OMNILIBRIUM
  Rational Discussion of Controversial Topics
Economics Education Ethics Foreign Policy Government History Politics Religion Science


How to improve the higher education system?

         27 April 2015 07:21 AM




Do you find this topic interesting?
      
-2 -1 0 +1 +2
 

                  Answer                   




Recommended for You Optimates Populares Centrists

Show comments            Sort by        



Dahlen 2 May 2015 12:47 PM
74%

I'm assuming you are talking about the higher education system in the U.S., and the perceived problems are cost, quality, and value of a college education.

There's not much in the way of actual, step-by-step policy suggestions I can make, but here are a few directions that could be worth pursuing:

  • Make it a viable alternative not to go to college. If necessary, incentivize -- or force -- employers not to demand a bachelor's degree for everything and to evaluate employees through tasks that test relevant job skills, instead of looking for a signal of the ability to jump through institutional hoops. Establish more trade schools or apprenticeship programs and incentivize people to seek out blue-collar jobs. Interfere as necessary in the job market to boost domestic demand for skilled labor. (Obviously this has implications for the price levels of locally-produced goods; as well as that, I gather that free trade seems to be the policy most favored by economists.) Honestly, many people who pursue a college education have no business being there, they don't like it, they are not meant for it, the job market doesn't need their contributions in that field, and the students themselves are the ones that come to suffer the most for it (student debt, etc.). This should drive the cost of college down, by virtue of supply and demand.

  • Stop encouraging people to borrow serious money in order to afford college. I don't know what is with your nation and living beyond your means; not financially ruining young people from the get-go should be a priority. If you want to do something for poorer students, pay a percentage of their tuition cost in direct proportion to their grades; a perfect GPA means free college.

  • No-nonsense admission process -- this means (hard) admission exams, high school grades, and other indicators of high academic performance. Sports performance and volunteering at soup kitchens -- congratulations, I guess, but that's fluff.

  • Ensure college applicants (i.e. kids freshly out of high school) are better-prepared. Stuff higher-level info into the last couple of high school years, while lowering the passing performance requirements a tad. I initially thought American high school was a breeze, until I found out what a C grade means. Exposure to more advanced info might turn out more useful than nigh-perfect knowledge of the basics.

  • Promote STEM more and, for chrissakes, stop with the bullshit majors.


  • stars0
    Reply


    Jiro 6 May 2015 07:57 PM
    79%

    If you want to do something for poorer students, pay a percentage of their tuition cost in direct proportion to their grades; a perfect GPA means free college.


    This will cause GPAs to be subject to Goodhart's law even more than it is now. And GPA has flaws even without it; imagine a poor person being forced to choose between taking an easy class and certainly being able to afford college, or taking a class in which he can learn, and risking not getting an A and having to pay more for college. You can try to fix this by counting harder class more, but that can result in a situation where a student who takes a non-high-tier class and gets an A in it reduces his GPA by doing so.

    Not to mention the possibility that a poor person got a bad GPA for external reasons related to poverty. Going hungry, being homeless, or not having an intact family, for instance, can hurt GPA

    stars0
    Reply


    Dahlen 7 May 2015 08:01 AM
    80%

    You're right. It's important to think of ways in which policies can go wrong. I'll have to think about this more.

    stars0
    Reply


    melian 7 May 2015 05:42 PM
    73%

    Then how about using SAT instead of GPA?

    stars0
    Reply


    julia1 7 May 2015 06:47 PM
    55%

    That's easy to fix. Most colleges have core classes that everyone majoring in a certain subject has to take. The GPA can be based on this types of classes only. One can also add different weights for different types of classes.

    stars0
    View Replies (6)
    Reply


    MaximumLiberty 8 May 2015 09:46 AM
    67%

    Generally, I like your agenda, but disagree with forcing employers to ignore educational credentials. I think you are right that not everyone needs to go to college, but when the college degree is so watered down by everyone going to college, the signal is quite stark if you don't. Reducing the number of people going to college -- especially for your "bullshit majors" -- would have that effect, without impairing the fundamental liberty of employers to decide with whom they want to associate.

    stars0
    Reply



    MaximumLiberty 1 May 2015 12:12 PM
    71%

    I suspect the best thing one could do in the long term is get the federal government out of subsidizing student loans.

    In the long-term, eliminate federal subsidies for student loans. These have the long-term effect of removing the budget constraint on spending on higher education. It encourages people to:
    • make bad investments of their time, especially if they are people with a high time-value of money (a.k.a. "short-sighted")

    • invest years into degrees that do not significantly increase their earning potential

    • invest years at institutions that do not significantly increase their earning potential.

    I strongly suspect that a freer market in student loans would ask questions about students like "What Kind of degree do you intend to pursue?" and "What qualifications do you have to show that you are well suited for that degree?"

    In the shorter term, any reform would have to be gradual because parents assume that their kids can get loans, so have not saved enough to do what a private lender might require (like only covering 80%). One approach might be to freeze the maximum cost of attendance (COA) and start reducing the COA percent covered. Freezing the maximum COA would place any excess on the (likely Ivy League) student, which would constrain inflation at the most expensive schools first. In year 1, the loan could only cover 99% of the COA; in year 2, 98%, etc. Eventually, the private market will step in with unsubsidized loans.


    stars0
    Reply



    DanielLC 1 May 2015 02:55 PM
    68%

    I think we overspend on education. It's not necessary for everyone to have a college education. Education is an investment. If you get an education, you can be more productive and make more money. But you could also invest the money, along with the money you make while you're working instead of going to school, and make more money that way. When there are enough people with a college education that the latter is more profitable, we need to stop doing the former.

    Student loans in particular are a problem. There's too much focus on allowing anyone to be able to get one. If an education isn't going to get you enough money to pay back the loan, then the loan shouldn't be made. If someone goes bankrupt, their student loans should go away, and it should be recognized that whoever gave them the loan made a mistake. If banks can't get students that can pay back the loans often enough, they shouldn't be putting the money somewhere so high-risk.

    There is an argument that we should give everyone an education to remove the unfair advantage of people who were born to rich parents. I don't think education is the problem here. Rich people are investing in their children's futures. If education was free, they'd pick a different investment.

    I'm in favor of helping poor people stop being so poor. But just give them money. That way you can help all of them. Not just the ones who do well in college.


    stars0
    Reply


    julia1 7 May 2015 06:53 PM
    62%

    I'm in favor of helping poor people stop being so poor. But just give them money. That way you can help all of them. Not just the ones who do well in college.


    “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime". I think incentivizing achievement and opening new opportunities goes a long way to really help poor people. I'm not sure if giving money to everybody is a good solution.

    stars0
    Reply


    DanielLC 8 May 2015 01:08 PM
    67%

    Teach everyone to fish, and the fish go extinct. Or in a magical world with an infinite number of fish in the ocean, which is probably more comparable, people get tired of fish. Everyone will have fishing to fall back on, which is nice, but not really worth the price of all those fishing poles. You'd be better off investing the money you spent on fishing poles, and giving them all the money.

    stars0
    View Replies (4)
    Reply



    strangeattracto 2 May 2015 12:22 AM
    68%

    I think that what is needed to improve the higher education system is to change some of the perverse incentives that are currently leading to the problems.

    For example, there are few incentives for universities to care about the undergraduate experience at their institutions. Professors and TAs are often hired for completely different reasons than how good they are at teaching. When I was studying engineering, it was not uncommon for me to have a TA in a course that knew less about the subject than I did.


    stars0
    Reply



    ChristianKl 6 May 2015 10:12 AM
    67%

    Allow discharging of college loans in personal bankruptcy proceedings.

    This creates market incentives to prevent people from pursuing college degrees that don't get them jobs that allow them to pay back their degrees.

    If you can get the system to work in a way where colleges suffer if their students have to go through bankruptcy proceedings instead of getting a well paying job, the college get the right incentives to improve.


    stars0
    Reply



    Toggle 1 May 2015 09:59 PM
    67%

    Some of the problem is that we disagree about what a 'good' or 'useful' education system is built to achieve. To the extent that education is meant to create economically useful agents, there's an argument that we should remove subsidies and let the market handle pricing and loans. But there are a few counterpoints here. For one, education also has a role in promoting truly meritocratic achievement across generations, in opposition to economic entrenchment that you tend to get through lines of inheritance. If you need to start out in an upper-class family to afford medical school, then society is drawing from a much smaller potential pool of doctors (a private market of loans would mitigate this somewhat, but probably not counterbalance it entirely). As another point, any democratic society is going to generally benefit from a more-educated voting population, assuming that the education is of a form that leads to more informed decisions across a range of political issues. This is the origin of the 'liberal' education, designed as the set of knowledge that would help one fully participate in a free society. The community has an incentive to produce informed carpenters, not just competent ones.


    stars0
    Reply


    ChristianKl 17 May 2015 05:09 AM
    67%

    Given the track record of public schools in low income neighborhoods I don't see that they provide for 'meritocratic achievement'.

    If your concern is that the poor can't afford schooling a voucher system solves the issue.

    stars0
    Reply


    melian 2 May 2015 06:38 AM
    63%

    For one, education also has a role in promoting truly meritocratic achievement across generations,

    any democratic society is going to generally benefit from a more-educated voting population, assuming that the education is of a form that leads to more informed decisions across a range of political issues....This is the origin of the 'liberal' education

    I agree with your first point, but not with the second. In my experience, this type of "education" is simply ideological manipulation.

    stars0
    Reply


    Toggle 2 May 2015 10:22 AM
    70%

    Do you disagree with the idea that an informed voting population benefits democracy? Or do you simply believe that an education system cannot inform voters without manipulating their ideologies in a consistent way? Or alternately, do you think that such an educational system could exist in principle, but that we have historically failed to achieve it?

    stars0
    View Replies (13)
    Reply



    julia1 1 May 2015 10:02 AM
    58%

    In my opinion higher education should be free, and people from lower socio economic background should be able to get stipends from the government. That said, I would prefer to see it much more merit-oriented, both in admissions, and in incentivizing excellence through scholarships and prizes.


    stars0
    Reply


    mwengler 1 May 2015 12:57 PM
    69%

    I like this. I used to tell people I am a communist until you are 18 and then I am a libertarian. I think for the purposes of education, I can extend that to 21 or 22. While I strongly resonate with liberty and non-government intervention, I do accept a government-mediated collective role in raising children. There are strong positive externalities to not having a child's fate be completely determined by her parent's willingness and competence to raiser her well.

    One can always fear that government will screw up education. But if I can say I prefer a policy of government supported education, I can also say I prefer a policy of government executing education competently. Plenty of governments DO this competently, including most of the states in the USA, where even states with governments in trouble have superb universities.

    stars0
    Reply


    MaximumLiberty 1 May 2015 12:13 PM
    66%

    Why do you believe higher education should be free?

    stars0
    Reply


    julia1 1 May 2015 01:35 PM
    62%

    Two reasons. First, people from poor families should not be hampered in getting higher education: it's good for everybody if they can get good education, and I think the whole society will benefit from it. Second, the model where students pay exorbitant costs for education, and then feel entitled to a diploma, is not the best model for actually gaining education. From my experience, the most expensive private schools (I'm talking here about K-12) are not necessarily the strongest ones academically. On the contrary, they worry so much about making students unhappy, that they often refuse to give grades until much later, don't differentiate students by their level of achievement, try not to put students under much academic pressure, etc. Even the best of teachers cannot do much if the student is not willing to work hard. A student who already paid a fortune for the education ... read more

    stars0
    View Replies (3)
    Reply