Breaking the Tuition Feedback Loop

From Aaron Clarey:

On Reddit, 4chan, the blogospehre, and on Youtube, there are three ‘great debates’ that have been raging since 2013:

SJWs/Gawker vs. Redpill/PUA/MRA/Gamergate, the largest most heated of the three, is an internet version of the age-old left vs. right schism, but the battle is waged on Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and blogs instead of traditional media. Pretty much every everyone with a Twitter or Youtube account is in some way engaged, exchanging barbs back and forth.

The second debate is about automation/the rise of robots, and how individuals, society, and the economy will adapt. The debate is divided among those who argue that the ‘Luddite Fallacy’ will remain a fallacy and that economy will always adapt to automation by creating new jobs; others argue that there will be a large unemployed underclass, necessitating radical social programs like a universal basic income.

The third debate is about college, specifically about whether or not it’s worth attending. The debate is dividend between those who argue against going to college and those who say it’s still worthwhile.

The above video concerns the third debate topic, college.

I agree that tax payer money should not be used to fund low-ROI courses, but that doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And the entire situation is quite convoluted, involving employers, the government, lawyers, and students.

We’re in a feedback loop of financial aid leading to higher tuition, and employers requiring degrees, which leads to higher college attendance, which means more loans, and, hence, higher tuition.

The value of the overpriced liberal arts degree is not in the subject itself, but to signal to employers baseline competence. All else being equal, in the eyes of an employer, a person with a History or Philosophy degree is more valuable than someone without a degree. A degree in one of the more ‘rigorous’ liberal arts subjects (History, philosophy, or English, for example) signals above-average literacy, concentration, and critical thinking skills, all of which are valuable for on-site training. A person who is smarter can learn faster, even if the job is unrelated to the degree. So, the degree acts like an IQ or competency test, albeit an overpriced and poorly designed one. The reason why employers use degrees instead easy-to-administer IQ tests is because of the threat of disparate impact litigation, which is very costly and difficult to fight. Typically, only large companies, like Proctor and Gamble, have the resources to fight these lawsuits, and hence can administer these tests.

There are some solutions:

Overturn Griggs v. Duke Power Co. Without fear of litigation, let companies develop their own criteria for screening for competence.

Replace costly diplomas with SAT scores, IQ scores, or an acceptance letter from a prestigious university. Being accepted to Harvard, Caltech, or MIT signals intellect that is in the top 5% of the population.

No more taxpayer subsided financial aid for non-STEM majors and or low-IQ students. This would guarantee a higher ROI for financial aid and hence lower tuition for everyone. Too bad there is zero likelihood of this happening, particularly making financial aid contingent on having a sufficiently high IQ.

The left complains incessantly about tuition, yet on the grounds of political correctness oppose the solutions that would break the cycle. In the liberal world, it’s better that everyone suffer high tuition fees than to face the reality that maybe not everyone is intellectually cut out for higher education. Instead of confronting the reality that some people are smarter than others, make everyone pay more, to avoid this inconvenient truth. And of course, as Aaron says, shrinking the college industrial complex will mean a lot of unemployed liberal professors.