# The college bubble

#### Andy D.

I think the thing worth remembering is that every system, US, UK, other European nations and India etc. all have flaws in their own way and bonuses.
It's recognizing where those flaws are and having the balls to fix them, that is often the problem for governments.
Some people will stick their head in the sand and resort to "rar rar my country is best" - but that really isn't helpful for anyone in my opinion.

If you could take the best practices from all of the systems and combine them - like Taiwan did with its health-care system, then you might have something that is pretty darn good.

#### AWilliams

If you are an engineering student, the majority of your classes will be in your field. In the beginning, students have to take general classes because many kids are not married to a career at day one. It also gives people an opportunity to learn and meet people who think differently and have different opinions.

Youth unemployment is an issue all over the world. Lets not make this out to be only an American issue because of our "crappy" college system.

This subject is far more complicated then it first appears. Students not knowing what they want to do by the time they hit 18 is, in my opinion, an inevitable consequence of state education. In this system, no one is given a choice. No one studies a subject because they have genuine interest in it. Students are forced to learn what state bureaucracies decide they should and worst, are prevented from really learning the subjects they're interested in. Learning goes from being self-directed as a young child to being controlled and managed by bureaucrats. Ask any high schooler in NYC; most don't enjoy school and view learning as a chore, so we shouldn't be surprised many students have no clue what they want do in life.

Lets also not ignore the fact that the main reason colleges today even require these classes is because, well, that's simply what the law is. We need not forget that colleges are still obliged to meet certain requirements by state governments; both private or public colleges. Even beyond the required courses, a BS/BA degree by law has a 120 credit minimum requirement. So we should expect colleges to use filler courses to reach this requirement if a program does not possess enough relevant courses to meet it.

That being said, the - building a well rounded student - excuse to me is just a post ex facto rationalization. If given a choice, how many colleges would still require music, literature, and "cultural studies" in an engineering program? If given a choice, how many people would still choose a college with a seemingly infinite amount of filler courses rather then those whose courses are very relevant to their interest? If you want to learn these things to become a "well rounded student", you do so as a child in school (oh wait, paragraph one shows why this isn't possible), or on your own time, but not in a college environment where one must spend thousands of dollars and forgo four years of earnings.

This subject is far more complicated then it first appears. Students not knowing what they want to do by the time they hit 18 is, in my opinion, an inevitable consequence of state education. In this system, no one is given a choice. No one studies a subject because they have genuine interest in it. Students are forced to learn what state bureaucracies decide they should and worst, are prevented from really learning the subjects they're interested in. Learning goes from being self-directed as a young child to being controlled and managed by bureaucrats. Ask any high schooler in NYC; most don't enjoy school and view learning as a chore, so we shouldn't be surprised many students have no clue what they want do in life.

Lets also not ignore the fact that the main reason colleges today even require these classes is because, well, that's simply what the law is. We need not forget that colleges are still obliged to meet certain requirements by state governments; both private or public colleges. Even beyond the required courses, a BS/BA degree by law has a 120 credit minimum requirement. So we should expect colleges to use filler courses to reach this requirement if a program does not possess enough relevant courses to meet it.

I couldn't agree with you more. I wanted to add a personal opinion or two of my own. The welding between the land masses of US high-school "education," undergrad ed, and grad programs is weak. And so frequently American college students have to take remedial math and English courses in college to make up for what should have been done in high school. Consequently quite a few undergrads are taking six years or more to complete their program -- not only because of remedial courses but because it takes time to acclimatise themselves to more taxing college courses. When they complete an undergrad major, they have to take another flying leap onto the land mass of grad ed, where they're frequently competing with a global pool of students, and the pressure and intensity of courses go up another level. All this consumes time and money.

#### IlyaKEightSix

I couldn't agree with you more. I wanted to add a personal opinion or two of my own. The welding between the land masses of US high-school "education," undergrad ed, and grad programs is weak. And so frequently American college students have to take remedial math and English courses in college to make up for what should have been done in high school. Consequently quite a few undergrads are taking six years or more to complete their program -- not only because of remedial courses but because it takes time to acclimatise themselves to more taxing college courses. When they complete an undergrad major, they have to take another flying leap onto the land mass of grad ed, where they're frequently competing with a global pool of students, and the pressure and intensity of courses go up another level. All this consumes time and money.

Ehhh...I mean even for someone like me, who actually through some haggling got out of a humanities course, AP (or rather, anticipatory exam'd, thank you Mr./Dr.? Glenn Berryann) out of mechanical physics, the year of English comp (thank you, Mrs. Roseanne Rocchino!), a year of Calculus (thank you, Mrs. Linda Heath and Mr. William Semus), there still was the electromagnetic physics, basic chem, basic chem engineering with rotating professors (oh god that course was horrible), intro to electric engineering, intro to mech engineering (aka statics and mechanics of materials) which I really really disliked, and have completely forgotten. Do I have some sort of problem solving intuition from them? Maybe...do I remember anything else? F=KQ1Q2/R^2? -_-...

IMO perhaps the most important thing that colleges could teach people is how to code these days. After all, most intern and entry-level jobs in just about any field require the ability to code (or if they don't, it'd be a massive leg up to know how to). EG for business types, teach them VBA for spreadsheet stuff, SQL for engineers, and so forth. That could easily replace so many of the gen-ed courses.

#### bluechimp

IMO perhaps the most important thing that colleges could teach people is how to code these days. After all, most intern and entry-level jobs in just about any field require the ability to code (or if they don't, it'd be a massive leg up to know how to). EG for business types, teach them VBA for spreadsheet stuff, SQL for engineers, and so forth. That could easily replace so many of the gen-ed courses.

Hi Ilya. Welcome back and congratulations on the Data Analyst job. Just to comment on your paragraph above: NO. Seriously. I should send this paragraph to my Russian Lit friends from college (few are trading, by the way!) and see their response.

I don't have much opinion on what is the optimal education system. But, most of the posts on this thread is based on little statistical evidence. As few have pointed out above (cf. AWilliams' post #122), the matter is more subtle than several individuals have characterized it to be. I don't understand how you can take a stand on such a divisive matter without any reference to controlled experiments. (Maybe none are available?) There are many good arguments thrown around, but I just can't bring myself to either side of the debate without data and proper statistical analysis run on it.

Maybe I'll hire a Data Analyst to get this done.

#### Anthony DeAngelis

I agree that force fed learning kills curiosity in many students, but how many people who go on to major in XYZ, would never have done so if they were not forced to at least experience that subject in school. Sometimes we need to be forced outside of our comfort zone.

#### IlyaKEightSix

Anthony, I absolutely agree with you. However, I don't believe that the time to be forced out of our comfort zone should be when we're paying tens of thousands of dollars per semester. As BBW said before, those kinds of things should be done before then, in high school or whenever.

Oh, and thanks BlueChimp. As for little statistical evidence...I suppose this is all anecdotal, but when I was searching for a job in those ten and a half months of hell, just about every single one wanted some type of programming skill. Then again, I suppose I was looking into trading, automated trading, data analysis, statistics, and so forth, where coding is essential.

But IMO when people are paying tens of thousands of dollars a semester, I think it's most important that they get the skills they need to pursue the job they want in as little time as possible.

#### rishab dhar

I think most education systems in the world are basically pathetic. Otherwise, why would there be such a big difference between youth unemployment and adult unemployment in the countries. It is because most students learn nothing in college that is applicable in real life. Now if computer science student studies and wastes time on Chemistry rather than learning various languages (C,C++,Java,.NET,SQL,Perl,Python,ASP etc etc), he would be much less employable. In my college the only languages taught were C,C ++, and Java.

No wonder, now, industry in India is more willing to hire BCA/MCA (Bachelor of Computer Applications and Master of Computer Applications) graduates, who have no base whatsoever in Math -at best grade 12 Math (Simple calculus, Simple Multiple Integrals, but no vector calculus, or PDEs etc) than hundreds of thousands of computer engineers, because they are just more tech savvy than engineers are. Infact, Wipro even runs an institute, of its own, to train these BCA/MCA grads to work in their company afterwards. Some, such as Tech Mahindra, hire and then sponsor these graduates to study at BITS pilani for a Masters.

I ask the question: why not hundreds of thousands of computer engineers instead?

Just see the graph of youth unemployment rates in comparison to adult unemployment rates of the OECD countries.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/12/youth_unemployment

Looking at this graph, I realize that Germany must be doing something right that other countries don't-its apprenticeship system; hence, adult unemployment is almost equal to youth unemployment, even though it does not have the so called ivy league, or whatever you may want call it.

#### IlyaKEightSix

"Now if computer science student studies and wastes time on Chemistry rather than learning various languages, he would be much more employable."

Do you mean less?

IMO, it seems that our internship system is supposed to be similar to Germany's apprenticeship system.

Clearly, it's not working anywhere near as well.

#### rishab dhar

Oops sorry. I meant less. Thanks for pointing that out.

#### AWilliams

I agree that force fed learning kills curiosity in many students, but how many people who go on to major in XYZ, would never have done so if they were not forced to at least experience that subject in school. Sometimes we need to be forced outside of our comfort zone.
Without being forced too, people would still go to schools. I would also assert that students major in particular fields not because of what they learn in schools now.

#### rishab dhar

Youth unemployment has to do with older citizens not retiring. This is very prevalent in Greece.

I couldn't find any such reason in the link that you posted; unless of course, it is your own view.

But what article does mention, or at-least hints at, is that vocational training/apprenticeships help reduce youth unemployment.

Excerpts extracted from the article.

• 2010 in the eurozone and 20.6% across the EU-27;
• The highest rate of youth unemployment in Western Europe was in Spain, at 41.2% in March 2010, where industries such as construction have undergone a severe downturn. The Netherlands had the lowest rate of youth unemployment, at 7.4% in March 2010, due to a more shallow economic recession and government policies on youth education and training;

Youths are bearing the brunt of unemployment as they lack the skills and experience to get jobs. Some companies are encouraging shorter hours and work-sharing instead of making redundancies, limiting the potential for new jobs. The impact includes a higher likelihood of crime and psychological damage amongst youth. It also affects companies whose prime market is young people, given that higher youth unemployment means lower average incomes and spending power;

Prospects for youth unemployment in the short-term are gloomy, particularly as public-sector jobs are likely to be cut in many Western European countries to help reduce government debt levels. Many governments have plans to create more jobs for young people, such as vocational training or providing incentives for companies to hire more staff, although high public debt will limit funding.

Governments intend to take a range of measures to boost employment: Portugal, for instance, says it will offer €2,500 for employers who take on staff aged under 35, and exempt them from paying social security contributions for two years, while Italy has made additional use of a special fund which pays 80% of the salaries of workers who have been temporarily laid off during an economic downturn.

This shows that employing youth of today, with no skills, is a social liability, and government is the sole entity that has taken it up as its duty, as no one, or most, in the private sector wouldn't want people with no skills at all or skills that they don't need.

In Germany, the largest economy in Western Europe, youth unemployment remains below the eurozone average. It stood at 10.0% in March 2010, having fallen from 10.1% in the previous month. This was attributed to better than expected job creation in the construction and tourism sectors, as well as a government-led programme for short-term flexible work;

Although EU statistics on Greece only reach December 2009, when youth unemployment was estimated at 27.5%, the economic situation in the country in 2010 following an EU/IMF bailout amid the government debt crisis is likely to cause much greater unemployment. Greece has a historic trend of high youth unemployment owing to rigid labor markets, a high minimum wage and a skills mismatch in the economy;

However, as clearly seen from the article that was posted, Germany was one of the few countries where youth unemployment actually fell even after such a severe recession. Further the later, December 2010, article posted by me shows that youth unemployment fell further to around 8-9% in Germany. At this time, it would be even lower, as overall unemployment in Germany sits at 7.1%

Why some of you give programming such a large emphasis? The programming levels you talk about, for example for a Chemical Engineer are usually quite basic and not worth spending a course on, not to mention that programming is something that is learned by sitting on your ass and programming and not sitting and staring at your lecturer.

Algorithms and efficient programing, that's a whole other story.I think I'm the last student that got credits for a MATLAB course where I did my undergrad, and I got it only because they didn't tell me in advance that it doesn't get course credit.
The explanation was, and I agree, MATLAB is a programming tool that one can easily learn it doesn't fall under the criteria of academic education.

Now don't get me wrong, I preach to students that I teach to learn MATLAB and tell them that without it they won't be hired but it doesn't mean it should be academically accredited.

#### rishab dhar

Why some of you give programming such a large emphasis? The programming levels you talk about, for example for a Chemical Engineer are usually quite basic and not worth spending a course on, not to mention that programming is something that is learned by sitting on your ass and programming and not sitting and staring at your lecturer.

Algorithms and efficient programing, that's a whole other story.I think I'm the last student that got credits for a MATLAB course where I did my undergrad, and I got it only because they didn't tell me in advance that it doesn't get course credit.
The explanation was, and I agree, MATLAB is a programming tool that one can easily learn it doesn't fall under the criteria of academic education.

Now don't get me wrong, I preach to students that I teach to learn MATLAB and tell them that without it they won't be hired but it doesn't mean it should be academically accredited.

I think that perhaps you grossly misunderstood me. I was talking the other way round. A computer engineer should be taught more programming and less crappy stuff that he will most likely never be trusted to do on a job, that is work of a chemical engineer.

Secondly, do not even compare matlab to other languages such as C,C++,Java, SQL, .NET etc. You do need formal education in these languages. A simple self-study is never going to be enough to become an efficient coder at these languages.

The fact that computer engineers are taught less about computer engineering and more about other B.S such as Chemistry, Human Resource Management etc makes them grossly unemployable, and this fact is clearly demonstrated by huge youth unemployment rates. If the current practice were in fact correct, today's youth would have never faced such tough job markets.

#### rishab dhar

And for research:

Well in almost all countries less than 5% of the graduates (Bachelors) go on to study at Doctorate level and do research, and to make an argument for research as the reason for this interdisciplinary study, with the hope that the cover those gaping holes in their major subject at Masters and Doctorate level, is utter nonsense, as 95% of students out there cannot afford to take more years off to study a Masters or a PhD, leaving them grossly unemployable.

Further, to say that these subjects are taught to give a person a basic knowledge of these domains so that the person can talk a person from another domain without looking like a moron, is also not a logical reason, as I already mentioned such basic knowledge, in fact even better, is already given at school level. Students are taught much more than basic corrosion equations at school; they are taught how to make various chemicals from benzene, such as TNTs etc.

Further why Chemistry, why not biology is taught at engineering level. As I understand, today Biology is much more integrated with technology than Chemistry is.

Also, if ever you wanna change you domain, you can always get that required prerequisite knowledge through cheap open universities, so there are much better alternatives available both time wise and cost wise.

Finally, to make the statement " you need to study a course in that other domain to have a basic knowledge of that" is strictly speaking to going too far. You don't need to learn a basic course on communication engineering or electrical engineering to figure out how a T.V works or a cellphone works. You don't need to study "Economics 101" to know how to manage your own finances, etc etc.
I believe that this is basic common sense.

Further, I didn't need to study Geography to know where Osaka is, a simple internet search or Wikipedia search, or in my case simple general knowledge is more than enough.

American are increasingly dubious about the value of a college education
http://www.usnews.com/education/bes.../americans-split-on-value-of-a-college-degree

It's true for many fields that aren't the most practical in the world, let's say.... literature , art history etc.
I'm guessing that if they would also report how many reported that from each faculty the picture will seem quite different.

That being said, the ROI obviously get worse since salaries never rise as fast as costs. Even professions that pay quite good like engineering have a hard time returning investments of 100K$-200K$.

#### DominiConnor

Students not knowing what they want to do by the time they hit 18 is, in my opinion, an inevitable consequence of state education.

I was educated by the state and had very clear views on my direction. My children go to a private school with a fine record of getting people to the very best universities and its clear that that many 16-18 year olds there are a bit vague.

They are children, the reason we don't let them make all their decisions is that they are not competent to do so.
I didn't and with all due respect I would bet serious money you weren't either.

In this system, no one is given a choice.
That's not true in any country of which I am aware including Iran, China, as well as Europe and the US
Their choices are constrained, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad, but there are options.

No one studies a subject because they have genuine interest in it.
That's bollocks.

Students are forced to learn what state bureaucracies decide they should
I wish they were.
That would mean less university places for dumb subjects like media studies and the bible.

Learning goes from being self-directed as a young child to being controlled and managed by bureaucrats.
America could do with more bureaucracy.
Look at the astonishingly poor choices parents make when you give them that ability.

Ask any high schooler in NYC; most don't enjoy school and view learning as a chore, so we shouldn't be surprised many students have no clue what they want do in life.
I wonder, have you been to Earth ?
You might be aware that NYC is on it ?
Trust me that is the pattern pretty much everywhere on our planet, what is it like on yours ?
As above my kids aren't in the state system at all, enjoying amongst the finest facilities available to any kids anywhere on the planet, better than (say) 99.9% of them. But do I see joy in the faces of teenagers as they go in ?
No I do not.

Lets also not ignore the fact that the main reason colleges today even require these classes is because, well, that's simply what the law is.

We agree on this. A reason why US undergrad degrees are regarded as amongst the weakest in the world is the bollocks Americans choose to add to real degrees. But that is a choice made by Americans with no obvious movement to reach the point (say) France reached a century ago.

That being said, the - building a well rounded student - excuse to me is just a post ex facto rationalization. If given a choice, how many colleges would still require music, literature, and "cultural studies" in an engineering program?

Most of them.
You fail to exhibit an understanding of economics here, in particular agency theory.
A vast % of the jobs in academia are funded by this shit, they will fight like wolves to protect it.
The media and political establishments are almost wholly arts graduates and thus sympathetic, so expect them to win.

If given a choice, how many people would still choose a college with a seemingly infinite amount of filler courses rather then those whose courses are very relevant to their interest?
You seem to think they are people, they are not, they are children.
They aren't even well informed children because the educational establishment lies to them and obfuscates intensely.
That doesn't stop at age 18, look at the brochures for MFE programs, sold to people who are adults by any definition, yet they contain packs of half truths, lies and fail to give any detail. An MFE costs more than a decent car, yet if they promoted cars you would not even be able to determine the number of wheels

If you want to learn these things to become a "well rounded student", you do so as a child in school (oh wait, paragraph one shows why this isn't possible), or on your own time, but not in a college environment where one must spend thousands of dollars and forgo four years of earnings.

Essay on the recruiting tactics of for-profit "universities":

What I found was that Phoenix had altered its model and student mix to pursue a goal of 500,000 students set by its founder at his 80th birthday party in 2001. The two-year program in particular had expanded by targeting poorly prepared, low-income and vulnerable students -- including an intellectually disabled woman with an IQ between 65 and 70 -- who qualified for federal aid.

... On the second visit, I documented that an attractive female recruiter from for-profit Ashford University had visited the barracks without permission and signed up brain-damaged Marines.

Concentrating on Cleveland, I visited most of the city's homeless shelters over three days and found that two for-profit colleges -- Phoenix and Chancellor University -- had been competing for homeless students, many of whom suffered from alcoholism and other problems and were ill-equipped to attain degrees. The result was to plunge them deeper into debt and despair.

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