“Occupy Wall Street” should be occupying university business offices instead

If you are a follower Prof. Glenn Reynolds’ “Instapundit” blog, then you know that he regularly links to stories involving what he calls the Higher Education Bubble.  Put simply, universities (and in particular, Ivy League schools, graduate studies programs at prominent universities, and major law schools) have increased tuition astronomically during the last twenty years, far out of proportion from normal inflation-driven cost increases.  The result has been that students wishing to pursue higher education — even those with generous academic scholarships — have been forced to accumulate massive amounts of debt in order to receive their schooling.  The pain inflicted by this debt load has become increasingly severe in today’s recession-choked job market as graduates are struggling to find any employment whatsoever.  Many have been forced to move back home with parents or live with friends in order to make ends meet.  Others defer their student loan debt by staying in school, which only compounds the problem.

Last night Instapundit linked to this CNN Money story by Dan Primack who asks, “When will “The 99%” turn its attention away from Wall Street and toward the university?”

Take a look at We Are the 99 Percent – a website on which protest sympathizers share their tales of economic hardship. Very few of them mention banks, or even bank bailouts. The vast majority of them, however, do mention college debt.

… Where is the university’s responsibility to its customers? Hell, where is its responsibility to America?

Isn’t college designed to enhance a student’s future well-being and, in turn, that of society at-large? How did it get corrupted to the point where higher education is the cause, rather than the solution, to so many of our collective ills?

Carnegie Mellon recently announced the receipt of the largest gift in the school’s 111-year history: A $265 million donation from trustee William Dietrich. In a press release, CMU discussed how the money will be used to “support interdisciplinary education and research initiatives across the university and across the globe.”

No mention, of course, of using some of Dietrich’s generosity to reduce average tuition at CMU, which rose 4% over just the past year to a whopping $43,160 (not including fees, room or board). Or even to keep it static. Instead, it’s all about build, expand, rinse and repeat. After all, U.S. News & World Report doesn’t reward affordability.

And in a related story, yet another class-action lawsuit has been filed against 15 ABA-approved law schools, alleging that the schools were “tortiously misrepresenting job placement statistics and violating state consumer protection laws.”  It has been well-known for some time that many top law schools have been deliberately fudging job placement statistics.  This includes such underhanded practices as using only the graduate surveys that received a response as the basis for the reported job placement percentages (instead of weighing the percentages to include the number of surveys that generated no response) and counting ANY employment – even minimum wage jobs – as professional employment for law school graduates.

Even though these practices have been well documented, so far no major law school has admitted culpability or changed their job placement claims in order to make them more accurate.  The reason is simple – the prestigious US News law school rankings are the life-line for these schools, and any action that could possibly jeopardize a school’s Top Ten or Top Twenty Five ranking has been forbidden by school administrators.

I never thought I would be writing this, but as of late my wife and I have been seriously debating how we are planning to approach college for our children.  Of course we’re not going to encourage them to skip college, but we are seriously considering a lot of alternative choices – work internships and mentoring from friends and colleagues to get them involved in the professional workplace or develop entrepreneurial skills before graduating from college; completing general ed requirements during the summer at local community colleges, and attending good state schools instead of more expensive out-of-state or private colleges, as my wife and I both did.

When you are only 22 years old, you are really just starting to live your life.   Right now I can’t think of any more cruel and unusual punishment for my children than to have them graduate from college without a “foot in the door” in a business or professional career, and with a crushing 6-figure debt load.

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