Monday, July 12, 2010

Are Higher Education Scam Blogs Racist and Sexist?

Lambert at Corrente
linked to BIDER several weeks ago (thank you, Lambert and BDBlue!) along with a Yahoo/BusinessWeek article questioning whether college is still worth the student debt investment. The first two comments pretty much reiterated everything that Angel and I have been posting this year. Higher education, once a source of opportunity for some to move into the middle class, has now become an elitist and corrupt business that is perfectly fine with financially raping students into a lifetime of servitude to Sallie Mae, Access Group, and Direct Loans.

The third comment, however, came from a professor named “Historiann” who believes that higher education is worth the (insanely high) tuition cost because it enriches their inner lives. Teehee:

The article shows that college grads still on average make $400,000 more over 30 years than high school grads. Would you like an extra $13,000/year this year? I sure would. That's still real money to most people.

In any case: is a college education really only about the acquisition of money? (Pretend we're not living in the United States of Amnesia for a few minutes.) All things considered, universities have made the U.S. a better place, on balance. Not all students who enter leave it a better place, and there surely is a lot of wastage that the system encourages. But we shouldn't see the value of education as purely vocational.

I like to think that teaching at a university and introducing them to interesting, new ideas and writers helps young people develop rich and complex inner lives in adulthood. Even if we leave aside the value of those inner lives for artistic and creative thought and work, think of the savings in mental health services!
Um…that’s all well and good, but does inner enrichment pay off six-figure student loan debt and the feelings of absolute failure when you have to move back in with your parents, or you’re stuck in a dead-end job that can barely pay off those student loan bills and put food on the table for your family? One can argue that the massive amount of loans students have to take out to go to college and graduate school cause more long term unhappiness and mental anguish than whatever enrichment they get in the classroom.

As a starting point for any new readers joining us, I recommend reading Jobless Juris Doctor’s post about a day in the life of an unemployed graduate working a $10/hour part-time job with loans to pay back. Many of the comments are just a small window into the large numbers of young people who are depressed and on the verge of suicide because of student debt, especially in this new jobless era that could last for decades.

Please also read Cryn at Education Matters and put her under your blogroll even if your blog has nothing to do with education issues. Cryn is one of the few education advocates trying to change the system and fight for student loan victims. She regularly posts absolutely heart wrenching stories of educated American families being destroyed by student debt compounded by unemployment and our country not having a national health care system. Cryn herself attended an Ivy League and is now working in South Korea to pay off her student loan debt. Yes, many of us are being forced to flee the country to find anything resembling a respectable and decent paying job to pay off our student loans. This is the reality of higher education in America today and it doesn’t look like the situation will improve considering that many white-collar jobs along with manufacturing jobs are being outsourced, never to come back to the States. Below are links to reader stories Cryn has recently featured on her blog.

We should also be wary of the college versus high school statistics and some statistics that say the unemployment rate among college graduates is only 4 percent. Many of these studies offer an expansive range of numbers from $400,000 over 30 years to as much as a million dollars more than a high school graduate over the course of a lifetime. Personally, these numbers sound as fraudulent as law school employment statistics.

Some tenured professors and university administrators will want to believe that they are getting paid as much as $388,000 to make the world a better place while turning a blind eye to the adjunct professors who are suffering, the unemployed PhD graduates who are suffering, and the thousands of their very own students who are suffering. Other professors have fessed up to random luck to getting a good job in academia. A few have admitted to being okay with scamming students out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as long as they get their six-figure salary and funds to go off to some exotic place for vacation under the guise of an academic conference.

I decided to head over to Historiann’s blog and found that she had linked to Lambert in a post of her own accusing people who write articles questioning the value of a college education as possibly harboring racist or sexist beliefs:

Is anyone else skeptical of this current rash (h/t Corrente) of “is college really worth it?” (h/t RealClearPolitics) articles, now that women are the majority of college students, and black, brown, and first-generation college students are gaining more of a purchase in post-secondary education? It sure seems like an interesting coincidence to me.

These always appear in a recession, and it’s true that unemployed people with college degrees are just as unemployed as people who never made it to college, or even out of high school. But, seriously? My bet is that the authors and publishers of these articles all have college educations. Do they really think that more education was a big mistake for them, or do they just want to argue that it’s a mistake for their social inferiors?

Huh? If this was an attempt to discredit anyone who challenges the higher education industrial complex, it was a pretty weak one. Many of our friends and truth-tellers under our blogroll do in fact think that more education was a big mistake for them because it has caused them unimaginable pain, suffering, and financial ruin. These people should be lauded rather than accused of being racists or sexists. Angel and I are women and have posted many stories on the plight of women, minorities, and the poor during this recession and as victims of the higher education scam. Nando at Third Tier Reality is Hispanic. Cryn and Jobless Juris Doctor are women. A Law School Victim at Life’s Mockery is African-American. Educated people of all backgrounds are beginning to see the inequality and unfairness of the U.S. higher education system and it has nothing to do with seeing women and minorities as social inferiors or dissuading them from trying to have a better life. It is na├»ve to believe that a college education somehow magically breaks down all the barriers of privilege, rank, and connections – all those things that are most important to finding a good job in our new economy.

I have never questioned education as a valuable way of becoming a better-rounded, enriched, well-informed, and enlightened individual. However, it is possible to become educated and worldly through self-education and travel without having to pay a business (and that is exactly what universities and for-profit colleges have become – a billion dollar making business) up to $200,000 for a degree as some sort of proof that you are superior to those who don’t have a $100,000 - $200,000 piece of paper. Anyone paying $50,000+ per semester should feel entitled to a good paying job – and they should get an education that not only makes them more creative or analytical, but also provides them with job training skills to do something practical once they leave the protective bubble of the ivory tower.

There are other countries that put their money where their mouth is and make education accessible to more people by offering free or low-cost tuition. If their graduates can’t find a good job in a depression, at least they won’t have up to half of their wages garnished to pay off banks and loan companies breathing down their necks with threats and obscene phone calls to friends and family. Wanna bet that most university administrators, if asked whether they would rather work under the current system that keeps out many poor and minority students from getting a top tier education or take a salary cut so that more students can afford college/grad school, would be perfectly fine keeping out the poor and forcing their students into lifetime debt as long as their coffers are filled? Who’s the racist now?

I do not regret going to college because I attended a top tier institution that covered most of my tuition with financial aid and scholarships. I was one of the lucky ones. I do, however, regret being fooled into spending thousands of dollars for a degree that hinders me from getting any job outside of the legal industry due to the fraudulent employment statistics released by the ABA and law schools.

We are not against education. We are against a system that devalues the importance of education by turning it into a money making scheme. To swindle millions of dollars from hard-working Americans using fraudulent data and myths in order to convince parents and their children that taking out hundreds of thousands in private loans is worth it to become more self-enlightened is despicable and should be stopped. Tax attorney said in a comment last week:

Tax Attorney said...

I think you people are missing the point. The relevant point is, "do we want an America with undereducated people who reject advanced degrees due to financial rape, or do we want an America that wants its citizens to proceed with education as far as they can go?"

Go to any guidance counselor's office in a high school--they will sell you a bill of goods that education is always profitable. Maybe that was true 30 years ago, but now it is just a business used to exploit the intelligent and ambitious. And as a country, unless we curtail free trade and the offshoring of jobs, we need educated people. But when the cost of the education exceeds its value, then how do we get there?

The European model with free education and vigorous testing to qualify, seems the most rational to me.

Low-income, minority, and single parent (usually women) students bear the brunt of the higher education scam. Too many of them end up in for-profit schools or low ranked, third tier schools that offer a crappy education and few job opportunities at the same tuition rates as the Ivy League. Many must gamble with the possibility of absolute financial ruin for life by taking out huge loans to attend college. So when someone asks whether or not college (or graduate school) is worth it, they are asking a very serious question that no one in higher education is willing to answer directly. Is taking out $50k, $100k, $150k, $200k – even $300k (I know an Ivy League and T14 graduate who owes more than $300k) in loans worth the risk? Is anything that doesn’t offer a money back guarantee or an absolute guarantee of a good paying job worth taking such a huge financial risk?

Anyone who can justify not questioning these exorbitant costs is either rich, clueless, or profits in some way shape or form from the system currently in place.


  1. I went to Historiann's blog and the comments are filled with self-serving rants about how an education is worth it. At least one of the professors on the cite acknowledges that their jobs are done if the glory of college education fades... but they all like to denigrate the on-line university. I, on the other hand, see on-line university as potentially the last place where students can potentially get an affordable education. However, with POS like Phoenix University pumping online students for their life blood, I'm not sure that this will save the American Intelligencia. I am minority, I am women.. hear me roar. Education is worth it up to a certain price point. Over that, it's more like shackles than wings.

  2. This is a common tactic used by opponents who have nothing substantive to say. For instance, a piece of trash on JD Underground going by the handle "Venceremos" twice accused me of hating Jews. There was NO basis for his accusation, and he quickly dropped that when I ignored him. (As an aside, this same person has made tons of outlandish comments about blacks, liberals, and certain religious groups.) Like I said, the guy is a piece of garbage.

    Anyway, to the main point of this entry. While I may not make a huge issue out of being a minority, the fact remains that I publish my blog so that I can help some minorities - and those of humble backgrounds/financial circumstances - avoid life-altering, soul-crushing debt.

    A co-worker has noted that her minority "professional" colleagues think that it is great that they too can gain admission - by purchasing advanced degrees. She and I then point out that this is a hell of a price to pay. UNLESS you are part of "The Club", higher education is a bad life choice for the VAST majority of students.

    Higher education is Big Bu$ine$$ in this country. It seeks to sell success to those who are on the outside looking in. Seeing that we scam-busters have gone through this process - and we have seen up-front the financial, spiritual, emotional and mental damage caused by these worthless assets - we DO have a responsibility to warn others.

    NOTHING pisses me off more than seeing a minority with an advanced degree and shit job prospects encouraging others to take the plunge. How irresponsible and morally reprehensible!!

  3. Also, it does not matter if your degree, i.e. piece of paper with some fancy-sounding words on it, says Harvard, Stanford or State U. - if you CANNOT find a job. For the masses, higher education is a financial decision. We do not have the luxury of going to school on daddy's dime, or earning less than stellar grades.

    What matters is putting food in your fridge, providing for yourself or your family, paying your bills, and furnishing shelter. That is what the typical person cares about, because in the last analysis, this is MUCH more important than what your little diploma says.

    Most of us seek some upward mobility, and to clamor our way into the conceptual middle class. I went to church with a young Asian kid who graduated from Harvard with a science degree. He took out more than $120K for a B.S. He ended up working in a retail store. Do you think he would like to reconsider his "brilliant decision"?!?!

  4. This week the overpaid, hypocritical self-styled "liberals" in academia will call us "racists."

    Next week, Rush and Glenn will call us "entitled," "socialists," and "revolutionaries."

    God Bless America!!!

  5. There's so much stupidity behind that professor's comments that it doesn't even bear refuting.

    One of my childhood heroes, Frederick Douglass, took as the motto for his abolitionist paper "Truth is of no color, right is of no sex, God is the father of us all, we are brethren."

    We are all bound up together regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation blah blah blah. I absolutely agree that education is essential BUT IT IS NOT THE SAME AS SCHOOLING to paraphrase Mark Twain. The higher educational industrial complex/scam is a product of our society and it will therefore reflect the distribution of injustices/disadvantages/privileges that manifest in the society itself.

  6. I've been meaning to write a blog post about that Business Week article. I am sick of hearing and seeing that stale statistic about how a college degree is worth $1.4 million over people's lifetimes and that therefore the solution to unemployment is for everyone go to college. It's refreshing to see that someone is actually challenging that number.

  7. With all the grade inflation that has gone on over the last 40 years we do have a population that is under-educated regardless of degree.

  8. O.K. So . . . My law school published intentionally deceptive employment statistics (and is still using the class of 2008 statistics for present marketing purposes), and I fell for the trap. I thought that people shouldn't be misled like that.

    This is how I became a racist and a sexist.

    Phew! Glad we finally got that sorted out. Things were just so confusing before. But, well, when you put it that way, it just seems to make so much more sense.

  9. The point that most professors and defenders of higher eduction seem incapable of grasping is that it is the cost that makes college a bad investment.

    Yes, as a society, we should want and encourage people to become as educated as possible. But at what cost? Nowadays, as you all well know, students must incur a lifetime of debt. 20/30 years ago, people could obtain a higher education for a reasonable price, particularly at state schools. However, the price of a college tuition has far exceeded the rate of inflation.

    The professor(s) comments raise a larger - the rampant elitism that plagues college campuses. I unfortunately experienced first hand in law school. When professors - who naturally deem themselves as intellectually superior - can't rebut a solid argument, they start calling you a racists/sexist/bigot. After all, what else could explain someone's refusal to adopt their view of the word? It has to be a serious character flaw. Duh.

  10. I submit that it is a HELL of a lot more racist-sexist-bigoted to rip off your women students, your students of color, your working-class students to the tune of $150K while blithely ignoring the fact that law is still (and probably forever) a Good Old Boys Club -- than it is to point out that "inconvenient truth."

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  12. Amen, Jadz!
    Where is the reimbursement I'm supposed to get for taking on the cost of educating myself to be an attorney when the few good jobs out there overwhelmingly went to the men in my class?

    Oh, that's right. Education is supposed to be the elixir that will create a post-racial and feminist society by my simply enrolling and being awashed in the amazing words of wisdom spouted off in a classroom. When an employer sees my JD, they will be magically cured of tendency to see me as a baby factory who will fart around the office and only roll into work 10 hours a week because I'm simply working to have a source of spending money for cute shoes while my rich husband pays the bills with his "serious" job. They will get out their princess dolls and reenact the life of Susan B. Anthony and say, "we can do ANYTHING, right, Barbie?"

    As I sit here, unemployed, having sent out a few hundred resumes to almost no response, having gone to more than one interview that either overtly or covertly tried to determine my marital status, all I can think is that it would have been better for me to have not gone to law school at all. I at least had an income from my dead-end pink collar job. Where is my reward for having the nerve to borrow the money I did to enroll in law school? I saw women who were in the very top of their class and members of the law journal who were still scrambling for a job after graduation when most of the men in their position had something lined up after their second year. I'm stuck with this debt; not this professor or his ilk who want to sing Kumbaya and believe that if they print out a piece of paper with my name on it that I've suddenly been rescued from a terrible life.

    And you're right: For-profit schools prey mostly upon women and minorities by default because those are the people who end up having to scramble so they can become immediately employable. They don't tend to have the time or money to lazy around for 4-7 years while they take enough basket weaving classes to squeeze out their 120 hours of credits to get a degree. They have kids at home who need to eat now.

  13. Thanks for the shout, Hardknocks. I think the Tax Prof is dead on about the European model. I know several Europeans who can't believe what we pay for education. Over there, it is truly who scores the highest who gets in. Not a perfect system, but at least it's free.

  14. If you can't discredit the attempt to discredit the messenger.

  15. JJD -- Spot on. My husband is French, and when I inquired of his twin brother (who has kids the same ages as ours) how much we should be saving if we wanted them to get their education over there, the brother and his wife's response was, and I quote:


    At the time the S-I-L and I were both pregnant with kids who were born a few weeks apart. She got a YEAR off paid, before returning to her very good job at a major auto manufacturer. I took off 3 days, and was back to work before my son was out of the NICU. Now I am back to work again (at one of my 2 jobs, the one that fired me albeit with a great deal of notice, when I was 9 months pregnant--I went back to job #2 the day I got home from the hospital), three weeks after the birth of my daughter, and I pretty much want to step in front of a train. But hey, you know us lazy wimminz! That's why you can't trust us with any of the few remaining good jobs.

  16. On a sidenote: Congratulations on your new baby girl, Jadz! I'm glad to hear you are back to work after those bastards fired you. Hang in there!

  17. I second Angel's conclusion at the top. I would add that the fourth comment on Historiann's post (Signed "Fratguy". That instills confidence.) claims that the unemployment rate for college grads is 4%, and that other comments pick that figure up and run with it. No citation, no analysis, just acceptance. Which, as an aside, is why it's pointless to critique Historiann's position: It isn't a statement of reason; it's a statement of faith.

  18. Thanks, HK! State law actually requires them to give me a FULL YEAR's notice (ridiculous), so I will not be on the breadline for a while. (Although I would certainly like to be out of here ASAP and am working on that.) The baby is great, although it would be nice if she would start being awake during the day and sleeping when it is dark out. She is adorable, but the worst boss in the world.

  19. What I do agree with, is that women and People of Color are being RIPPED off more because they get college degree's but still face steep unemployment prospects. And the litany of "unhappy women professors" almost matches the "is college worth it" essays.



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