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DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education Paperback – April 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Kamenetz, author of the alarming personal finance expose Generation Debt, drops another bombshell on the emerging cohort of young Americans, this time regarding higher education. While she mounts a standard (though illuminating) attack on spiraling tuition and the bottomless pit of student loans, Kamenetz also questions the fundamental assumptions of modern American education culture: the twin, contradictory ideas that college must be universally accessible, and that the smallest accepted denomination of educational currency is a bachelor's degree from a four-year, liberal arts institution. Kamenetz explores those ideas' fallacies as they play out daily in American classrooms, as well as students' myriad alternatives, from community colleges to online learning collectives. In great detail, Kamenetz explains the flawed economic models that underpin higher education, the faulty premises they maintain and the government's failures to address them. Kamenetz's approach is methodical and balanced, showcasing extensive research and thoughtfulness, while acknowledging one of the chief problems with reform: no one wants to experiment on their own child. This volume merits consideration from high school students and their parents, as well as educators preparing a generation for uncertain job prospects, an information economy still in its infancy, and the steady erosion of geographical barriers.

From Booklist

Kamenetz (Generation Debt, 2006) tackles the U.S. higher education system. Starting with a history of college development, she delves into how poverty, race, and class converge in the halls of higher learning. She then asserts that everything about how we live and what we hope for is tied into the collegiate dream of success, which has been persistently sold to the American middle class. But why hasn’t this promise been fulfilled for so many? Kamenetz pinpoints political reasons, and makes the case that serious changes must be made pertaining to how colleges serve their students and make their money to prevent a decrease in the value of college degrees and a widening gap between social classes. Kamenetz offers many statistics and studies to back up her statements, yet she moves so quickly from one to the next, and this is such a short book for such a weighty topic, it ends up being a useful introductory summary rather than a source of in-depth conclusions. --Colleen Mondor

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603582347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603582346
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

149 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
We've all heard it: "I'm just taking this class to get 'that piece of paper.'" Or, "It will sure be worth it when I get 'that piece of paper.'" As a graduate student, I can attest first hand that much of university life is little more than a 'degree mill.' And that is where DIY U starts off: with a problem. How, the author asks, can we justify our faith in college education when there is little or no evidence that the ever-increasing price is worth the ever-diminishing returns?

First, this charge of college being a "credential mill" is not new with Kamenetz. William James alluded to it in the early 1900's in his essay "The PhD Octopus." More recently, Charles Sykes wrote Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education in frustration over it. Now DIY U. The first half of the book is Kamenetz's explanation of the history, sociology, and economics of our "college for all" hopes and how they've (ironically) led to a very tiered system. What started with the intention of getting more folks to college via Pell Grants, the GI Bill and other government subsidies has led to, at once, a work force that was 'graduate' hungry, and at the same time, rising prices in college costs. What does that spell? A situation where making money demands going to college which fewer and fewer can afford to do. Put differently, a college degree is more or less of value today not because of the education it provides, but the fact that one MUST go through it to stay competitive with others. And so the cycle continues.

But is it financially worth it? Inevitably, there comes a point where prices get high enough to render 'keeping apace' a not-good-enough return.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Theresa Welsh on April 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Everyone says they want a college education but fewer people in the US have a real chance of getting one. And why do young people want that college degree? Because they've been repeatedly told they need it in order to get a good-paying job. They've been fed the numbers that show that average earnings are highest for those with with advanced degrees, followed by four-year degrees, some college, and lower pay for only high school or no high school diploma. In the United States, there is a profound belief, seemingly upheld by these numbers, that a college degree is the ticket to the American Dream.

But the reality, told so eloquently in this small book by Anya Kamenetz, is that many find themselves priced out of going to college and those who go find themselves drowning in debt and more than half who start never get a degree. Because college has become so expensive, there is concern among students about the monetary value of their degree. Will it really pay off in terms of their salary over their working years? Is it worth taking out all those student loans? Should parents mortgage their house (oops, with the mortgage crisis, probably not an option), spend their retirement savings, or take out commercial loans to send their kids to college?

Is that even the right way to think about higher education? Is it just all about money? Whatever happened to the intrinsic value of an education? As it turns out, there have never been more options for learning, if we stop thinking about learning as only happening in classrooms in ivy-covered buildings on rolling green campuses. In this book, Kamenetz takes us on a tour of the smorgasbord of learning opportunities.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Kenley Neufeld on March 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the book and took away many new ideas and links/resources to followup for my personal learning network. It is a fast read (couple days) and I would encourage all educators to pick it up - well worth the time. In fact, I intend to pass a copy on to my President, Vice-President, and Dean.

As an educator always trying to innovate and try new methods for opening the classroom, the book's content resonated with my philosophy and experiences. For the past 16-years I've been a librarian and teacher in both high schools and community colleges. I love that the community college experience is highlighted in the book. Currently I teach an online class on social media and all the content is available on the open web - no restrictions! Though most of the book was familiar territory for me, I particularly found the history of education chapter to be useful to provide perspective on our current state of education.

Will continue to reflect on these themes.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bryce Anderson on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
[Disclosure: Anya sent me a reviewer's copy. Thanks!]

For me, the mark of an outstanding book is this: the moment I've read the last page, I get the overwhelming urge to loan it to somebody and ask them what they think of it. By that standard -- and by many others -- this is an outstanding book.

The first half of DIY U is an exposé on the high costs and other obstacles students face in their quest for education. As the author of Generation Debt, Kamenetz is well qualified to write that story. Over the first few chapters, she takes the reader on a safari of the institutional dysfunctions that haunt the American education system. How did we come to have a higher education system that virtually all high school graduates expect to use, but only a third earn degrees from? Why do so many young people leave college with a crushing burden of debt, a burden which impoverishes their lives and constrains their future careers? If we want a broadly educated populace, why is the perceived quality of a school so much a function of the number of students it keeps out?

There are glimmers of hope along the way. Kamenetz gives us a whirlwind tour of BYU-Idaho, showing us the steps one school has taken to deliver quality education while keeping prices affordable. But the real message of hope comes in the second half of the book.

Academic institutions are entrenched and often difficult to change. But in the battle of four hundred year-old institution vs. the Internet, always bet on the Internet.
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