Ten Ways Colleges Work You Over

Washington Monthly seems to understand higher ed better than most journalistic outlets. Its latest story, entitled Ten Ways Colleges Work You Over, hits the nail on the head.  It’s good to know someone sees through some of the games colleges play to their prospects and students’ detriment.

If you’re about to embark on the college-search process, or about to complete your FAFSA or apply for financial aid, this is an article you’ll want to read. The best defense against questionable practices is to be well armed with the facts and to have your eyes wide open.

Colleges Tricking Undergraduates

Peter Thiel, author of Zero to One, believes (according to a Fortune magazine story), “We are in an ‘education bubble,’ in which colleges saddle undergraduates with needless debt by tricking them into thinking their degrees will be worth more than they really  will be.”

IMO, some degrees are worth a lot; many aren’t worth much at all. And there is a lot of misleading propaganda swirling around. And many misled kids.

Whether you’re getting your money’s worth is for you to decide. I suppose it all comes down to what you value and how much you’re willing to pay for it. I also suppose some kids and their parents will make prudent decisions and some won’t.

My caution to you is to think and judge for yourself. Don’t blindly rely on the propaganda and slick marketing messages. Most people who run colleges are interested primarily in their institutions’ survival and their own welfare. Often times there is a large gap between those interests and those of the students. There needn’t be. But there usually is. Sometimes there is even a lot of trickery involved.

Acquiring an associate’s or bachelor’s degree requires a lot of time, effort and money. Choose your college and major wisely.


Economic Guide to Picking a Major

But a look at detailed data on college graduates by major reveals some clear messages: Don’t be pre-med if you aren’t planning to go to medical school; don’t assume that all “STEM” — science, technology, engineering and math — majors are the same; and if you study drama, be prepared to wait tables.

The preceding is a quote from a post by Ben Casselman on FiveThirtyEight with the title borrowed above: The Economic Guide to Picking a Major.

Economic prospects are just one factor in choosing a major. But, sadly, it’s one that young students frequently overlook. All colleges aren’t equal. Neither are majors.

I invite you to read Mr. Casselman’s full story.


A Word About College Rankings

Twitter and the media generally were abuzz yesterday over the latest release of U.S. News’ college rankings. There was a lot of criticism. Some expressed outrage at colleges for participating because the rankings “harm students.” Quite a few colleges and universities issued press releases touting their high placement (while, of course, denigrating the ranking system in other forums).

I’ve previously given my opinion of these rankings and have even offered my own ranking of colleges (as well as a list of the colleges I would consider attending).  Personally, I don’t get as excited by rankings as some do. I get far more excited about the lack of meaningful, reliable information available to prospective college students and their parents to help them make a sound college choice.

How is one to assess the qualitative differences among colleges? Continue reading

High Debt and Low Incomes = Low Housing Demand and High Student Debt

Cullen Roche, in his superb blog entitled Pragmatic Capitalism, makes the point that high debt and low incomes yield low housing demand. Of course, they also yield high student debt, which in turn leads to even lower housing demand (heavily indebted twenty and thirty-somethings can’t qualify for or afford mortgages). Continue reading


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