Most helpful positive review
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2009
College is supposed to be an investment that guarantees a student's success - but this is no longer true. More than one out of three recent (2004) college graduates have jobs that don't require a college degree. Also, in 2004, more than one million college graduates were unemployed. The result is that the average high-school-only graduate has more money than the average college graduate for about the first 15 years after high school.
Colleges have found sports program success linked to increased enrollment - thus, athletic empires are not built just to appease alumni. Scheer also points out high marketing and salary expenses incurred by supposedly penny-pinching colleges. Revenues are further boosted by lots of extra fees - eg. parking. Savings do occur, however. Many professors don't teach (doing research) and are replaced in classrooms by graduate assistants, groundskeepers etc. are low-paid, and class size sometimes exceed 200. Meanwhile, revenues are further aided by numerous useless "requirements" courses.
"Faculty research" (economist Richard Vedder even suggests that professors are spending less time on both teaching and research work) is the reason given for much of the college cost escalation - news articles about contributing to medical research and NASA trips are favorite public relation tools. Scheer, on the other hand, provides compelling evidence that most "research" is of little/no value. More than 9 out of 10 arts and humanities research articles, half of those in the social sciences, and even 2 out of 10 in the sciences are NOT cited by other researchers within five years after they're published. (Science, 2/9/1991; 1/4/1991) Many other research studies receive such little respect they're never published.
(Actually, "No Sucker Left Behind" considerably overstates the value of most university research because most research, especially in the humanities, is on topics lacking value - eg. the 999th analysis of Shakepear's use of punctuation, education studies purporting to slightly improve pupil performance (that don't), management studies that dwell on trivial impacts vs. outsourcing, etc.)
Graduate quality is also often questionable, and even declining. The U.S. Dept. of Education 2003 "Assessment of Adult Literacy" found less than one-third of college graduates are proficient in basic reading and mathematical skills, and literacy levels have declined significantly among college graduates from 1992-2003 (2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy).
Probably the biggest sales pitch for attending college is the claim that, on average, graduates earn $1 million more in their lifetimes than non-graduates. Scheer deflates that belief as well. Using median incomes (not distorted by very high earners) and adjusting for income taxes and the costs of college, Scheer says $467,000 is more realistic. Of course, college costs are especially risky for the many students who drop out.
More surprisingly, Scheer also points out that a number of graduates in fields like engineering and science have difficulty finding jobs (WSJ, 11/16/2005 - "Behind 'Shortage' of Engineers, Employers Grow More Choosy.") Meanwhile, college graduate earnings are falling - Business Week (1/21/2008) reported that income for graduates aged 25-34 fell 8.5%, after inflation, from 2000-2007. Further, average salaries for business school graduates was relatively flat from 2000-2005, while tuition at top business schools rose 55%.
About half those enrolling in expensive doctoral programs ultimately drop out, and research found no difference in academic abilities between those who drop out vs. those who complete. It's estimated that 40-505 of all doctoral students drop out.
Some good news - Scheer suggests high-school advanced placement classes, and taking free classes at local colleges while in high school are good ways to reduce costs. He also cites research showing that higher-costing colleges are not linked to improved graduate incomes.