Buttle's World

5 November, 2009

The $99 Revolution

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 9:21

Universities have an internet bomb in the basement.

In less than two months, she had finished four complete courses, for less than $200 total. The same courses would have cost her over $2,700 at Northeastern Illinois, $4,200 at Kaplan University, $6,300 at the University of Phoenix, and roughly the gross domestic product of a small Central American nation at an elite private university. They also would have taken two or three times as long to complete.

The whole article is well worth reading. It misses an elephant or two in the room, though. First, a significant part of the meteoric rise in tuition is government interference in the market in the form of guaranteed student loans. In general, if prices are going up you’ll find the not so invisible hand of government.

The article further laments what might happen to universities once they go the way of newspapers.

But other parts of those institutions will be threatened too—vital parts that support local communities and legitimate scholarship, that make the world a more enlightened, richer place to live. Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone. There is an unstable, treacherous future ahead for institutions that have been comfortable for a long time. Like it or not, that’s the higher education world to come.

That’s a feature, not a bug. Universities have become hidebound cauldrons of left-wing indoctrination. When they are no longer able to milk the public teat to pay for the brainwashing of undergrads education – actual education – will improve. As for those deep thinkers, I don’t worry for a minute that they’ll find a productive place in a vibrant, free economy. It’s an economy that will be less burdened by ivy-league parasites.

Bring it on.




  1. I need to learn someday how I ‘indoctrinate’ students when I teach them math and the operation of the visual system. I -do- occasionally sup from the teat of the DoD in an effort to keep people from attacking the USofA. Oh, and research on how people aim things… sadly, Anschutz won’t come through with the funding but, somehow, the DoD will.

    But your broader point, that unis need to do some work on their product, is well taken/appreciated. As someone on the inside, I can further assure you that we’re well aware of it, and that some of the broader shots taken are stereotypical / not indicative of the whole of the academy. Especially the sciences. Do we get some sort of break? Or do we get painted with the Ward Churchill brush also?

    Comment by former colleague now professor — 5 November, 2009 @ 14:12

    • Great points. Not everybody is Ward Churchill, and I suspect that many in the sciences, etc. are not doing indoctrinations (although some are). I was speaking of the institution more than specific members of it.

      I have full confidence that the competent will always find employment, and, at least in most cases, the DoD’s money. Public payment for research isn’t the market-distorting monster I was railing against.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Comment by buttle — 6 November, 2009 @ 16:09

      • I see, yes. I still believe in the institutions’ ability to reflect on themselves and correct their course. Then again, I believe in the self regulatory ability of a lot of complex systems… it’s a faith thing.

        Ever see/read Snow’s _The Two Cultures_? It provides a good sketch of the struggle between sciences and non-sciences, esp in the academy. It’s a challenging thing, an enjoyable one for me, anyway.

        Comment by former colleague now professor — 6 November, 2009 @ 18:10

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