Aaron Bady, a postdoctoral fellow at UT-Austin and cultural critic, has an editorial in Aljazeera America arguing why public universities should be free. Bady goes into the history of the California Master Plan for Higher Education, which was developed by the UC Regents and State Board of Education in the 1960s and noted that: "The two governing boards reaffirm[ed] the long established principle that state colleges and the University of California shall be tuition free to all residents of the state." Then, there was a clear cost distinction between public colleges and private colleges, which has become muddied today.
I've heard lots of reasons for why a students choose to go to specific colleges, but this is the first time I've heard someone say they chose to go to a school because they were trusted with priceless works of art to decorate their dorm rooms with (Oberlin College's Art Rental program began in 1940 and allows students to borrow art for $5; students line up more than 22 hours in advance for this privilege). There is also a student who says he decided to stay at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis. instead of transferring to one of the Ivies because Lawrence hosts The Great Midwest Trivia Contest, a 50-hour Internet-broadcast trivia event held every January. At William and Mary, students love the Raft Debates, in which professors pretend they're stranded on a deserted island and argue why their discipline will save humanity (see this episode of This American Life). I chose my school mostly because it was affordable and had a good reputation, but if money weren't an issue, I suppose I would have taken these kinds of campus traditions and offerings into account.
What kind of job are you going to get with a liberal arts degree? It's a question a lot of parents ask their college-aged kids, especially if they're the ones paying for college. And it's a fair question to ask! Getting a good college education and expanding your intellectual horizons is important, but so is getting a job, and there's no reason why those two things should compete with one another, as Susan Dominus's story in The New York Times Magazine showed this weekend.
At HASTAC, Cathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University, has a great post about What We Talk About When We Talk About Why College Costs So Much.
Imagine being a graduating college student and hearing this commencement speech by Richard Cohen. Of course, college is about education. But the student debt crisis is also a real thing, and although Cohen notes that those figures shouldn't be dismissed, he does a pretty good job of dismissing them anyway
In an effort to get feedback on President Obama's plans to develop a federal college ratings system, the Education Department hosted the first in a series of public forums yesterday at California State University Dominguez Hills.
At Jacobin, two members of Strike Debt, Ann Larson and Michael Checque, argue that "Pay It Forward, Pay It Back" is a the "neoliberal solution" with lots of problems to figure out, and what we should really be fighting for is free education for all with no strings attached.
When I was in high school, my parents encouraged me to apply to every scholarship I was eligible for, and the ones I did get were from small organizations, like the Asian American Scholarship Fund. If I had known about a scholarship for young "Magic: The Gathering" players, I would have been all over it.
Maria Bustillos took a seven-week MOOC AKA Massive Open Online Courses AKA the thing some colleges are considering implementing for credit to address shrinking state budgets. She took a course by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak ("Professor Andy"), a highly respected and well-liked educator ("listening to the voice of Andrew Szegedy-Maszak is exactly like soaking in a huge stone bath scented with rose petals while being fed grapes and gently serenaded by a distant lute"). The result: The MOOC was like watching a really engaging documentary and walking away a much more informed person, but it couldn't compare with taking Professor Andy's class in-person and benefitting from the critical thinking gained from discussion sessions. Plus, as Maria explains, the experience is much different for someone who has already completed college ("it's relatively easy to learn about complicated subjects, online or off, if you already have the discipline and research skills to follow through, abilities that educated adults already possess").
Colleges say they don't really think too much about their U.S. News rankings, but of course that's not true. Whether or not those rankings matter is a whole 'nother discussion. Chicago Magazine examines the University of Chicago's recent dip in rankings (from 4 to tied to 5, behind Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia) and what the university has been doing to maintain its prestige.
Reading this story about college students at the University of Toronto bribing fellow students with cash so that they can enroll in a full class takes me back to my college days when you just had to show up to to class you wanted if it was full and hope that another student dropped it so you could take her place. From what I could tell, no bribing ever took place, though I imagine it would have been pretty effective.
At the Washington Post, Dylan Matthews has been writing a series called "The Tuition is Too Damn High" (his previous columns are conveniently listed in a box) and yesterday, he looked at how updating facilities to lure students with deep pockets may be contributing to the rising cost of college. Of course, this kind of argument has been made time and again, but at least Matthews considers some data this time around.
You know how much I love a good survey. According to Joshua Carp, The GradPay project asks master's and Ph.D. students about the kind of work they do, how much they're paid, and what kind of benefits, health or otherwise, they receive.