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What's Wrong With the American University System

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the not-enough-belushi dept.

Education 828

ideonexus writes "The Atlantic has an excellent interview with Andrew Hacker — co-author with Claudia Dreifus of a book titled Higher Education? — covering everything that's wrong with the American university system. The discussion ranges from entrenched tenured professors more concerned with publishing and parking spaces than quality teaching; to 22-year-old students with unrealistic expectations that some company will put them in a management position after graduating with six-figures of debt; to football teams siphoning money away from academic programs so that student tuitions must increase to compensate. It really lays out the farce of university culture and reminds me of everything I absolutely despised about my college life. Dreifus is active in the comments section of the article as well, lending to a fantastic discussion on the subject."

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And yet- (2, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 4 years ago | (#33087326)

it is likely the best university system in the world. Contrast that with K-12 (lower ed) and I find it hard to complain about what is seemingly a world class higher education model.

Re:And yet- (5, Insightful)

easterberry (1826250) | about 4 years ago | (#33087400)

it is likely the best university system in the world.

[citation needed]

Re:And yet- (3, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 4 years ago | (#33087756)

You know, the schools people come to attend from across the globe? Or perhaps you had a different country in mind?
Harvard University Cambridge, MA, Princeton University Princeton, NJ, Yale University New Haven, CT, California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA, Stanford University Stanford, CA, University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA, Columbia University New York, NY, University of Chicago Chicago, IL, Duke University Durham, Dartmouth College Hanover, NH, Northwestern University Evanston, IL, Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO, Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD, Cornell University Ithaca, NY, Brown University Providence, RI, Emory University Atlanta, GA, Rice University Houston, TX, Vanderbilt University Nashville, TN, University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN, University of California--Berkeley Berkeley, CA, Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA, Georgetown University Washington, DC, University of California--Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA

Re:And yet- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087404)

it is likely the best university system in the world.

Brilliant, no explanation as to how/why, leaving the reader to conclude that you mean "Well, it's American and so probably the best somehow".

Are you a product of that system by any chance?

Re:And yet- (3, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 4 years ago | (#33087520)

" football teams siphoning money away from academic programs so that student tuitions must increase to compensate.

This one puzzled me.

Most any college team I know of (SEC ones in my experience) MAKE the universities money by the barrel full.

These teams not only support themselves, but pour money back into the general university system.

I know, and sometimes agree that there is WAY too emphasis on sports on the college level, over academics, but really...the complaint shouldn't be that it costs them any money, it is quite the opposite!

Re:And yet- (5, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 4 years ago | (#33087644)

Completely agree, despite not wanting to... I did my grad work at Texas A&M (Big 12) and despite how much they continually pay their football coaches and the near deification of the players, the program brought money and prestige to the university. I'd blame 6 and 7 figure incomes of useless administrators more than sports for the astronomical rise in tuition.

Re:And yet- (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33087700)

Depends on the school. Mine makes money from football, but the money then gets sucked-up by all the other less popular sports like soccer, field hockey, gymnastics, and so on.

Where sports is REALLY a waste is at the High School level. Yeah I know people need exercise, but that's what gym is for. You don't need all those extra afterschool (and expensive) sports teams.

Investments... (5, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 years ago | (#33087740)

Most any college team I know of (SEC ones in my experience) MAKE the universities money by the barrel full.

Well, you have to beware of creative accounting and bad investments/contracts.

Basically it can sometimes become a 'school pride' issue, because the sports teams 'make' the college money they press for additional benefits - more pay for the coach, more money for recruiting efforts, new stadium, etc...

Of course, all this is justified as 'payoff in X years', the problem is that you never reach X...

On the creative accounting side you end up with sports expenses not being counted as part of the sports programs, things like ticket sales being counted as income even as they count stadium expenses as 'infrastructure' like actual classrooms.

Re:And yet- (2, Insightful)

metiscus (1270822) | about 4 years ago | (#33087410)

It never ceases to amaze me how smart people seem to achieve greatness in spite of the many failings of our education system.

Re:And yet- (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33087510)

I take it you haven't taken any university level classes in the US in the past decade. The classes are worse than high school, the professors are generally unmotivated, the tests are pure regurgitation, there is little free discussion, etc.

Perhaps once the American University system was world-class, but now its nothing but regurgitation in front of brain-dead professors.

Re:And yet- (1)

Moridineas (213502) | about 4 years ago | (#33087654)

What colleges are you talking about that are like that? Because (to paraphrase a famous quote) every single word you wrote, including 'and' and 'the' are utterly contrary to my experiences.

Re:And yet- (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33087792)

Well, I took a class at a state university that was like that, the professor insisted on talking about nothing, insisted on you formatting everything just a certain way, would assign a reading assignment then give a test over a totally different one that he had never assigned (but it was on the syllabus! Well, yes it was, but it was supposed to be read 2 weeks after he gave the test....) but, because he was tenured, none of the students could really do anything about it.

And then I took a few classes at the local community college to help speed up the completion of my degree at the state university. There you basically showed up, wrote with halfway understandable phrases and you got an A. Granted, these were for non-degree requirements and just basic courses like psychology and the like that everyone had to take but still, to think that some people could get degrees with that. I had high school classes harder than that that weren't even college-level.

Re:And yet- (1)

RetroRichie (259581) | about 4 years ago | (#33087710)

Disagree completely. I am 10 years removed from my computer science undergraduate degree and am halfway through my MBA program. The classes are at least half free discussion (albeit guided to a particular topic) and the professors, for the most part, are extremely motivated and care about educating as much as publishing--I have had several professors even say if you don't care about teaching, you should not be in this business. And comparing it to my high school experience 15 years ago is pretty much laughable--high school was a joke and I have never been more challenged in my entire life than I am right now.

Now, to be fair it is a top school, and if I contrast it with some of the programs that my friends are in their experience is practically night and day. So YMMV. But to slander the entire American University system seems fairly silly to me. It seems more like as with anything you get what you pay for, and you get back what you put in.

Re:And yet- (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 4 years ago | (#33087770)

Tell that to the thousands of foreign students who travel to the US from countries as varied as India and Germany.

What's wrong with it? (0, Flamebait)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33087336)

Besides being a front for collectivist indoctrination?

Re:What's wrong with it? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087356)

because I know I'd feel safer if the guy who engineered the bridge I was driving on didn't go to an elitist "university".

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33087406)

I would feel safer knowing that he was required to be able to solve calculus problems, and did not just rely on a computer to do it for him. I lost track of the number of people who graduated in my engineering class who could not even solve simple differential equations or find multiplicative inverses of complex numbers.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

Carik (205890) | about 4 years ago | (#33087704)

I was terrified by the number of people in my engineering classes who pulled out calculators when asked to multiply a two-digit number by a one-digit number. College classrooms are scary places....

Re:What's wrong with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087440)

Just wait until they start watering down the engineering programs and applying affirmative action to get more women to graduate with those degrees.

Re:What's wrong with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087640)

Is that sarcasm? Because that already happened at my University.

Re:What's wrong with it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087646)

I'll be worried if they start watering it down so guys like you can graduate with those degrees.

Re:What's wrong with it? (0, Troll)

BitHive (578094) | about 4 years ago | (#33087452)

As a former prospective college student, the biggest turnoff when visiting potential schools and sitting in on classes was the professors' air of sophistication; they all acted like they know something we don't.

Re:What's wrong with it? (2, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 4 years ago | (#33087548)

As a college instructor, I hope I know something that my students don't. Isn't that the point of having professors?

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

PAPPP (546666) | about 4 years ago | (#33087616)

Uh... That's why they're professors. They DO know things you don't, and you are theoretically there to learn some of those things from them.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

n4f (1473103) | about 4 years ago | (#33087698)

professors' air of sophistication; they all acted like they know something we don't.

Well, they do. You're sitting in the class because you're trying to gain knowledge they already have. Otherwise known as learning. Some profs are smug and arrogant, but so are many people that I've worked with in the "real world."

Re:What's wrong with it? (3, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 4 years ago | (#33087778)

they all acted like they know something we don't.

If you're literally sitting there paying them to teach you something they damn well better know something you don't, otherwise your wasting your money. Also, you've got a bit of a paradox here unless you want someone in the situation to bow down and act like they don't have anymore knowledge than the other party. Someone has to have more knowledge than the other and one would certainly hope it's the person standing at the front of the class being paid to give it out.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33087596)

because I know I'd feel safer if the guy who engineered the bridge I was driving on didn't go to an elitist "university".

What if he went to engineering school instead? I mean, does he really need a minor in Global Studies to build good bridges? I'd say it does the opposite, because he had to split study time between bridge building and, well, bullshit.

So I think perhaps I would feel better, actually.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 4 years ago | (#33087718)

I hate to argue, but I found my electives in Liberal Arts to be fairly useful in my professional life. It's fairly important to get a broad education, and knowing about the history and sociology of a variety of places has helped me work in the world more efficiently. YMMV

mod parent up (1)

BitHive (578094) | about 4 years ago | (#33087416)

Hear, hear! Show me a university that doesn't offer advanced degrees in Objectivism or Austrian economics and I'll show you an American university.

Re:mod parent up (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 4 years ago | (#33087794)

Wait - maybe my sarcasm meter is broken, but wasn't your parent poster arguing that universities are some form of commie/liberal/NWO indoctrination program? Since Objectivism and Austrian Economics are favorites of libertarian-bordering-on-anarchy individualists, does that mean that a place like Europe offers indoctrination in those areas, while the US doesn't? Does that mean that Europe is the home of John Galt, and the US is a hotbed of collectivist/commie/pinko social and political mores?

Either Objectivism just ate itself, or someone screwed up somewhere.

Re:What's wrong with it? (3, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | about 4 years ago | (#33087480)

... and being prohibitively expensive for a large part of the population?

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33087588)

Just about every large purchase has become prohibitively expensive for a large part of the population because of the inflationary effects of cheap credit. Thank you, Federal Reserve!

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

easterberry (1826250) | about 4 years ago | (#33087808)

Yeah, but your country is frankly ridiculous. I'm in Canada and I pay $900/semester + book costs. My friends in the states are looking at something like 14,000 for that in what practically amounts to a community college.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | about 4 years ago | (#33087532)

Besides being a front for collectivist indoctrination?

[sarcasm] Why do you hate freedom? [/sarcasm]


Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

spun (1352) | about 4 years ago | (#33087560)

What's wrong with being a front for collectivist indoctrination? People are indoctrinated enough into selfish greed by the rest of society that a little balance is called for. Let's get people thinking about acting cooperatively instead of competitively. We could use a little more democracy and a little less corporatism.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#33087630)

Here's the deal: allow me redistribute your wealth first, then I'll consider the validity of your argument.

Re:What's wrong with it? (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 4 years ago | (#33087614)

I'm confused, college seemed to be a lot more accepting of free spirited or go against the flow type individualism than society in general. How exactly would you structure an institution whose purpose is to teach people and give certifications that are meant to approximate basic understanding of a field in order to avoid your currently general and unsupported claim to "collectivist indoctrination"?

That it's required for most employment these days? (4, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | about 4 years ago | (#33087338)

Fix that first.

Re:That it's required for most employment these da (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | about 4 years ago | (#33087492)

Well thats why I enjoy the IT field so much.

Programming, Technical work, Networking, DBA, Whatever you want to do with computers, education doesn't really matter.

Don't get me wrong, it looks nice on a resume, but if you insist on attaching sample code, or insist on demonstrating your skills during an interview - it'll be more impressive than any degree you get from any university. Just because most people in IT know that a majority of it is self taught. You only ever go to school to get a piece of paper that says you can do it and show you can see something through. Some employers, that doesn't matter, as long as you can do what you claim you can. Which is where demonstration works better than a degree.

Re:That it's required for most employment these da (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33087570)

Don't get me wrong, it looks nice on a resume, but if you insist on attaching sample code, or insist on demonstrating your skills during an interview - it'll be more impressive than any degree you get from any university.

It depends who looks at your resume though. Most of the time its a HR drone who thinks that PHP is some kind of street name for a drug. If you can get someone who knows IT to look through your resume, then yes, that would certainly help, but most companies do hiring through HR, not the department you want to work in, which is why you find the guys with a PHD in computer science who turn out buggy code.

Re:That it's required for most employment these da (4, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 4 years ago | (#33087766)

Most of the time its a HR drone who thinks that PHP is some kind of street name for a drug

PHP is a gateway language, it's easy to start with but before you know it you're hooked on Python, C, Java, and even worse. I get the shakes now if I don't use Perl every few hours. PHP ruined my life man.

Fair enough... (1)

IANAAC (692242) | about 4 years ago | (#33087656)

Fix that first.

Fair enough.

But then you don't get to call yourself an engineer because you completed a 6 month course in programming, OK?

In defense of football (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33087340)

In all fairness, most football programs MAKE money for the University. The ticket sales and merchandising are a HUGE boon for most universities, with little in the way of player salaries to cut into all that phat cash.

And, even if they didn't make money directly, popular sports programs are often a huge draw for the local donors and alumni supporters that keep most universities going. Like it or not, wealthy alumni and locals are a helluva lot more interested in how the football/basketball teams are doing than how many papers Professor Dipschitz published this year, or how much you've improved your graduation rate.

And before a bunch of you non-Americans kick in with snide "handegg" remarks, yes I'm aware that you're "football" is different from ours. But we *are* talking about American universities here.

Re:In defense of football (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 4 years ago | (#33087420)

I'm not "football".

Re:In defense of football (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087470)

Handegg is still a dumb sport that shouldnt have so much importance put into, I know morons who can't read that got a university diploma by playing football.

Re:In defense of football (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087444)

Guess "YOU'RE" college didn't require Freshman English.

Re:In defense of football (2, Insightful)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | about 4 years ago | (#33087524)

Uhm, that kind of thing is generally taught in second grade which essentially means that he doesn't have a complete second-grade education.

Re:In defense of football (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33087804)

Yes, because that wasn't a mistake. It was an indication that I went through 12 years of primary and secondary education, 4 years of undergraduate work, and 6 years on a Masters and a Ph.D. and was never once told the difference between "Your" and "You're." Until you came along and enlightened me just now, I was ignorant and lost. A lot of people would have just assumed that it was a mistake--but not you. You, and only you, realized that I needed the grammatical guidance of a kind scholar like yourself. You stepped forward, ignoring the citics who would dismiss you as a smug grammar Nazi, and said "No, I will not allow him to remain ignorant!"

Thank you, sir! Thank you!

Re:In defense of football (2, Funny)

fishexe (168879) | about 4 years ago | (#33087816)

Guess "YOU'RE" college didn't require Freshman English.

Go easy on him. He was probably a football player.

Re:In defense of football (5, Insightful)

tiptone (729456) | about 4 years ago | (#33087474)

It's often the case that the football teams generate a lot of revenue, but that revenue goes to the athletics programs and not back to the university at large.

Re:In defense of football (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 4 years ago | (#33087660)

Forget the direct revenues: football teams attract rich students willing to pay higher tuition rates because the football team is cool. The university then charges more tuition. This is great for the university, stupid for the rich students, and it stinks for the not-so-rich students.

(I was lucky enough to have a faculty dependent tuition concession.)

Re:In defense of football (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087758)

Well, a few Div. I teams are able to use football to generate money. Most of the rest do not have that luxury, and college administrators fear the alumni backlash if they were to take a stand and cut their football program. For most of the schools I have been involved with football programs skew their whole athletic programs because you "need" a large number of male athletes most of whom have specialties for very specific situations. The money and gender imbalances impact all of the other athletic programs. At the moment I am at a school that has no football program, and it is amazing to see how much more balance and freedom there is in the athletic department.

Re:In defense of football (1)

eln (21727) | about 4 years ago | (#33087776)

That's not entirely true, and even if it was there are other benefits. I went to Boise State University. How many people here have ever even heard of Boise State in any other context than football? Probably not very many. The exposure the football program gets drives people to consider going to the university that never would have otherwise. The football program gives the university a level of prestige that, frankly, their academics would never warrant on their own.

Also, the bowl game payouts the University got went at least partially to their academic departments. They spent a good chunk of it on the football program, sure, and why not? The football program earned it. Part of it, though, was given to the general university fund and distributed out from there. Maybe universities that are accustomed to getting big payouts every year do it differently.

Re:In defense of football (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 4 years ago | (#33087502)

In all fairness, most football programs MAKE money for the University.

Actually, to be allowed to compete, you are required to meet numerous other restrictions, like requiring that other sports be provided. After those requirements are taken into account, football often DOESN'T make money for the school.

Re:In defense of football (1)

line-bundle (235965) | about 4 years ago | (#33087540)

I beg to differ. They do not make a net amount of money.

At the college I went to the stadium and facilities were maintained by the university using student tuition. All the gate takings of the football games were taken by the football organization, a separate entity from the university. The football were making money because they were not footing the bills to run the program.

Re:In defense of football (1)

flabbergast (620919) | about 4 years ago | (#33087554)

Not just defense of football, but defense of athletics. Yes, you can rail on college football/basketball, but here's the thing: most scholarship athletes are amazing students. And I'm not talking non-revenue sports, I'm talking about football and basketball. Most of the scholar-athletes I've met know they're not jumping to the NFL/NBA and are exceptionally grateful to be at whatever academic institution they're enrolled in. And, even though they have practices, work-outs, chalk talk, etc. they still do well academically. Could you imagine having a minimum 40 hours of other stuff to do as a scholar-athlete and then doing your school work?

Myron Rolle chose a Rhodes Scholar over the NFL. He's earning an MA in Medical Anthro. Zane Beadles of Utah was named an Academic All-American with a 3.535 in Mechanical Engineering.

If the authors want to talk about everyone being a Liberal Arts major (i.e. a well rounded human being) shouldn't that also include athletics?

Re:In defense of football (1)

acoustix (123925) | about 4 years ago | (#33087622)

This is true. In the case of the University of Iowa, the athletic program cuts a check to the tune of millions of dollars for the university that goes into the general fund.

However, the other two state schools in Iowa (UNI and ISU) still receive tax payer money for their athletic programs while the U of I does not.

Re:In defense of football (3, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 4 years ago | (#33087642)

No, they don't. The ONLY thing they do is raise enrollment. The year after a team wins a championship or does well, they've seen enrollment rise.

UConn lost roughly $280,000 in football, according to the numbers. Only three BCS programs lost more — Syracuse, which lost $835,000, Wake Forest ($3.07 million) and Duke ($6.72 million). Rutgers, which spent $19.07 million on its football program, was the only other school to fail to make a profit, although the Big East school broke even. []

Basketball doesn't make money either. []
"Let's just take a look at two schools, my own Holy Cross and big-time power North Carolina to highlight the flaws. According to the article, the Holy Cross basketball team racked up $1,549,329 in expenses while generating an identical amount in revenue and therefore exactly broke even.".

And as a whole, only 19 D1 Football schools were in the black. []

Re:In defense of football (1)

KarrdeSW (996917) | about 4 years ago | (#33087748)

In all fairness, most football programs MAKE money for the University.

[Citation Needed]

I'd be very curious to see data on this, maybe an aggregation of ticket sales, revenue from football merchandise, and some correlation statistics based on donations and football wins (I think I suddenly have a new R project).

Because if I think about this based on my own anecdotes (which is all I have at the moment), it seems like some bigger football schools would make an absolute fortune from the sport, but most like my alma mater will spend the same fortune and recoup almost none of it, because our football team was mediocre at best.

Re:In defense of football (1)

asukasoryu (1804858) | about 4 years ago | (#33087750)

I disagree. Like TFA says, there may be 8 or so profit generating athletic programs out there, but most are just for show. Most athletic programs may make money, but they don't make more than they cost. Otherwise I wouldn't see that cost show up in my tuition. If the athletic programs really MAKE money as you say, my tuition should be cheaper.

Re:In defense of football (5, Informative)

$hecky (445344) | about 4 years ago | (#33087772)

I'm a member of a college athletics committee, and I can tell you with all confidence that while is the common perception of college and university football programs, it simply isn't true. Even in Division I institutions football teams are, as a rule, largely funded by state dollars, student fees, and creative tax exemptions rather than by ticket sales, television contracts, etc. And this has been shown in study after study -- it's even a line that the NCAA toes.

You can check NCAA financial disclosures to verify this at [] thanks to a study completed by Mark Alesia in 2006, but a quick Google should point you to a bunch of other studies that give this position the lie. If you'd rather not click through and see the reports yourself, this is a nice summary statement:

"First off, he [Alesia] found that athletic departments at taxpayer-funded universities nationwide receive more than $1 billion in student fees and general school funds and services, and that without such outside funding, fewer than 10 percent of athletic departments would have been able to support themselves with ticket sales, television contracts and other revenue-generating sports sources. In fact, most would have lost more than $5 million."

While this is a statement about athletics programs in general rather than football programs specifically, the NCAA financial reports make it clear that even among popular sports like basketball and football, the overwhelming majority of programs are perennial money losers.

Re:In defense of football (2, Informative)

Carik (205890) | about 4 years ago | (#33087798)

Well... except that according to the article, you're wrong. Straight from the article:

"And then you look at the so-called big-revenue teams--football and basketball. Those are the powerhouses where there's a lot of recruiting, a lot of it underhanded. Yet if you look at all those powerhouse programs across the country, only seven or eight actually rake in money. All the rest of them lose money."

I don't know who's right here, but I'd be inclined to trust the researchers writing a book. Also, I can certainly say that of the two or three Universities I've been involved with one way or another, the sports teams lost money for the university. Granted, the teams of those places sucked, so it may be different in places where the teams are actually good, but still...

Re:In defense of football (5, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | about 4 years ago | (#33087800)

"In all fairness, most football programs MAKE money for the University."

Not for the university, no. Football funds generally go to the athletic department, which still runs at an overall loss to the university. This is according to the NCAA.

Those funds are typically used to support the rest of a university's athletic department budget. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, most departments operate at a yearly multimillion-dollar deficit. [PBS Nightly Business Report: The Business of College Football, Part 1] []

Corporate (4, Insightful)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 4 years ago | (#33087342)

Well, for starters they're operated like for-profit corporations, instead of education institutions

Re:Corporate (1)

DudeTheMath (522264) | about 4 years ago | (#33087372)

The analogy I use is that of a law firm where the partners have lost control to the secretaries.

Re:Corporate (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33087442)

Care to elaborate, It's been a long day and I'm not getting it.

Re:Corporate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087664)

The professors are the heart and soul of the university. They do the research and the teaching. Yet, the administrators run the show.

Sense of Entitlement (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087364)

As much as I hate to say it, that's one of the biggest problems. Everybody thinks they deserve to go to college. Everybody thinks that because they have a degree, they can command six figures. That's not the reality though. Somebody has to be a cart-pusher. Somebody has to work fast food.

I'm a system administrator. I didn't go to college. I'm more competent than most of my peers that did go to college.

Re:Sense of Entitlement (4, Insightful)

pak9rabid (1011935) | about 4 years ago | (#33087526)

Blanket statements will get you in trouble.

While it's true that some come out of college with a nasty sense of entitlement for an awesome, high-paying job, not all do. The majority of people that I graduated with surely didn't share that sentiment (probably because they saw how much more I knew than them due to my actual real work experience, vs their school-only experience).

The bigger problem is the highschools (2, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33087394)

The biggest problem with higher education in the USA is it is just a few ticks above what the high-school diploma used to be. IMHO that's because our high-school system is rather poor when it comes down to it. In the end experience is what gets you a job and diploma and degrees simply show that you aren't an absolute idiot. There a lot of jobs that require a degree when there is no need for it.

Re:The bigger problem is the highschools (1)

tiptone (729456) | about 4 years ago | (#33087516)

Agreed. I would go so far to say that by and large College is no longer about higher education (expanding your mind to think about things that you, or others, haven't ever thought about before, etc.) and is instead a degree mill. You come here, you pay enough money, you leave with a degree.

Re:The bigger problem is the highschools (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33087546)

It isn't that bad

Re:The bigger problem is the highschools (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33087650)

In some places it is. My alma mater has a "school of management," which it markets very heavily. Their curriculum is a joke, and the students cheat as a matter of course. The only view of college I have ever heard come out of that school, from students or professors, is that it is an investment, and that the students should expect a return on their investment.

The students in that school complained and struggled with a basic "memorize some formulas with fancy calculus symbols" course, and also in their "learn to make a web page!" course. After four years of "education" than in some cases was less rigorous than high school, they were handed a degree and sent into the workforce.

Re:The bigger problem is the highschools (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 4 years ago | (#33087620)

"You come here, you pay enough money, you leave with a degree."

Err....and when has it ever been any different? Ok, it was cheaper in the past, but still...the END goal of college IS to get a degree. The degree (should) allow you to make more money, and that is the goal in modern life is it not?

I mean, without at least some college degree, you won't get an interview for anything other than fast food service for the most part.

Orange County (2, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33087692)

Shaun: I have to go to college.
Cindy: Why?
Shaun: Because it's what you do after high school.

Just remembered this quote

It would be more helpful if (2, Insightful)

warrior_s (881715) | about 4 years ago | (#33087422)

people stop trying to find faults with the american university system. It is the elementary/high schools in america that needs to be fixed. The higher education in USA is the best in the world. People yearn to come here to get quality higher education. Ask any international (undergraduate/graduate) student who is studying here.

Re:It would be more helpful if (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 4 years ago | (#33087538)

People yearn to come here to get quality higher education. Ask any international (undergraduate/graduate) student who is studying here.

Sorry, but you are making a sweeping and entirely false generalization there. From what I have seen, most of the international students in my engineering program came here because a degree from an American university was perceived as more valuable than a degree from their own country. I saw far more cheating and far less competence among the international students, even those that spoke English fluently, than I did among the American students; they were not going to school because they were seeking a better education than what they could get back home.

Re:It would be more helpful if (2, Informative)

hibiki_r (649814) | about 4 years ago | (#33087734)

I wonder which school you were talking about, and which major. I came to the US precisely because the education that I could get would beat the pants of what I'd find back home, and found plenty of other international students in the same boat: People from a bunch of countries that claimed that their home universities were all about ancient theory, with antiquated labs and no chance of applying anything that they learned in school outside of academia.

In CS, Biology, and most kinds of engineering, the difference in quality is quite noticeable, at least if you are looking at good US schools that still put effort in undergrad work.

Re:It would be more helpful if (5, Insightful)

easterberry (1826250) | about 4 years ago | (#33087632)

Most first world nations have tons of internationals. Up here in Canada at least half my program is international. It's not "America is awesome" it's "My country is not awesome."

What is wrong with university... (5, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33087426)

What is wrong with the university system is because we've screwed up our high school system to pretty much let -everyone- graduate, a diploma now means nothing. Because of this, people who usually should go to a trade school, or just have on-site training from high school is now attending university to stand out in the job market. So because of this, universities are forced to hire sub par teachers to meet the demand and because no one wants to attend a university with a 60% flunk-out rate, universities lower standards. Of course this is just a cat and mouse game, eventually employers are going to require things beyond a bachelors degree for entry-level jobs, etc.

Fix our high school system by actually -failing- kids who can't do the work. None of this "can I please have extra credit despite me doing nothing but talking in class?" crap that keeps high-profile athletes who are dumber than rocks with "passing" grades.

That's a sweeping question (1)

paiute (550198) | about 4 years ago | (#33087434)

For specific examples, you may see the references at the link in my signature.

Wait wait (1)

MessedRocker (1273148) | about 4 years ago | (#33087436)

I read this headline and for a moment I thought they were slamming the school I go to, which is *called* American University.

But put this in pespective (4, Insightful)

Palestrina (715471) | about 4 years ago | (#33087472)

Name one profession that is _not_ filled with petty politics, sucking up to superiors, back stabbing and arguing over parking spots?

The difference is only academics write a thick book about it.

Re:But put this in pespective (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 4 years ago | (#33087782)


Almost had me... (5, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 4 years ago | (#33087476)

The summary started out good but:

"They blame a system that favors research over teaching and vocational training over liberal arts".

"The second reason to go to college is get a good liberal arts education."

I'm not saying get rid of liberal arts. They're great. I loved taking them when I got my BSME. I'm probably going to sneak into a few when I go back for my masters. But there is no reason every decent sized school needs to be graduating even 20 theater majors a year. Hurray, you spent 4 years and $50k to learn to do theater. Now what? Most highschools require you to have a teaching degree too. So now you're limited to off broadway and the such. Something tells me that there isn't a huge demand (at least not enough to match supply).

The most successful liberal arts major you'll ever meet was most likely one of your liberal arts professors.

We NEED to be focusing more on vocational training. The world needs ditch diggers. The world also needs mechanics, electricians, welders. We need to quit making high schools force someone who would be an excellent mechanic into going to college 'just because'. Too many parents push their kids into college thinking either "I'm successful, they have to go to be successful too." or "I want my kid to go to college because I didn't to get rich".

Personally I've liked what I read about other countries where they sort of guide you into a track early in high school. I'm sure it's not perfect and they get the track wrong, but it's a ton better than graduating 10,000 students a year from a decent sized education, 50% of which have a degree that is more or less 100% useless. WTF does an "Art Appreciation" major do?

I wish I could go back to my high school and give a swift cock punch to my guidance counselor that told me I couldn't take welding because I was college bound. There is so much stuff I'd love to make. Thankfully my dad taught me wood working and home repair and I learned to solder in an internship.

Re:Almost had me... (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 4 years ago | (#33087662)

Trade schools aren't very popular or prolific anymore. There are places like ITT Tech which are more like trade schools than colleges, but they have a pisspoor placement rate and training..not to mention they're very expensive. There are a few trade schools, like for truck driving, but there aren't many places that teach things like welding, pipefitting, plumbing, electrical work, etc. They ARE out there, but they need to advertise! They need some PR!

If you can start out making $40,000 as a pipe fitter after like a one or two year training program which isn't difficult at all, you end up making a similar amount of money as someone who went to college and is making $50,000 after a four year degree that also has $40,000 in debt that needs to be repaid. Contrast to the trade school, which will be dirt cheap in comparison.

Re:Almost had me...[Almost Educated] (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087742)

Liberal Arts is not about Theatre, Liberal Arts at the core is about thinking. This country needs more people who can think before they do, not more doers whose educations become obsolete before the ink on their diploma is dry.

there are many good essays on exactly what Liberal Arts is, you should try reading a few of them before penning ignorant rants.

This is one of them,
This is a page that describes the expectations of a student that has graduated with a degree in Liberal Arts (please note that I did not say Theatre or Art Appreciation, those are part of Liberal Arts, but They are not all of Liberal Arts [if you don't understand why this is so, then you should review your logic]).

Re:Almost had me... (1)

flabbergast (620919) | about 4 years ago | (#33087754)

We NEED to be focusing more on vocational training.

+1. If I had mod points I'd give them to you. Yes, I went to college and I'm working on a PhD, but that's a choice because I like the challenge. It seems like its become a prerequisite to life to go to college. What for? If I want to work on diesel engines why wouldn't I apprentice at a repair shop? Or go to a vocational school to learn everything I can about it? Its ridiculous that we emphasize college/university so much.

Has anyone ever met (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087486)

one of these "22-year-old students with unrealistic expectations that some company will put them in a management position"? I never have personally though they are a common complaint. No one I knew expected to even have a job upon graduating, just offers and maybes and that seemed normal.

seems to be missing a few points (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#33087494)

I even agree with a lot of the criticisms, but "entrenched tenured professors more concerned with publishing" is a downside? He seems to miss that research universities are at least as much about research as they are about teaching, and that this is a good thing. Research universities are where we get many of our scientific breakthroughs, tech ideas that are later commercialized, and general advancement of knowledge.

Now tenured professors who are doing neither research nor teaching are a real concern, though they aren't that common--- despite tenure meaning they can't be fired, universities have always had a lot of ways to make their lives miserable (bad committee assignments, move their office to somewhere lame, stop giving them even cost-of-living raises, etc.), and increasingly official ones are being added, e.g. at top research universities, you typically now have to pay somewhere around 25-40% of your own salary out of grant money, so if you stop bringing in research grants, you get a big pay cut. But still, we can think of ways to improve that.

But he seems actually worried mainly about tenured professors who are doing good research, because they aren't paying enough attention to teaching. Good teachers need to exist, but so do good researchers--- the problem with today's university is not that there are too many good senior researchers. If anything, the opposite.

discovery of the obvious (3, Interesting)

smoothnorman (1670542) | about 4 years ago | (#33087506)

"What's wrong with the American University System" is also what's wrong with any university that i've taught at, (ok, that's just the states and a random sprinkling in Europe). "entrenched tenured profs" -hah- in Germany, they don't even have to get out of bed after tenure. and what 22 year old anywhere has realistic expectations? granted, the american university athletic industry connection is an ugly situation special to america, but the rest is just stating an obvious "problem" with universities since 12th century Bologna (no... not some old lunch meat)

Liberal Arts? (1)

infalliable (1239578) | about 4 years ago | (#33087512)

Some of their statements are way off. Liberal arts is not the reason you go to university, unless you want to be a writer. If you get a liberal arts (sort of) degree in a technical field you are woefully underprepared. An employer in a technical field wants you to be able to communicate, but other than that they could care less about other non-technical stuff. If you're a programmer, they want you to program and not sound like an idiot when you talk in front of people/with people.

The focus on research is a valid

I take exception (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | about 4 years ago | (#33087534)

"to football teams siphoning money away from academic programs so that student tuitions must increase to compensate"

Tuitions don't *have* to go up. Most universities have *INSANE* endowment funds. I've heard both Harvard and Michigan mentioned as schools that could offer their incoming freshman classes free education from undergrad through PhD without making so much as a dent in these funds.

I'm all for well funded endowments. But at some point you need to skim a bit off the top. I know it's a slippery slope, and the first uni that starts siphoning funds will be the first one to broke a few years later after the departments go chasing down money like kids picking up candy from a pinata. I know that the interest income on a billion dollars pays for a whole lot more than the interest on nine hundred million. But it's kinda tough to stomach hearing someone tell a broke students "Sorry, we know you're scraping by, but you're paying an extra three grand per term this year. Sorry." when (per wikipedia) at least 57 major universities have endowments over a billion dollars. ( []

Even better, of those 57, my wholly uncientific count says that 23 of those school are major football or basketball schools (If you want to call Indiana and Michigan 'major', sigh).

Cost (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | about 4 years ago | (#33087556)

Let's face it -- if we're going to require a college degree for every job that doesn't involve a spatula, hat, and stack of assorted meat patties, we need to consider that to be part of a public education system, paid for by the public. Instead we have ridiculous tuition rates that don't correspond at all to how much it costs to teach a class. And maybe we should consider that not all professors need to have PhDs, either.. A PhD implies that you are performing new and *valuable* research. This should be a title reserved for an elite few, not a prerequisite to teach a class.

Go to State or Community colleges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33087626)

I went to a state college - it was great, none of this harvard-like crap. My brother went to a community college, then to my state college, and said the community college was even better, with great teachers who care about teaching. Both were dirt cheap, and we both learned a lot.
My ex wife went to an expensive, prestigious university - and it was hell, she hardly learned anything and paid outrageous money for it.
It's the expensive universities that exist to sell diplomas so they can pay their researchers so they can earn prestige from them that suck. Small universities/colleges are great.

that's easy... (1)

night_flyer (453866) | about 4 years ago | (#33087668)

Society has been pushing a bunch of kids (and their parents) who have no business being there. A large chunk of these kids would be better off in a vocational field.

Education (1, Offtopic)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 4 years ago | (#33087674)

The reason education means less and less is the same reason technology does with each passing week:

Before we "globalized" our economy, our labor force was a limited size and so we had to automate and use technology and training to increase output. Now that we are competing in a marketplace where labor is orders of magnitude more plentiful, there is no reason to automate and no reason to train. We can pay 10, or even 50, what we previously paid 1, to do the same job.

The chinese government is building city after city, housing millions, over a spread of a few years. We've gutted ourselves to the point where as a "service based economy" we can't rebuild one damaged city, let alone construct any new ones.

If we want to be competitive... we need to either close our borders to trade, or we need to move away from a service based economy back to an industrial one. This is why education is worthless... and the only reason people are demanding it is because the unemployment rate is sky-high and they can write wish lists for employee qualifications and get them.

You want education or certification? (1)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | about 4 years ago | (#33087688)

graduating with six-figures of debt [] and other sites provide top-tier education, offering full course content on-line for free.
It's the certification that'll cost ya.

Science? (1)

Timmmm (636430) | about 4 years ago | (#33087768)

Well, there are two ways to pick a college. One is to go to a prestigious college, [...] It doesn't matter what happened in the classroom as long as you have that brand behind you. Claudia and I were up at Harvard talking to students, and they said they get nothing from their classes

I don't think this is true. I went to Cambridge, and everything I've experienced and heard about other universities, including from exchange students at MIT is that the 'more prestigious' universities *are* harder. Certainly I didn't "get nothing" from the course. That's just silly.

The second reason to go to college is get a good liberal arts education.

Wait, what? What happened to science?

[The professors] provide a good education because they don't expect professors to do research.

Yeah there's some truth in this, but if they aren't doing research it probably means they aren't at the cutting edge of knowledge. And they *do* teach the cutting edge to undergrads (or at least they did for me).

[Saying everyone should major in arts:] They can always learn vocational things later, on the job. They can even get an engineering degree later—by the way, in two years rather than four.

Riiighht... I don't think I need to go on. I do think they are right about publishing though. The whole thing is a scam. Many journals even charge authors to publish!

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