Monday, September 6, 2010

Talking about Schools...

Lest we think that it is only the yeshiva educational system that has deep problems with sustainability, our system of higher education seems to be suffering from some of the same problems. Interesting to me was the mention in the article below of administrative bloating that is affecting many universities and colleges as well.

Michael Barone
The Higher Education Bubble: Ready to Burst?


LoZ said...

Article has some interesting points to ponder, but a lot of his supporting evidence lacks context or is otherwise poorly (or deceptively) presented. E.g., he mentions that 90% of students drop out and most have debt. But do they drop out after two semesters at a public community college with 3k of debt or after 3 1/2 years at a private college with 100k of debt? Big difference.
And he says that only 2% of the country went to cellege a hundred years ago. But is it possible that increase ranks of college grads contributed to our rise durin the same period to a global leader?
Etc, etc, etc
Of course I'm sure there is bloating and much misuse of funds (that is the nature if public and non-profit institutions in general), but he doesn't really address this. The message one gets is anti-college, not anti-bloating.

To return to the Jewish angle, you see what anti-Semites we have in govt? They'd rather throw money away on higher Ed than fund vouchers for Jewish schools

ProfK said...

I agree Lion that the article could have been better written (second day in a row that I'm agreeing with you--what is the world coming to?!) but what got me thinking was that it seems to be all educational models that have problems today, not just the yeshiva one. We already have multiple dismal reports on the state of the public school elementary and high school systems across the country with only a few high points here and there. Now someone is saying that higher education is in the same boat. So my question would be is there an element or elements that all these diverse systems have in common that is causing problems for all the systems? The one that caught my eye was bloated administrations, present in all three systems of education. Are there others in common?

Re the graduation rate, one of the ranking sources he mentions in the article shows the graduation rates for the schools they rank. For CUNY in NY no school did better than about 50% graduation rate with some of the divisions doing a lot worse. The private colleges all had much higher graduation rates, usually in the 80% and above range. So it seems that the answer to your question is that more students who drop out will have lower debt because of lower tuition in city and state schools.

Re his 90% figure, he's not actually referring to all colleges here but to some nebulous, unnamed "dropout factories, public and private, described and listed by the liberal Washington Monthly."

JS said...

Well, unless you've got the salary to pay for yeshiva and college (or at least save for college while paying yeshiva), you likely have a choice in your future: take on debt to go to a respectable college or go to the cheapest college available and hope it doesn't set you back. Life is about playing odds to some extent and there's no question (in my mind at least) that going to the better school pushes those odds in your favor however slightly. I've mentioned this before, but it's appropriate here too: who has the better chance of getting in to a good law school, 3.2 GPA 163 LSAT from an Ivy or top 50 school or the one from CUNY? And with all the worry that kids will "go off the derech" (even after K-12 in yeshiva and 1-2 years in Israel), many believe YU/Stern is essential (and it ain't cheap). Seems like everyone's gonna be between a rock and a hard place.

As for "bloat" in yeshiva versus college, it's a different ballgame entirely and it's silly to even compare the two. The university I went to receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in donations (yes, hundreds). At universities it is well known that the undergraduate tuition funds much of the research that goes on in the graduate levels. The school has revenue streams off of patents and other technology. It's just silly to talk about a bunch of extra administrators when the place brings in hundreds of million in giving, tuition, and other revenue streams.

Compare to a yeshiva: annual giving is on the order of tens of thousands, the big annual fundraiser that is the dinner barely brings in more than $200k in most schools, alumni giving is negligible. You have full tuition payers subsidizing not more elite study, but their peers. You have no other revenue streams than tuition. Here, every admin really does suck off resources from the school. Maybe tuition would only go down a $100/child if you got rid of an admin, but that's real bloat. Universities aren't even in the same ballpark.

ProfK said...

Before we dismiss YU/Stern out of hand as being way too expensive, and what are you going to get for the money, look at the ACTA ratings for NY colleges/universities. In some areas key for ACTA YU gets a higher rating than Barnard, Skidmore, Cornell, Cooper Union and Vassar.

ProfK said...

Also not so sure that you can't compare, in the specific area of administration, the bloat. One branch of CUNY that is in my neighborhood. Approximately 10-11K students, undergrad and grad. They list 417 administrative/support personnel, and that doesn't include personnel from the general CUNY administration that all branches use, nor does it include any students working part time for the various departments, and it doesn't include instructors who actually teach the classes.

Now, one yeshiva with 1000 students. About 1/10 the size of the CUNY division. How sanguine would you be if that school had 41 administrative staff members, not counting teachers? If 41 is bloated for 1K students, then 417 should also be bloated for 10K students.

JS said...

I wasn't dismissing YU/Stern out of hand as being too expensive, this was something many parents were saying over on $200k Chump's blog. They were lamenting that YU/Stern is too expensive, they're unable to save any money for college due to yeshiva tuition, and if they send their kids anywhere but YU/Stern it's more likely they'll go off the derech. YU/Stern are very good schools for certain majors - I'm not belittling those institutions. But, expensive is expensive regardless of whether it's a good education. If you saw my comment on Orthonomics, you'd know I think student loans are an investment in oneself and if the school is good and the correct major/career path is chosen it can be a great ROI even with taking on a lot of debt.

It's hard for me to argue with your number since I have no idea what these administrative/support people do. I imagine there are many more tasks that need to be fulfilled in a university that don't need to be fulfilled in a yeshiva. For example, dorms/housing, financial aid, academic advising, coordinating student employees, dining, sports and intramurals, hundreds of course offerings and scheduling and coordinating that, running tours, going through tens of thousands of applications, professor research, multiple departments, etc.

It's a difference of scale in that a university is bigger than a yeshiva, but also a difference in kind. The university does many, many more things than a yeshiva and requires many more staff because of that.