up these projects the administrators are essentially saying that if state taxpayers can’t afford a project, some mythical ‘federal taxpayer’ can... Let’s accept this is about pork barrel politics. It’s not about helping the kids.”

The economic stimulus package passed by the House on Wednesday and in consideration by the Senate promises $6 billion for construction and renovation at colleges and universities.

What do you think?

  • Should federal funds intended for economic stimulus go to construction and renovation at the nation’s higher education institutions? Why or why not?

  • With the United States running severe deficits, do you support spending more money as proposed in the economic stimulus package? Do you think it will help resuscitate the economy? Explain.

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    I agree that the "higher learning" as defined by Thorstein Veblen in the 1920s has value. I am skeptical that the service industry Scott Tolle describes has much inherent value. Mr. Tolle is correct when he says wealthy 18-22 year olds are in short supply for the number of educational institutions we are supporting. He is incorrect when he asserts a shortage of 18-22 year- olds capable of pursuing further education. Actually the rich kids seem to get by OK and replace their parents even with little education. (Statistics bear it out.) Maybe college is more networking and pre-socialization than learning, mainly aimed against the crude habits of the never before wealthy who think reform is in order. No place I've ever been has been quicker or harsher in punishing me or criticizing me for doing the morally correct or generally expedient thing than the colleges and universities in which I've been enrolled. One old parson (Warren Carr) at Wake Forest told me to think of People's Heaven as the Big House, where the criminal overlords serve an eternal sentence while those who suffered at their hands live in a generous and plentious communism (not the Earthly type but somewhat like the Shakers).
    These would be so joyous in their common labors that the imprisoned wretches would hopelessly scream out to join them.
    It was a psychology that reversed the prevalent hierarchy in my mind and I abandoned the "success ethic" forever like a disease. Though I understand Warren had posited only a fantasy, I can still hear the happy singing in my sleep. Thanks Dr. Carr for a REAL education. College is like the monastery high in the mountains where people climb in the cold for weeks to receive wisdom, only to find they've received half the wisdom on the way up and will earn the other half on their way down. Education is an ability and not a product. And you must remain always curious and receptive to receive it, or to share it. Our culture has become contrary to the "higher learning" and money cannot change that condition.

    I enjoyed watching Vartan Gregorian’s interview on Higher Education. The need for “Bailing Out Higher Education” is clearly present but the question needs to be asked why Higher Education is in financial crisis? This is not a new question but more of a crisis because of the economic storm. The question is not for the immediate crisis but using federal funds to create viable financial footing. The crazy thing is that in spite of the decline in conventional revenue streams this is a time of opportunity.
    Higher Education is a service industry. Colleges and universities buy, sell, package, and create the most valuable commodity in the world today, specialized knowledge. Students now, and in the future, will need higher quality and quantity of this expensive commodity. If we meet students’ needs, college cost will go up. If we try to further reduce faculty wages we will loss our most valuable resource, our people. The retrenchment of our colleges and universities is an industrial business model rather than service industry model. Service industries work best when they are looking for to provide new services that generate revenue.
    Most of our colleges and universities generate revenue from tuition derived from 18-22 year olds (and their families), state and federal government, development (charity donations of admirers), research, and financial assets. All of these revenue sources cannot sustain increased institutional costs. There are not enough rich smart kids to go around so the children of the middle class are a major source of tuition revenue. The middle class has less been in decline for thirty years and the remaining middle class have less discretionary income to meet increased educational cost. Many states and the federal government are less willing to invest in Higher Education because they see Higher Education as an expense rather than an investment. I have a great deal of experience with educational financing but none in Development. I strongly suspect that schools are competing very hard for a declining revenue source given our national recession, banking problems, Wall Street decline, and Madoff scandal. Our local news has commented on Harvard’s effords to retrench because of declined revenue. Research will help some schools but not all schools. It may take several years for schools to recover from the nation’s financial setbacks.
    Specialized knowledge is a great financial commodity. I believe many schools will be slow to step up to the idea that they are a service industry. Many schools will need federal financial help to point them in this direction. I know of at least one university that saw themselves as a service industry for thirty years but few outside of their upper financial planners knew this. Individual schools needed to look for opportunities to create alliances with business, government, and new students. I’m not talking about pushing our present courses into the evening for older students, I am talking about designing new and specialized education packets. We need to provide new services to new markets rather than competing with each other for a student population that cannot meet increasing tuition costs. We need to look for opportunities to lead and provide services in our intellectual and regional communities. We even have talented students, a really dynamic resource for immediate insight, feedback, and thinking outside of the box. Higher Education is the only industry that I know whose clients identify themselves with the service provider. The one exception is Apple, but Steve Jobs introduced an alliance, leadership, and competing through looking for new opportunities approach to business competition when he returned to Apple.
    By the way, I am an expert in computer media. Technology gives higher education a quick and effective way to package specialized knowledge and distribute services throughout the world rather than just our classrooms. I’m not talking about trying to teach English Composition on a computer class to cut costs. I’m talking about highly specialized teaching using a combination of teleconference, video, and other distribution media to search the world for new markets and provide services in a timely fashion.
    Scott Tolle

    I heard the show, but only scanned the comments. Does anyone care about the efficiency of colleges? When asked why college costs have increased at a rate 3 times the median family income, Mr. Gregorian (I apologize if it's Dr. Gregorian) only listed what the cost elements were - not why they've increased so fast.

    I live in a town with 2 private colleges, taught for a short time at a college and have a relative who teaches in the Ca system. Certainly doesn't make me an expert and this is a small sample, but given every company I've known has found ways to reduce and colleges haven't had to, there has to be fat. And from my limited experience, there is massive inefficiency.

    It would have been honest for this show to have discussed this, but I think Mr. Gregorian is more of an advocate for education rather than someone who will give an accurate picture.

    If there were no colleges or universities but set fees for credentialing I doubt things would be much different than they are now.
    Products would be graded like meat. A Class A BA or BS would cost about $250,000 and be available to all 22 year olds and older. (Class B-$200,000 Class C-150,00)Once that was purchased you could add a Class A Masters for an additional $250,000 and then a doctorate for another $500,000. I imagine the same people more or less would hold these degrees as do now. Ideology and politics would be about the same. It would open up professional sports to start being payed and roided-up at age 10, just like the Olympics. Knowing you'd never get the money or sponsorship could settle things early and lessen longing and frustration. People could be satisfied to be the best drug addict, whore, mercenary or utensil possible at an early age, and retire early by life attrition. Isn't that about what we do now? You learn by watching Mommy and Daddy cheat and coke-up, then watch your boss. Soon you know the rules are bullsh**. That's American education. Who needs the bricks and mortar, maybe the Greeks? But there are brothels for that.


    Who came up with the idea that eduction requires money?

    And why is it that our children are taught the reason for higher education is to attain more money?

    Why do we need elaborate brick buildings to teach our children anything?

    Why can't lessons be taught under a tree?

    Why do we teach our children complexities when simplicity is all they really need?

    Why do we teach the geometry of a perfect circle when there is no such thing?


    Why are we so fat, did we miss the class on what to eat?

    Happiness 101, Is that taught?

    And what about Equality 101, shouldn't that be mandatory?

    Why does mankind think himself greater than everything else? Education?

    And what about the economy? What about a class on living within Ones means?

    Why have we trashed this planet, have we been taught the importance of taking care of our home, how to use a garbage can?

    Why do we have such a huge welfare program, have we not been taught how to take care of ourselves, to stand on our own two feet?

    Self Control 101? There's 7 billion of us know burning up the rescourses. Hello, the Earht has got a fever and if it dies we die!

    Have we missed the lesson on how to fly?

    Do birds need money to fly?

    Education, ya right?



    Mumia W,
    Everyone needs to rethink the mess that we have gotten ourselves into...
    what we think often becomes the reality that exists.

    First is the corruption of our concept of reality and how it effects what we have to deal with; then comes the disasters that are the result of faulty thinking.
    Not only do we have to rethink how we deal with reality; we have to understand the necessary actions required to shift from the present situation to a better situation.
    This transition is an important factor in the maintenance of life and the advancement of society.
    We have to understand the function of earth systems as well as the function of social systems to arrive at the intended destination.
    Without rational intent; life will turn to chaos and all of the beautiful things will be lost. It will be a cold still earth.

    It is love and meaningfulness that makes life a worthwhile experience.

    "Things only have the value that we give them."

    “I find it amusing... Do you care to rethink that? “
    I have posted in a brief form material facts on February 1, 2009 1:44 pm, you
    may want to read, and digest those facts that I have stated!
    One can turn blind eye, or “try ignorance that will be far more costly,”
    only when a person think by reasoning that “the last remaining bit of its
    middle class are educators!”
    Ignoring the facts that women working three and one half hours at McDonald and
    three and a half hours at Kentucky Fried... at a minimum wages to support three kids,
    paid the bill, no insurance and wondering how she was going to get and meet the kids
    after school; or the three kids going to school in a cold morning, where one of the kids
    has shoes and the other riding a bike with no shoes and socks that had to ride the bike
    to school. As the bike had a flat tire the kid with no shoes had to push the bike.
    Their instruction were to exchange the shoes with the one riding the bike half way
    up the road to school!
    How much is a enough to push a family into e poverty, hardship, suffering, exploitation
    and lack of education? Enrichment for one and exploitation for others!
    Over 35 million that cannot read higher than 5th grade education is not a coincident!
    I do not think that this is “very amusing” as some may find it and I do not find your
    reasoning rational justified!

    @Walt Lessun, February 2, 2009 4:42 PM;
    @Chris, February 2, 2009 9:55 PM;

    I find it amusing that you suggest that America, a country with both the largest debt and largest trade deficit in world history, outsource the last remaining bit of its middle class--educators.

    How do we increase teacher salaries by outsourcing their jobs? How does our country repay its debts by sending more money overseas? Do you care to rethink that?

    flow of the false analogies. What are you recommending? Are you gonna burn up us little brush people and leave only the giants of wealth and finance standing? Here comes flow with a blowtorch!

    Anyway, you can investigate almost any federal agency and understand how policy was skewed to benefit corporate interests. Think about how Indian tribes are used as shills for gray area activities, with only negligible benefit to tribal members in the few tribes used. Moyers has harped upon the Agriculture Department that feeds Cargill before it considers us, and we all know about the drugs on TV that have bigger side effects than usefulness. The fact that we have let corporate business get so giganormous while threatening to shrink government has meant corrupt and excessive deregulation while the people were cowed with fear by rumors of terrorism and the reaction of state terroristic powers conferred upon government agencies. The main things we have to fear; are big business itself, and the government that serves its needs!

    In hard times desire for the frivolous does not decrease, but payout for it does. Perhaps the siphon to exotic courses won't be such a big problem in the near future.

    "Bring the model over here" sounds ok to me, but outsourcing the education process would seem in many cases to be squandering money.

    In some cases, though, it might make sense. If med students had the intention of eventually practicing where they're needed most Cuba might volunteer to send teaching staff here take such students. They offered to send medical teams into Gulf areas post Katrina. I'm not saying replace teaching staff here with Cubans. I'm saying if a student has little interest in a degree from a status school and a great interest in going where s/he's needed most...then these kinds of students might benefit from contact with Cuban medical professionals with that same spirit/orientation. If you lived in Miami travel costs wouldn't be that great.

    Gregorian's big point, of course, is that our really good state funded institutions (like the Univ of CA) shouldn't die on the vine. Perhaps for a time they will continue
    in-sourcing foreign students because of their record of quality in the past. But, the way things are going, this will only continue (in fact we'll only avoid outsourcing) if voters demand back-up for adequate funding.

    The Tao of Fire and the Logos of Monetary Policy.

    For the past 100 years the US Forest Service has maintained a policy of "fire suppression" to "protect human life, property, and at risk land and resources." The unintended consequence of this interdiction policy has been to deprive forests and wild-lands of the beneficial role that fire provides in maintaining the long-term health and integrity of ecological systems. This beneficial role, simply put, is the elimination of weak, superfluous and undesirable elements accumulated within the system as a natural product of growth and competition. The suppression of fire, eventually, not only compromises the vitality of the natural immune system inherent in the system, it also produces the conditions most amiable to absolute catastrophe.

    Generally speaking, a wild-fire "sweeps through" an area eliminating debris collected on the forest floor and less-healthy constituents of the ecological system that lack the necessary vitality to survive a vigorous challenge to their integrity, but leaves healthy, mature trees standing. In turn, the healthy trees thrive and produce quality offspring and the cycle repeats itself. Historically, as a general rule, wild fires rarely achieved the intensity required to produce "crowning fires." A crowning fire is characterized by an intensity of heat sufficient to destroy everything in its path.

    Crowning fires occur in areas that either have an inordinate amount of debris (fuel) accumulated on the forest floor to feed the fire once started or an unusually high proportion of unhealthy trees. An active crowning fire sounds like a war zone, as mature trees are completely engulfed in flames, they literally erupt into a blaze of fire, thus contributing even more heat to the raging inferno. Rather than "sweeping through" an area on the forest floor, the fire becomes utterly destructive of everything in its path.

    The unintended consequence of the US Forest Service policy of fire suppression is a dramatic increase in the number and intensity of fires, resulting in unprecedented levels of resource destruction, unhealthy forests, and exasperating the conditions that ensure this trend will continue well into the foreseeable future. We are presently in a cycle where each successive year sets new records for fire destruction, with no end in sight.

    For the past 30 years the US Federal Reserve has utilized "monetary policy" to "manage" the "corrections" that are an inherent part of the economic cycle. An economy is a complex system just as wild-lands are complex ecological systems. The unintended consequence of the Federal Reserves' interdiction in the economic cycle in the form of monetary policy is evidenced by the deterioration of the integrity and vitality of the constituents of the economic system: Businesses and consumers alike.

    Our government may continue its policy of "stimulating the economy" through tax cuts and spending, or trying to "help" home owners, and "preserve" jobs, and "rescuing" institutions that are "too big to fail" and buying "toxic" assets, but none of this will produce a healthy economy, nor will it eliminate the requirement of dealing with the eventual consequences of such policy.

    Like it or not, the big burn is coming, and if we hope to survive it, we had better deal with it now rather than later.

    See The Origin of Financial Crises: Central Banks, Credit Bubbles, and the Efficient Market Fallacy

    Agenda for a New Economy

    The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

    When Corporations Rule the World

    Chris and David show a considered maturity of thought in budgeting education for our global energy future. We must meet material scarcity half way. In India they do this with barefoot colleges. Middleaged women, some illiterate and with language barriers are taught photovoltaics by rote and schematic in residential schools. Compare this with our foolish affluent colleges that indoctrinate about what kind of wine to serve and what color panties excite your boyfriend as an adjunct to practical matters. There is no football championship or keg party at the barefoot school. Mature and serious learners assist one another with lessons and projects and cook meals communally. Maybe we should put our borrowed bucks into their model and even bring it here. I would not mind studying a technical subject I could pass on through teaching this coming summer. I could sleep in a make-shift dormitory on a futon and eat simple fare, like beans, rice, and inexpensive vegetables. Anyone motivated who had nothing better to do could do it too. And as we are expecting a surplus of idled laidoff people we should prepare now to take advantage of the warm season. Why, we could even garden crops for recreation if fertile plots were made available. No one wants to sit reading and studying throughout the sunlit hours. And oh the friendships that would be fostered,among diverse ages and backgrounds. Hey, the new organic education could be healthy for humanity! And a lowered energy, slower world could be fun. How long since you played checkers? I did so at a rest home last evening, and I let my opponents win some. It was enriching.

    Hoping against hope that the admin, the arm chair know-it-alls, and voters in general will sooner or later get the main message


    ...and hoping they'll quickly figure out why "the bad bank" is a bad idea (if it is)...I guess I'll ask my senators first to add more provisions for the social safety net, and second to endorse Gregorian's suggestions re education. [Oppose cuts in the pipe, and please add some of his suggested outlays...which I'll try to summarize] That's all that's on my mind. Haven't digested enough specific provisions re environment in the bill yet...

    I don't think any of the emails any dot-orgs are sending me are relating which reps and senators to contact re accept-the-stimulus (or add more). I don't even know if the Senate's likely to reject, and if it did I get the feeling it would be cause it's too much, not cause it's not enough.

    Josh over at "Altercation" says "big think" meetings are on the March agenda in places like NY & DC. Well, maybe another stimulus'll be needed farther down the line.

    I'll include this part of Randy Albelda's message over at

    "Our physical infrastructure needs work, but so does our social infrastructure. And it’s not just the safety net. Quality care for children and long-term care for disabled and elderly people are in short supply--and unaffordably expensive for many families. Moreover, women are disproportionately employed in these sectors, many at low wages that barely enable them to support their own families. In contrast, the construction and green-energy jobs that often pay decent wages with benefits are overwhelmingly filled by men.

    So let’s enact a bold recovery plan that promotes employment but also reconstructs the safety net and jumpstarts the process of upgrading our social infrastructure. Here are four suggestions:

    First, provide federal funding to states to prevent reductions in essential services. Now is not the time to reduce public health investments, stop transportation projects, cut higher education or lay off K-12 and early-education teachers.

    Second, recreate our housing infrastructure. In exchange for buying up bad loans, secure foreclosed properties and develop an affordable housing stock.

    Third, expand help for families who are struggling to pay for care for children and elders. Doing so will not only help the families struggling to care for their loved ones. It will also provide the job-creation stimulus for women workers that bridge-repair funding will provide for men.

    Fourth, replace our outdated and arbitrary poverty measure with a realistic measure of what it takes to afford basic needs and participate fully in society. This measure should be used to gauge whether the eventual economic recovery is reaching all Americans." Randy Albelda, ibid

    In my post below I explained my point poorly. That amount even if put to maximum good use impart minimal but highly useful training (without a bunch of expense for travel etc)...might not even give us the numbers of installers we need.

    I don't think $45 billion would be enough, as for instance those needing only training to hook up photovoltaic panels (and assuming this is all the instruction they would want to pay for) represent too many of the people people who need training right now. IMO the numbers needing training (even for a limited skill like this) would not be covered.

    What do you think?
    I would believe the $45 billion dollars would be sufficient funds for transportation and
    enrollment for 10 years or more by OUTSOURCING THE STUDENTS to acquire
    economically, affordable cost- effective education in other countries throughout the world.
    This should avoid personal long term debt for the family and the students! We have been
    reminded that this is a GLOBAL Economy! As a Global economy this should be
    an opportunity for diversity, opportunity to negotiate salary, and make cuts at the
    universities and other schools, same as the labor being force to take cuts in an auto, steel
    and other industries!
    The student of under privileged and poverty families should not have to have only
    one choice, that is, to joint into the Army, Navy etc. and perhaps sacrifice their life in order
    to get scholar ship for an education. We should not be force to
    “try Ignorance that will be far more costly!” The education Profession has been using
    every opportunity to enrich them self. This is just one more excuse pork barrel
    project to obtain funds!

    Invest more in global web bandwidth. We can get better education at a cheaper price by online attendance at Indian, Chinese and Cuban schools, colleges and universities. The teachers are just as bright and they don't ask for high tuition.

    Lets remember that until such time as we take the selling of armament out of the hands of individuals and corporations, whose only goal is money with absolutely no thought to what these weapons incur on basic human rights and the civilian populations that these weapons are prmarily used against, not armies. Private arms dealers are the scourge of the earth,and should be dealt with accordingly.

    Here in Canada we just had a "strike" by profs and part time teachers for "Job Security" and more money at the U of Toronto. When are these so called educaters going to start teaching?? When are these educaters gong to start striking for students??? Higher education does not always neccessarily mean Harvard;Princeton or some other elitist institution.Our overfull box of old ideas is about to burst at the seams and we seem incapable of thinking outside that box.I have always failed to understand why some people seem to think that affordable education and funding that education is somehow anti American as in it is a Socialist ideology, instead of one of betterment for all.

    Many good posts here, very encouraging to hear that others are not easily taken in by the propaganda of the college “city states” (Mr. Gregorian’s own term in defining the economic/political aspect of colleges).

    Just a few points not seen in other comments,

    1) Much of the marketing of college has at its core an implied “shaming” of someone who does not have a degree, i.e., someone who does not buy their product. Sure, a college degree was a sign of being “upper class” once, and that still goes. Let’s always remember there are non-educational social status elements to college, some have value, some are ego-padding luxuries for those who wish to indulge in them. (“My son goes to Harvard”)
    2) Has there ever been a college that ever had enough money and turned down additional funding? I have never seen it. They are in the business of raising money, so a deficit has to be created if one does not exist. My college recently tried to raise $100 million– they raised $115 million, and the next month they sent me a letter asking for still more money.
    3) Perhaps, instead of funding a system that most agree is not working so well, perhaps the whole system needs to be scrapped and we’ll start over. Can we find a university researcher willing to take that on?
    4) If I had a family member who acted like the college system, I would give them an ultimatum to get help and change their ways, as no amount of money seems to get them on their feet. I can no longer enable dysfunction. The answer from the schools to every institutional failure is always “we need more money,” but case after case of urban school failure shows money does not make a school.
    5) Knowledge is overrated. Check out my “Principles of Applied Stupidity.” --jl

    While I too believe that education is crucial to a better world, we nonetheless need to know what we mean by this word before we start throwing money at it. *Just* providing more money to higher education solves little, since higher education is *also* part of the problem. Case in point: due to a 20% loss in its endowment, a venerable and very well known college in the United States recently asked its faculty either to take a 1% pay cut or defer their scheduled 4% raise for 6 months. The faculty decided that this would be too much of a hardship and instead voted to downsize the staff. Only one faculty member objected aloud, saying he preferred a pay cut to throwing people out of their jobs. He was told he didn't understand how important it was to maintain pay parity with "peer" institutions, and that he lacked "compassion" for those faculty living "on the edge" despite salaries that far exceed that of the average American.

    Isn't this the same logic that culminates in "retention" bonuses for executives whose companies are shedding jobs like there's no tomorrow? Do we want more money going to faculty who are unwilling to make the smallest sacrifices for the good of - finally - us all? Isn't one of the reasons that university tuition has increased so dramatically since 1986 because it has bought into a certain capitalist logic that insists on paying the "executives" more and more while the grunts in the trenches are forced to make do with less and less?

    Human EGO is the cause of all negativity in man - this is a well established fact. Sharing one's good fortune with those who are not that fortunate is the best insurance....USA has done this in the past. Currently USA wants to be the controller of this planet ("We are the greatest" attitude).
    The greed for money and power destroys the basic values of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and non-violencs which are fundamental factors in continuity. Examples are the British Empire ("We are British"),Roman Empire etc. Man disregards those five values only to face his own destruction.

    Before we can talk about rebuilding our educational system we need to address the issue of families. Our culture has become toxic for families and for the healthy development of children. A recent article in the NYT on American soldiers being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan mentioned a shortage of maternity uniforms in the desert camo used in Iraq. What kind of a future do we expect of a country that sends its most vulnerable children- in utero- into combat? How can children learn when they do not have love and support, enough to eat and help with homework? If parents are gone long hours working two jobs, live far away from their own parents and relatives, do not have a church or synagogue they belong to or have time to create a neighborhood, there is no support system for the family and we will not be able to educate the children no matter how much money we allocate for education. We need to rethink what the role of a family is in the growth of a child and the health of a nation. Maslov's pyramid makes it very clear that safety, shelter, food and companionship are basic needs, without which nothing much else can happen in the developing human being.

    Below is an essay you read at risk to your sanity. If you accept its premise, education is out the window because the old world has evaporated before your eyes.
    A universal paradigm shift is being forced upon all 7 billion Earthlings. We lacked a good definition or conception of education before this collapse. Much of the productive value put toward it was wasted or diverted to the needs of those privileged with money and power. I am praying and longing for a new non-iatrogenic educational approach. But who can tell me what that will be? KM

    Made-off, Made-out, Made-up, Made-sad and Made-stupid: Why PFFT! Assets and Black Hole Debt Are Not Such an Extraordinary Proposition


    Today, just before February 2010, we see the largest American based banks begging for more bailout money, Citibank has floated a plan to split into sectors; one for still profitable business, and one for hopeless holdings (toxic assets). They’ve tried to raise more liquidity by selling controlling interest in their crown jewel, Smith Barney, their investment branch, to smaller Morgan Stanley, which seems in less distress. Previously Citibank boasted soundness after touting suspect infusion deals with an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund (state controlled investment trust) and the giant Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan. Citibank shares are now in the $3 range, even after the TARP originally underwrote 118 billion in toxic assets and provided additional infusions of more than 45 billion.

    Recently, Bank of America boasted record losses (2.39 billion) and a stock price plunge, and tried to blame its merger with Merrill Lynch (net 4th quarter loss of 9.8 billion). Real play money came from the U.S. Treasury in the form of TARP funds, 20 billion to close the Merrill Lynch deal and a commitment to cover more than 90 billion in subsequent write-downs. CEO Ken Lewis admitted they’re increasingly burdened with consumer credit default (unpaid credit cards). We’ve long heard about their toxic mortgage debacle after acquisition of Countrywide Financial. At last check their stock price had descended to about $6 a share. All of this can become very confusing because TARP transactions and agreements have been far from transparent.

    The Obama administration is now floating the idea that a Bad Asset Bank could be created, underwritten by taxpayers, that would assume several trillions in toxic assets from all American banks and other financial institutions. Even the banks receiving large TARP outlays seem unable to restore adequate reserves to return to normal operation. They may be more leveraged than they admit. If the public is not fearful and asking why, something is wrong. Taxpayers are not Jesus Christ and have not assented to suffer for the sins of the banking, investing and speculating class. Not only does the government not know how much debt they’re agreeing to assume, they do not have any guarantee that the institutions they’re assisting can successfully be rescued. The black hole of debt and default that has been created may have a debt service cost attached that is already multiplying exponentially with the value being absorbed by phantom entities and diminishing worth. The alarmed observer asks how this could be so, and denies the possibility. For if things are as bad as suspected, not only will the financial premiership of the United States and affluent household lifestyle become a fleeting memory, but the very democratic integrity of the United States might be in jeopardy. No amount of patriotic and hopeful rhetoric can sustain public opinion when the population lives in debt peonage.


    In economics class, the most inquisitive student will often ask about the stock market, “Who gets the money I lose when the price of my stocks fall?” The instructor will sometimes laugh at the naiveté’ of the student. There is a disconnect between the student who sees the trader buying a hundred shares at $10 ($1000) and selling at $5 ($500) with a 50% loss, and the teacher who thinks in terms of floating abstract values. It’s a dichotomy of thought as perplexing as the co-existence of subatomic particles and waves. It’s no wonder some foolish “quant” economists think they can predict risks with arcane formulas.

    On the student side the truth is that their investment was partially lost to the seller who surrendered their stock at $10 a share. In this case money comes and goes through a chain of ownership or custody. The purchaser at $5 a share sets a new parity that is conditional upon a subsequent selling price. But the abstraction of fluctuating value remains, in that when one looks at the stock exchange in aggregate the overall net worth of the corporations represented can also rise and fall. Recently American based corporations appear to have lost more than half their collective value. One need not feel naïve in asking,”Where did it go?” A teacher, having grown confident in a repeated syllabus, may not be cognizant of such a reality, but it nevertheless persists.

    What undermined the value of our stock market, and is that tendency indicative of conditions in the overall economy? Normally trader confidence would be seen as primary in driving stock pricing. That is not the case today. Confidence has been undermined by overleveraging and unregulated transactions in the financial sphere. Add to that customary laws enforcing corporate privacy and we have a series of black box operations that can never underwrite confidence. It amounts to more than banking because banks have overstepped their domain into areas such as energy and derivatives, as manufacturers have become financiers. Besides all this, there are now funds that accept investments regulated by nothing more than the whims of their operators. This leads to another pertinent question, “Why was so much deregulation demanded?” One might assume intensified greed as a generic answer and blame it all on human nature. But because this phenomenon has not occurred at this scale before, I tend to surmise it may be indicative of the unsustainability of global corporate capitalism itself. And we come to a terminal question, “How much monetary and materialistic intensity can the social life of human beings bear before trust and rational perspective begin to break down?” We may be approaching that tipping point, but we need to examine some financial conditions before we make that assumption. In any case, we would have inevitably reached financial saturation at some point anyway. (This is an anthropological topic for another essay.)

    Relative Values Under Present Conditions

    If we take as a base unit the yearly GDP of the United States ($15trillion) it will provide a tool for comparison in years of the relative size and weight of the various sectors and obligations. The total value of U.S. residential real estate peaked at around $20.6 trillion (St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank estimate) in 2006. The total value of the stock and bond markets maxed out at around 100 trillion dollars. (Some insurance and holdings as deposits are not included.) The total value of all publicly traded corporations maxed out at 58 trillion dollars in early 2008. Total U.S. commercial real estate was reckoned to be worth about 10 trillion at that time. According to the Bank of International Settlement listed credit derivatives have maxed out at $1.1 quadrillion (one thousand trillion).

    Now let’s just suppose that 20% of residential real estate in the U.S. is underwritten by mortgages that will be foreclosed. At maximum, and considering the property a total net loss due to costs, that would be only about $4.2 trillion. Even if we assume that 40% of commercial U.S. real estate were under the same duress the total would not exceed $4 at worst. Together that’s $8.2 trillion dollars. And certainly it is absurd to assume real estate as a total loss when loans default. So $8.2 trillion is an obscenely high figure for a worst case scenario of mortgage default. It seems that since the process is gradual and property resalable things could never reach that dire condition and that $3 trillion dollars infusion would be more than enough to maintain bank reserves and limit inadvisable leveraging. World real estate peaked under 100 trillion (includes U.S.) by almost every report, so even the world liability at 20% default would be no more than $20 trillion, even if the property were because of costs a total loss. So even in that extreme case a $7 trillion infusion could maintain the liquidity of almost all the banks. (I see no reason governments should underwrite losses from unsecured consumer debt: credit cards. U.S. auto loan defaults remain under 4%. ) Overall, something else must be wrong, because if one totals the nationalization and bailout costs by the world’s nations so far they are approaching these maximal bailout figures and little effect is felt. The U.S. bailout is far larger than the $350 billion in TARP funds expended and consists of repeated loans of over $2.5 trillion from the Federal Reserve to domestic banks and other institutions. If we look at just the European Union we see the equivalent shoring up on that side of the Atlantic, and maybe greater. Bringing Asia (China, Japan and South Korea) and Russia into the picture produces a total bailout estimate in parity with that 7 trillion dollar figure. The banks, in fact, are clamoring for more cash and loans. Why do they require that money and where is it going?

    All the world economies together could easily muster $7 trillion. The U.S. economy doubles that in a year. Stocks and bonds were once worth 14 times that amount and big corporations more than 8 times larger, so the collateral is still there, even without the government. But it is the governments that have stepped up to rescue capitalism. The total U. S. federal budget has recently been around $3 trillion a year when occupational wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded. This is a nation already about 13 trillion dollars in debt. Borrowing just the $3 trillion already used could present quite a strain.

    The big truth is that governments are dwarfed by the scale of global business. (Obama says:” The size of government is not at issue…”, but it is, because corporate business dictates policy.) The optimistic Paul Krugman estimates the U.S. could borrow only about $10 billion (above the current debt load) before debt service (usury) becomes too much, the money supply swells and disastrous hyperinflation sets in. And President Obama has his sights set on a stimulus and infrastructure funding that could eventually exceed another $3 trillion. I estimate the United States is tapped out.

    But the black hole of debt still remains, hidden by the banks and other financial players. They use the power of secrecy derived from corporate personhood, firewalls of liability and offshore shell games to delay the truth. Meanwhile they demand more and more infusion, using some of it to merge into mega-corporations, supposedly too big to fail. If listed derivatives amount to over a quadrillion and only 20% are losses, pure commercial paper with no real estate behind them, we are talking about $200 trillion dollars lost. That’s more money than the value of all the real estate and stocks and bonds in the whole world. It is not capable of being bailed out even if every nation dug deep to the limit. The debt service at 10% per annum alone would be larger than our theoretical real estate bailout and would continue year after year. And these are only the “listed” derivatives. There might be the equivalent again in unlisted derivatives and other exotic instruments. The bankers gambled, and it is the banks holding most of these markers. And so I ask you, is there any use even to bailout the mortgages which are only about 16% (or less) of the smaller known problem? No liquidity can be restored because most larger bank liabilities represent a black hole of debt capable of pulling in the aggregate of global productivity.

    That sounds insane, you say. Where did the investment money the banks put in go? Who has it now? I’m sure there have been some winners in all of this. The net affect has been to further concentrate wealth. But most of the value went PFFT! when the real estate bubble burst, consumer credit began to fail and the speculative oil market could not be sustained. Sure, someone in the chain of custody gains, but the overall downward fluctuation in the meta-market has shrunken all holdings with the biggest institutional players being the biggest losers. Think you can bail out a black hole? Go ahead, give it a try. This scenario of sacred contract between elite players and the inviolate nature of great property holdings will be the demise of capitalism. A great string of zeros, when on the negative side, amounts not to legitimate power but to tyranny. Our only salvation is to negate the social contract and invalidate the fiction of money values. How do I know that at the root money is not real? If it were real, how could the value to speculative instruments dwarf in value all the tangible assets on Earth?
    FAX to KM from Jack Martin

    Note: If you have read all the above you are an especially unusual and curious person. Do not accept this assertion as truth, but test the content with your own research. It was written by an average man with a less than average income, who has no special credentials or expertise except empathy for his fellow human beings. Will will so know if he is correct in what he asserts. Be thinking now of what a good constructive reaction would consist. I think it would be healthy to assume that our present monetary and governmental system is a dysfunctional fiction. What values will survive this big change that no one wanted or expected?

    Faith in Christ IS faith in the power of love.

    “Education is very central to our democracy. You can neglect it, you can get it on the cheap, and you get what you pay for. And if you think education is costly, try ignorance because that will be far more costly.”
    What do you think?
    We just got one more “diatribe Mantra!”
    When a persons look into the facts such as: “Over the years... , a District has made the
    decision to annually budget $250,000 but NOT to MAKE any REPAIRS and expenditures,” is a deliberate neglect, intend and knowledge to let buildings deteriorate by deceit and intend “that there would be eventually a building project...” to obtain millions of dollars from the taxpayers. To build new buildings when a professional confirmed that the buildings were in “good conditions” and ignored it, is nothing less than an extortion!
    When the student enrollment drops by 100% from over 2450 to 1265 and a district claims
    do not have enough space to educated the student is nothing less than ignorance,
    turning blind eye, deceit and extortion. Mr. Gregorian states, “try ignorance.....!”
    I would state couple facts for deliberate ignorance: “The District is not required to create a documents that is not in existence;”
    and “There is no provision in the school code that requires ALL members to approve
    such a resolution” and etc. It is not a coincident of existing ignorance, total blindness,
    rubber stamped and deliberate direct exploitation impose upon the citizens. It is an education system that had left more than 35 million that can not read at “fifth grade level” let alone have a higher education. Entrapped into poverty, hunger and eviction at the mercy of a corrupt economic system. A dictatorial system of power that fail to educate he people of true democracy; a system that denied the people to participate in the power of democracy to express their “WILL on ALL ISSUES!”
    We have long ways to go to achieve true democracy, liberty and freedom!
    One can not expect much better, as one of the prior guest stated:
    “They are pointing a gun at our head!”

    David H. Terrific summary!
    One point of emphasis, gardening in one's yard. How will this help unless we face the distress of starvation? I don't lament the loss of toxic "Candy turf" but I do know the retail costs of gardening. I think everyone should consider it but do a little cost accounting before you start. A community garden or subscription with a farmer may be more efficient. Just think how inefficient education would be if every family individually homeschooled their children. And if you decide not to hoe, search hard for a community enriching volunteer opportunity. Remember,"Doing all we can," could be pot. (World War II had it's instances of homeguard profiteering too.)

    Do the diploma mills of this country provide education or indoctrination?

    Is the purpose of education to create citizens capable of critical thinking or is it to create cogs in the machinery of capitalism?

    If money spent on the educational system in this country is an investment what is the expected return? Do we simply hope we get more people with higher incomes? If so, to what end? Do increased incomes equal a better country and a better quality of life?

    Is it possible to lower your standard of living but increase your quality of life?

    So true, Pamela!

    That's interesting, Nicole, re 50K for a 2 yr trade school degree. It's sort of like bribing your way into a job (which may or may not be there when you finish). I guess jobs are too scarce. That's the real point...just like Dan made. The way I see it is that we need another CCC (installing photovoltaic panels for instance)...and a whole lotta food stamps and a whole lotta welfare. What's in the pipe as far as what Obama calls "national service" so far?

    Gregorian's emphasis on teaching accurate American history I think cannot be stressed enough. For sure it's not my intention to lead things off topic but if we're going to create a desire to learn or an enthusiasm for subjects, it does seem that having some deep, involved, economic debates right now would be in the same spirit...of hoping to create this desire. Doesn't it?
    I mean...why in the heck did Steinback write "The Grapes of Wrath" in the first place? How can we propose fixes outside an awareness of what a depression is like, or apart from a knowledge of the New Deal? How can we advocate inculcating greater interest when our own eyes glaze over when we hear those numbers? Oh well, let's just do the numbers once again, and hope the DOW'll head back up and save all our asses.

    In a way I hate to cite wars for an example of constructive solidarity (cause "solidarity" can be destructive in time of the wrong war), but during WWII it was so strong that large numbers of folks went out and started vegetable gardens in their yards. Nothing was out of the picture, not even ones yard! If the generation of our parents pushed that hard for solidarty...couldn't we, in our predicament, push a bit to endorse (beyond the phony rendition)...not-one-left? [I mean in terms of the economy first.] Why? Why is because it would be totally opposite to this miserable system we see crashing all around us. For instance, don't go shutting down centers for the developmentally disabled like Gov Tim Kaine in Virginia just cause you need a little black ink and nobody's looking (or because those bearing the brunt are not predisposed to making an eloquent case against your fixes). Yeah boy, let's get a little knowledge of the subject matter going...a little knowledge of the particulars here in the US. Aren't we tired of mindless waves of crowd behaviors when it comes to public policy: reforming Welfare with Micky-D jobs, removing regulation & getting in return neoliberal capitalism after '73, clearing out state facilities in 2009 cause group homes are now the thing, etc, etc.
    Oh, how appealing those trendy mind candies!

    "Bail Out the Safety Net" by Randy Albelda in "Dollars&Sense" magazine

    Congratulations to Mr Moyers for putting a Lobbyist on (That's what college presidents, particularly from Brown are: Lobbyists and fund raisers) for the bloated bureaucrats that are the biggest part of the problem.

    I can't believe they brought up Lincoln in support. Lincoln like most innovators who drive progress (think Edison, Ford, Wright brothers, Bill Gates, etc etc.) were unburdened by the handicap of higher eduction.

    The grad schools are worse. They have profs dedicated to everything but teaching. They produce pHD's who can't think at all because they are recruited as lab slaves in exchange for a green card.

    Places like Brown live on the lie that their education leads to prosperity. Actually they recruit the top 1% who are successful despite the education. (Ivy league dropouts, even without Gates, make more $ than Ivy grads)

    Your question to Mr. Gregorian on the costs of education rising so much faster than the inflation rate, was dodged in my opinion. We need to overhaul the way education money is spent. An incredible amount is now spent on bloated bureaucracy,and huge, fancy capital projects, that do not materially contribute to the students education, but contributes much to the resumes'and pride of that bloated bureaucracy. Students are burdened with a tremendous debt, or are prevented from starting or completing their education to support this misuse of financial resources.

    Many of the countries who have free education systems implement "tracking systems to determine who can and cannot go on to higher education. The unintended consequences are learning more how to take tests that about actual subjects.

    Invest monies in instructors and students, & then capital structures if any remains.

    Increase the use of classrooms toward 100% before building more. Instructors & students are the only reason to have the buildings in the 1st place.

    When the foxs have already emptied the hen house, putting the Wolves of wall street & the Pariahs of politics in charge might REALLY work! But NOT for Mainstreet!

    Stand up people or bend over--the choice is yours!

    Billy Bob, Florida where ya'll did NOT care my vote was denied by the DNP--Thanks again!

    You asked of Mr. Gregorian what's happened to education in the U.S. In my opinion, it's markedly declined for political/sociological reasons. Since the Reagan administration and subsequent Republican regimes, it has not been to their advantage to have a thinking, educated public. The system was purposefully dumbed down to be make us more easily manipulated and controlled. Perhaps the change that's come to America will result in an improvement in how our children are taught critical thinking. I certainly hope so!

    These are some of the most well thought out commentaries I have ever read on this blog. I especially agree with Elizabeth Bolton about how the mindless conformity (characteristic of the 1950s) is returning. (See "Revolutionary Road"-new film)
    Coriander is correct that derivative liabilities (possibly 1 quadrillion) dwarf all other losses, making the cost of education problematic. Also, it is useless for the majority of college students to be studying business, when as we can see, our corporate capitalist system is an abject failure. It has made of money a fiction.

    It baffles me how everyone misses the point when it comes to discussing how to help our higher education system. It is not rocket science-*the money and benefits need to go to students by lowering tuition costs and providing more grants to students.* This would not only make college more widely available but would help decrease the students’ dependence on predatory student loan lender whose practices are pretty much in line with the subprime mortgage monsters we all know so well.

    The only explanation I can think of as to why the money is not going to help the students is a sad one. If an economic stimulus package was used to lower tuition rates or provide more grant money then the profits of student loan lenders and the schools would decrease. Student loan lender had some pretty strong support throughout the Bush Administration. Reports indicate that seven high ranking Department of Education employees hired by Bush were former executives at student loan behemoth Sallie Mae. Many of them were asked to step down when the student loan scandal was revealed in 2007.

    More people in government need to decide that it is not the businesses they are going to help but the students. The “trade school” industry is amuck with for-profit trade schools, charging upwards of $50,000.00 for a two year degree and targeting their business towards economically disadvantaged young people. The message those schools send to kids is that they will accept you as long as you qualify for financial aid. So much for a true selection process.

    One of the biggest problems we have with higher education is not that people aren’t going to school, it is that they are going to school and then graduating with loans they can’t even hope to pay back. Payments can go as high as $1,500/month on student loans and these loans are not discharageable in bankruptcy except in very extreme cases like disability. If you’ve taken federal loans, the lender can garnish your wages, garnish disability and intercept your tax refunds. Whereas a student 10 years ago could literally work to pay for school, students these days most likely can't make the kind of money they need to cover four years of college. But, since the student loan lenders were so eager to sign the students up for massive debt, the money magically appeared and the students signed on the dotted line. I’ve seen student loan interest rates go as high as 19%! At that rate, a student with a modest $25,000 loan is accumulating $395 per month in interest alone!
    As stated by New York Attorney Andrew Cuomo in 2007, there has been an “unholy alliance” between schools and lenders over the past few years. Only now is much of this coming to light. I predict that the effects of this will be seen much like those in the mortgage industry. However, do not fear because the government is coming in to rescue those student loan lenders. Sallie Mae hopes to sell $30 billion in loans to the government in February. I am diametrically opposed to this bailout.

    As it stands now, federal loans are NOT hard to get-the money is out there. All this talk of the credit crunch affecting student loans is only relevant to private student loans. And, FYI, no matter how much money they get from government, student loan lenders have made it clear that they do not intend to ease up on their newly created requirements of high credit scores and coborrowers for private student loans.

    To sum up, give money to students and parents to ease up on their dependence on student loans-especially private student loans. A student will be much happier in classroom that is perhaps five years out of date if he knows the upside is that he can graduate without oppressive debt that could haunt him for 10-20 years.

    I relate most to Elizabeth's post and Coriander's post.

    Dan's to me has insight, though I wouldn't say the questions above are misplaced.

    Dan, to me the second part..."living wage salaries for teachers" I'm not sure can come before what you described prior...invest n the people who will do the real work in finding a way out of the terrible dead ends our economic excesses have lead us down and to build and maintain communities of thinking that can learn together how to address the real problem before us. I fear this part of the equation may have to be solved first (however it seems even this part may have to come initially with really small potatoes only hope is perhaps that a movement first endorses the direction of say Kuttner, Monbiot, and Wisebrot...and then that momentum justifies the funding of other economists to propose specific adjustments...finer David Korbin's. One very heavy obstacle IMO, though, is that momentums come like packages, and Obama's package is brushing aside the expert advice of people like Marilyn Young and Pierre Sprey but it won't succeed if it continues with this because the resources dedicated to counterproductive bombing are most assuredly needed elsewhere). Look at how few responders there are to Gregorian's message here (you'd think at least 50 teachers would register some comment here and relate that they were teachers). It must be that present day teachers are lacking in smarts. [What in the heck are they doing on Friday nights?] Teachers should agree at least with what he is saying re how our current schools are falling short of the vision, but precious few show up here even get behind him on this...if educators can't see this point of Gregorian's, how many politicians of the present order do you think will agree with you that academicians should be funded to find a real way beyond the dead ends? Naturally, they continue to think they have all the answers. Like I say, I tend to hope reporting will improve and that the polity itself will find a way beyond. As far as dedicating the funding, perhaps Gregorian is right [What's the deal with these quanset huts at our high schools; are they some kind of contractor-pork or what?]. His vision of appropriate education to me is something that could (and definitely should) stay alive even without the funding.

    It is true that ignorance is costly, sometimes even deadly.

    Bailouts, stimulus packages are not going to improve the economic situation, they will only worsen it.

    These question miss the point. What is wrong with our economy? The answer is the Federal Reserve. The creation of money is under private control and can be manipulated to the advantage of a very small group of people. The creation of money must be brought under public control. Until this is done, no one can ever be truly financially secure.

    I'll leave it to the professorers to determine how to proceed with funding and price fixing like a used car salesman might... But what this portion of the program brought to mind for me was the news, with its images of protest, public assemblage, rally, or whatever the hell ya wanna call it. Where students gathered to give voice to their dismay over proposed, enacted, whatever the case may have been. Loss of funding and rise in cost to their educations. Legislative bodies taking axes to state budgets darkening clouds above their heads.

    It simply left me wondering where all these students, faculty, edumacaters, were when, 'War on Terror' or a 'Patriot Act' was being enacted? When habeus corpus was in it's death throws and el presidente was wiping his ass with a god damned piece of paper with constitution written on it? Or when their credit card user agreements interest rate was being adjusted like a toxic home mortgage or payday loan.

    In short this community that is supposed to save us or enlighten us or just make us a better us...

    Where the hell was it then?

    My apologies if my unedumacated butt is simply confucious ed without a ny g rip on the bigger picture in high def surround home theater clarity cauzzing the real impurrtinant to illude me.

    Despite huge increases in tuition and fees (that have quadrupled at UT since 1990 - see: ), universities are still going broke? One might want to ask Dr. Gregorian how these increases correlate to the increase both in administrative staff and their salaries. The universities can whine, but they are not, by any means, blameless.

    Perhaps they should return the focus to actual education.

    Funding or not; the central issue is the commodification of education and public space. The free market model has been adopted by large institutions(universities)and the bar has been changed in terms of knowledge production & dissemination.In the same space we discuss financial literacy while unleashing credit card companies on unsuspecting freshman for the naming rights to the football stadium. The student as consumer is the invasion Gregorian is discussing; instead of the student as an integral part of the next 50 years of American innovation.

    Waxing eloquence will not create money where there isn't any. Higher education should pay for itself. What happened? Where do the tuition monies go? I'm a taxpayer and I'll pay for the destitute and the poor to be sheltered and fed but not for someone else's higher education, try vocational education. Certainly we should shelter the soon to homeless hoards first.

    I disagree with this. Higher education has been over-funded for years and I really think that we should not only end most of the aid to under-qualified students, but that we should end the academic freedom that has given it cover for so long. I regret this, but I would have to put it on a level with our financial cupidity, and I think it now requires the same treatment. The reason why the cost of college education has risen is due to the fat that has accumulated in an entirely permissive environment, like plaque in our arteries. That, in turn, has encouraged the same behavior at lower levels. In addition, and shamefully, "easy" tuition has encouraged colleges to sell the equivalent of sub-prime mortgages to students, who not only have no chance of completing it, but would do much better for themselves and the nation by looking to better quality vocational education. In general, tho I am a strict believer in the Yale Report (of 1828), but it existed in a time when the curriculum had a unity that it no longer has, and when far fewer went to college. There was some sense in increasing science in the curriculum, but in the intervening years we have not only created the monstrosity of credentialism, we have done so in fields that provide little or no benefit to anyone.

    Regarding the future of higher education and alternatives to it such as trade schools.
    Well,although this makes sense at first look,there are huge problems and the European experiences may not be ideal.
    You see,the exclusiveness of higher education,when limited,will always favor the elite.It may be the socioeconomic elite or as in Communist regimes the politically elite,which often include the least talented simply by their parent being peasants or low level laborers.
    This whole issue is fraught with traps and I feel that President Obama's
    ideal of making it universally available is a high ideal,but that is how he became President.Right?

    While watching the interview this evening with Mr. Gregprian, there were several issues which I wish to respond to. Having grown up in Congo and gone to boarding school there, then attending a private college here in the US, I received an education which encouraged me to think for myself and to express my opinions; to study and make considered conclusions, that is one reason I watch the Journal. These past few years, at work, most of the older, (60+) workers have retired and now most of my coworkers are in their 30's. I find them compliant, never expressing opinion, rarely disagreeing with the boss, and, I have felt very stifled, the young boss gets upset if I express an opinion that is not his own. I have noticed this in other situations and my fear is that Americans are becoming a group of easily conditioned people, zoned out by the advertisements on television, not able to be discerning in assessing the information given to them by the media and seduced by the fact that everyone keeps saying that we are the greatest country around. That belief system allows this brainwashing that goes on, this passive, materialistic nature to dominate. The election of Barack Obama has given me some hope, but his policies re, Afganistan, as also noted on the program tonight, show a singular lack of insight into that particular problem. Bombing is not the solution, as was noted. We need to remember that our founders were all traitors to the king and had a price on their heads, throughout the Revolutionary War and were very much ahead of their times in their thinking and in their vision.

    Dan laments: "temporary work situations have been normalized in which after achieving terminal degrees in their fields many new professionals spend years unable to earn a living wage or to secure a position with health care, benefits or a modicum of security."

    I am one of those part-time college instructors Dan laments, though with a master rather than "terminal" degree. I am only one of a vast number of highly educated people in an expanding underclass. The community colleges are only able to exist on the backs of the seriously underpaid, undervalued adjunct instructional staff, which I am told can compose up to 60% of these colleges' instruction.

    I certainly cannot urge my students to follow in my footsteps, to pursue a higher education solely in an academic discipline. I never expected or even wanted to be rich; I just wanted to teach, and I do--but I didn't count on being poor.

    How are will we be able to compete with the world if our students cannot afford college when all other developed nations offer higher education that is free or very inexpensive? I believe it is because their governments subsidize college for their citizens understanding the importance of investing in the future of their nation. We are all just so totally screwed. Students better wake up and take action because what they are living through is the worst financial scandal in history. It dwarfs 1929, Ponzi's scheme, Teapot Dome, the South Sea Bubble, tulip bulbs, you name it. Bernie Madoff? He's peanuts. Credit derivatives - those securities that few have ever seen - are one reason why this crisis is so different from 1929. Our kids are in for aweful challenges. My daughter will be staring her first year in college. Will she get through it? We can only pray.

    As a professional architect and college educator it seems to me these questions are misplaced. College education has over the last several decades steadily been run into the ground by a widespread political retreat from public funding and an administrative mindset incapable of aspiration or action outside the model of market-sector orthodoxy. Capital improvement, renovations and new building projects are the solutions of the marketeeting CEO, and what they target is a pursuit of market share. The quality of education in such a calculation is almost purely incidental.

    As a designer and teacher, I appreciate many things a building can do and also what it cannot. Learning will not cease to happen for lack of attractive new facilities. College applications and enrollments are up not because of masterful moves in facilities development but due to a perceived need for education (and also well informed worries about the limited alternatives).

    What colleges need are support directed to their capacities to teach, which is not exclusively a question of faculty but is, I believe, chiefly such a question. Increasingly over the last two decades colleges have become accustomed to doing with less. Much like infrastructure across the country, maintenance of the full-functionality of an intellectual community capable of genuine knowledge creation has been declared a luxury we might do without. Workloads have been increased, full-time faculties have been reduced, temporary work situations have been normalized in which after achieving terminal degrees in their fields many new professionals spend years unable to earn a living wage or to secure a position with health care, benefits or a modicum of security. In the present economic climate, with so many states declaring themselves exigent and on the verge of insolvency, that the situation for college faculties may get much worse. We prepare to chase a generation away from the idea that higher education as a profession and as a vocation might matter. And to say that we ought to kick a little stimulus the way of building projects is not just wrong but, in a way, obscene.

    What students and citizens will notice if we pour more public money into a plagiarized build-it-and they-will-come worldview is that we haven’t a clue as to what leadership or a real solution would look like.
    What we need to do is creatively recycle and reuse the facilities we have, to invest n the people who will do the real work in finding a way out of the terrible dead ends our economic excesses have lead us down and to build and maintain communities of thinking that can learn together how to address the real problem before us. Higher education needs support in the form of funding for students to attend and support in the form of living wage salaries for the teachers who will make the experience something more than an educational simulation on the path to purchase a credential or diploma.

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