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Should the governments cut funding to universities?


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An interesting perspective on post-secondary education here in that it only enriches society (deserving government money) if the students actually wind up with upgraded skills. Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics and asserts most of what students take at university does nothing to upgrade their skills or even prepare them for the job market.

If you actually pay attention to what people are learning in school, you notice that a large share of what they do is not relevant to the job market. It’s highly impractical. So why would these jobs pay if what students are learning are so irrelevant to what they’re actually going to do in their careers? And here lies the answer that I push very strongly in my book, The Case Against Education. Much of what students do in school is show off and to try to persuade or convince employers that they are worthwhile, smart, hardworking and conformist.

From the point of view of the student, it doesn’t really matter why they are getting a higher education as long as that education helps you progress in the job market. But from the point of view of taxpayers, it matters tremendously, because if people are going to school and they get useful job skills, then going to school enriches the student by enriching society. On the other hand, if you are going there in order to get fancy stickers and degrees and say, “look at me, I’m so much better than other people,” this is not actually a path to prosperity.

 

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/munk-debates-bryan-caplan-cut-public-spending-for-universities-its-a-waste

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Universities are not job training centres.  Professional studies should be geared to a market, and they're not - so there's that.  But these are facilities that educate, and they are also profit centres.  I think we need to decouple the university from the job market, for sure, but a redo of education is probably a good idea.

 

 

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44 minutes ago, Michael Hardner said:

Universities are not job training centres.  Professional studies should be geared to a market, and they're not - so there's that.  But these are facilities that educate, and they are also profit centres.  I think we need to decouple the university from the job market, for sure, but a redo of education is probably a good idea.

It makes no sense to pay for university unless it helps you get a job, unless you're rich.  You can get virtually the same education for 10 bucks in late fees at your local library.  You can discuss the topics on forums like this with peers.

People act like they are job centers, they just want the degree.  Higher education is great, even the arts/humanities, but it often isn't worth the cost even subsidized.  In the USA they're paying many tens of thousands a year for a uni degree in something they can barely use in the workplace, it's crazy.  You're paying them and TA's to mark tests and essays, assign readings, and regurgitate the readings on a power-point presentation.

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1 hour ago, Moonlight Graham said:

It makes no sense to pay for university unless it helps you get a job, unless you're rich.  You can get virtually the same education for 10 bucks in late fees at your local library. 

The problem, as the author says, is that they're not really educating people. All they're doing is giving them a piece of paper which makes them more marketable. And why should taxpayers subsidize that? The world's great store of knowledge is there for the taking, but for the most part people aren't taking it and have no obligation to do so. They take things they're interested in, but many of those things, particularly in the humanities, have little in the way of academic or scientific rigor to them. There are courses which help prepare people for professions: ie, lawyer, doctor, accountant, economist, architect, engineer, business administration. There are courses which will prepare them for life and expand their mindset, making them better citizens.

But what exactly does a degree in African studies bring to the student? What job is it going to get him or her? How will it prepare them to be a better citizen in Canada? What about Gender Studies? Human Rights and Social Justice? Latin American and Caribbean Studies? There's a lot of stuff being taught which is not really translatable on the level of finding work, and which does not make one a better, more informed citizen.

 

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It isn't universities jobs to make people job ready. That is the job for the person choosing to go to university. 

Also if we are going to attack humanities I'd like to point out plenty of the Sciences do not translate to a job as well. 

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1 hour ago, Abies said:

It isn't universities jobs to make people job ready. That is the job for the person choosing to go to university. 

Also if we are going to attack humanities I'd like to point out plenty of the Sciences do not translate to a job as well. 

But do they increase human knowledge and understanding of the world?

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5 hours ago, Moonlight Graham said:

1. It makes no sense to pay for university unless it helps you get a job, unless you're rich.  

2. People act like they are job centers, they just want the degree.  Higher education is great, even the arts/humanities, but it often isn't worth the cost even subsidized. 

3. In the USA they're paying many tens of thousands a year for a uni degree in something they can barely use in the workplace, it's crazy.   

1. There is value to having educated persons, to funding scholarship.  I'm not sure that it's over-funded now but there are definitely some problems today.

2. Agree.

3. Right but... general education is also a thing.  The best managers in my IT group include fine arts majors because they have skills that those with a high technical focus do not.

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44 minutes ago, Michael Hardner said:

1. There is value to having educated persons, to funding scholarship.  I'm not sure that it's over-funded now but there are definitely some problems today..

3. Right but... general education is also a thing.  The best managers in my IT group include fine arts majors because they have skills that those with a high technical focus do not.

1.  Yes, but you don't have to pay tens of thousands to be educated.  You're paying for the piece of paper saying you've read the books and passed the tests.  There's real no point of a diploma unless you need to show it to someone to get a job.  For most people, unless you're rolling in cash i'd recommend taking a major that will help your career, and if you have an interest in other subjects get the course outlines for free online and do the readings on your own spare time.  I've listened to uni lectures on youtube to pass time, it was fun, better than a podcast IMO, and I saved $500 plus textbook.

3.  So it helped their careers and useful for work, that's good.

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2 hours ago, Argus said:

But do they increase human knowledge and understanding of the world?

They do. Researching human experiences all over the world furthers our understanding of the societies they inhabit. 

Edited by Abies
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Higher education is an industry into itself , one that sells a product that students believe will make them more attractive or marketable to other job opportunities, Then there is the social aspect of it all, mom and dad went so your going.....great way to meet new people and network. And depending on the school name itself which has weight in the hiring process as well , take Harvard, for example...regardless of grades or standings,  time spent at Harvard would count more than a perfect student at say, some university in New Brunswick. 

The question is who is setting the standards, those in education or those in the work place...anyways there is a disconnect, how do you do a reset ? 

There are nations that provide free higher education, perhaps that idea would sound better if free education was in fields that are very short in trained personal, like doctors, lab techs, nurses, engineers and scientist for say green tech etc etc...And free education levels the field and allows more qualified people to get a higher education, and not just those that can afford it, 

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5 hours ago, Army Guy said:

Higher education is an industry into itself , one that sells a product that students believe will make them more attractive or marketable to other job opportunities, Then there is the social aspect of it all, mom and dad went so your going.....great way to meet new people and network. And depending on the school name itself which has weight in the hiring process as well , take Harvard, for example...regardless of grades or standings,  time spent at Harvard would count more than a perfect student at say, some university in New Brunswick. 

The question is who is setting the standards, those in education or those in the work place...anyways there is a disconnect, how do you do a reset ? 

There are nations that provide free higher education, perhaps that idea would sound better if free education was in fields that are very short in trained personal, like doctors, lab techs, nurses, engineers and scientist for say green tech etc etc...And free education levels the field and allows more qualified people to get a higher education, and not just those that can afford it, 

You wanna know what I think. I think universities cause mental illness for a vast minority of students. I think they're put on a pedestal, as the greatest institution in society, but really they delay the development of young minds. I'm more in favor of forcing students to work for a full year, before they go into any university program. Students need a taste of the real world, before they decide what they're going to commit too. If students had more real life experience, it would be more difficult for professors to bullshit, and indoctrinate them. University definitely took it's psychological tool on me. If I were a parent I would send my kids to a trade school.

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Wow.  This is a topic worthy of an entire website, never mind a single thread.  

Having put two kids through University for 21 years as well as having our own experiences (LONG ago), and living with several teachers in the family - I do have an opinion (bought and paid for).

Universities are, or more to the point WERE about getting a "universal" education.   They have evolved into this mish-mash of some genuine academic pursuit, some very vocational activities and a bureaucracy and society of those who exploit our ignorance to give them a comfortable place to hide without having to actually accomplish anything in life (except of course, to live high on the hog).  Now, don't get me wrong: in my work, I have found in several situations where the research of some REALLY good academics has produced clusters of technology firms who developed from the science being done at their university.   I am not ready to say that there is no longer any place for these post-secondary institutions, but I do believe they have evolved to something that in it's current form does NOT serve the needs of the country nor the students.

Many who have cause to hire senior or technical staff will have some pretty strong opinions about the lack of quality of university graduates in many disciplines.  IMHO the breakdown starts with the concept that everyone "deserves" a post secondary education, and the university "industry" then lowers its standards to allow this level of inclusiveness - as it results in the funding needed to sustain and grow the academic bureaucracy.  Our eldest taught her science to undergrads while in grad school, and she came to the same conclusion that many professors I know have told me over the years:  99% of the people in their class are there to pass a test - they have no interest, desire and often ability to actually learn the subject material.  She left academia to raise her kids, but now is delighted to teach young children who are generally curious and WANT to learn.  I think this thirst for knowledge is beaten out of them in their middle years, and by the time they reach post-secondary studies, they have learned to just "go with the flow" and pass the exam.   It's not just our universities, but our entire educational system that is failing badly.

There needs to be some very distinct separation between the academic and vocational substance of our post-secondary institutions.  I have no trouble with some taxpayer participation in university education, but the idea that you can be there because your are a part of some minority or whatever other social engineering government is trying to do is repulsive to me.   Similarly, the idea that you can simply lower the standards to allow anyone to walk in is similarly ridiculous.  I believe if you want to be there on even a portion of public cost, you need to prove on entry to be at a high enough level of ability to earn that privilege.   While there, I think you should also have to be able to demonstrate constantly that you are there to LEARN something, not just pass the test and get the degree.   One way of doing this might well be to tie the cost of being there directly to testing that is UNDERSTANDING based, not simply regurgitated BS measured for knowledge.   Get the marks, get the taxpayer support.   Even just showing up with a bag of cash, entry requirement should raise the bar enough so as not to dilute the quality of education the genuinely capable, curious and ambitious.

On the vocational side:  I believe that there should be a common track of academic requirements for trades, technologists and professionals that would allow say one year of equivalent academic requirements to gain trade certification, a second and third year to become a certified technologist (diploma engineer or equivalent in other countries), two more years to become a professional, and then on to Masters, PhD and post docs pretty much as we have now.   By putting everyone on the same career/academic path instead of "streaming" it would make it much easier for someone to work their way through to higher levels within their discipline, but more than that, ensure that those who are at any one level are TOTALLY familiar with what is going on with those beneath their level.

On the academic front: as I already said, RAISE the standards dramatically.   Pay for accomplishment, but testing needs to measure actual understanding and be progressively tied to public financial support.  There is simply no need to waste four years of a kid's time and their parents' money to get a piece of paper when there is nothing behind it either academically or vocationally to prepare them for life and work.   IMHO, larger universities are not a measure of success of our educational system, but utter failure. 

Finally, on the financial front: vary the degree of financial assistance to the desire/benefit of the studies to the country and the economy.   If you want a degree in basket weaving, pony up the cash and maintain the levels or performance and you can have such a useless degree.

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14 hours ago, Abies said:

They do. Researching human experiences all over the world furthers our understanding of the societies they inhabit. 

These types of humanities courses (such as I cited) don't do research which has any sort of academic rigour to it. Nor does it further our understanding of society. I'm open to citations which do, btw.

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12 hours ago, Army Guy said:

The question is who is setting the standards, those in education or those in the work place...anyways there is a disconnect, how do you do a reset ? 

There are nations that provide free higher education, perhaps that idea would sound better if free education was in fields that are very short in trained personal, like doctors, lab techs, nurses, engineers and scientist for say green tech etc etc...And free education levels the field and allows more qualified people to get a higher education, and not just those that can afford it, 

But then you just get into that issue of credential inflation the author mentions. If nearly everyone goes to college or university then who is going to want those who don't? So every job winds up requiring a degree even though in reality they don't.  Do we want a society where you need a degree to be a garbageman?

And can anyone demonstrate that the teachers or journalists of today are turning out a better product than their 'uneducated' brethren a hundred years ago?

Edited by Argus
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4 hours ago, Argus said:

These types of humanities courses (such as I cited) don't do research which has any sort of academic rigour to it. Nor does it further our understanding of society. I'm open to citations which do, btw.

You mean they don't make hypothesis and a test such as they do in the sciences so in your mind that invalidates anything the humanities have to say. Except there is no way to quantify culture in a way that is testable. 

Here is my citation: http://shc.stanford.edu/why-do-humanities-matterhttp://shc.stanford.edu/how-humanities-research-conducted

 

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On 3/18/2020 at 12:04 PM, Argus said:

....

If you actually pay attention to what people are learning in school, you notice that a large share of what they do is not relevant to the job market. It’s highly impractical. So why would these jobs pay if what students are learning are so irrelevant to what they’re actually going to do in their careers? And here lies the answer that I push very strongly in my book, The Case Against Education. Much of what students do in school is show off and to try to persuade or convince employers that they are worthwhile, smart, hardworking and conformist.

From the point of view of the student, it doesn’t really matter why they are getting a higher education as long as that education helps you progress in the job market. But from the point of view of taxpayers, it matters tremendously, because if people are going to school and they get useful job skills, then going to school enriches the student by enriching society. On the other hand, if you are going there in order to get fancy stickers and degrees and say, “look at me, I’m so much better than other people,” this is not actually a path to prosperity.

 

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/munk-debates-bryan-caplan-cut-public-spending-for-universities-its-a-waste

Most studies show that education is about:

-20% of what kids learn is human capital: tying shoe laces, reading, writing, take a derivative.

-80% is signaling: get a diploma, obtain credits, show that you can stand up straight.

======

Huge waste of time for most people

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One of the problems here is that there's no way to ensure that what someone studies is what they'll actually end up doing.  For folks going to business school, I can almost guarantee you that they're coming out of the program with a lot of useful and practical real-world knowledge.  For a lot of other degrees, that's not so much the case.  I do think, however, that greater emphasis should be placed on public funding to steer people towards certain careers, and some programs should be subsidized more than others.  I'd be perfectly fine with subsidizing trade school heavily and pulling public funding for undergrads in English or History or whatever.  That's not to say they should be cut out, but let's stop subsidizing the folks who scraped into a university program with a C average in high school and only managed to get into Communications or whatever.  They're not academics and never will be, so we shouldn't be paying for them to party 5 nights a week at Queen's or Western or whatever.  

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