24 July 2008

Make College Free Like High School? Bad Idea

There is no magic point at which a genuine college-level education becomes an option, but anything below an IQ of 110 is problematic. If you want to do well, you should have an IQ of 115 or higher. Put another way, it makes sense for only about 15% of the population, 25% if one stretches it, to get a college education. And yet more than 45% of recent high school graduates enroll in four-year colleges. Adjust that percentage to account for high-school dropouts, and more than 40% of all persons in their late teens are trying to go to a four-year college--enough people to absorb everyone down through an IQ of 104.
Doing well in college requires an IQ of 115 or better. To do well in the professions one should have at least an IQ of 120. To succeed at the leading edges of science and technology, an IQ of over 125 is recommended. More people who start college are failing to complete a course of study. That is fine for the college, which rakes in the money regardless of completion rates. For students, parents, and everyone else who pays, it is usually a waste of time and money.

Two Harvard economists are now displaying their abysmal ignorance of the real world by recommending that society provide universal access to college, just like high school.
"Education has not kept pace," says Katz. "In the early 20th century, we created almost universal access to high school. We have not done the same with college..." _Chronicle
The Harvard professors do not understand what they are talking about. If we want to make college into the economic waste-bucket and dumbed down training environment for delinquents that high schools have become, then universal college is the right approach.

A far more intelligent approach is to enlarge opportunities in two year colleges and vocational training. The developed world suffers a shortage of skilled tradesmen, which should give vocational training a higher priority than it currently has. And a two year associates degree will give most job applicants the opportunity to acquire the rudimentary skills in writing, reading comprehension, basic technical competence with computers, and the beginning research skills necessary in a more demanding modern workplace.

Four year degrees are more frequently squandered on areas of study such as gender studies, queer studies, ethnic studies, basket weaving, and any other number of "recreational, no brain required" degrees. Of that group, basket weaving develops the only truly useful skill.

You expect college professors to lobby for more societal spending on academia. Tenure breeds contempt for the chumps who are actually paying their generous salaries and benefits packages, and sitting through their lectures. Expect such sinecured quasi-nobility to promote an outlandish and counter-productive expansion of privilege.

Society cannot afford to squander money on today's dysfunctional academic atmosphere of time wasting and indoctrination.


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Blogger Bruce Hall said...

I've hypothesized that a "university model" for high schools makes more sense than "universal university."


this would include technical/vocational courses

Thursday, 24 July, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

The province of New Brunswick went through a long period when they assumed that all public school education resources should be used under the assumption that everyone was university bound. As a result, the trades suffered and no one heard of any great increase in the number of high school students going on to attend or complete university. Part of the problem was a feeling that trades were an "unworthy" goal and an example of a failure of the education system to get a student into university.

On rare occasions you hear of the education system making an innovation. The use of "clickers" to quiz large classes (not for marks currently) at the end of lectures seems to be showing positive results. They function like those voting devices on America's Funniest Videos. A multiple choice question on the lecture is asked and the prof can see immediately how many of the students got it. Follow up questions can be devised for those topics where students tend to get the right answer for the wrong reason. Knowing this will happen causes students to pay closer attention during lectures which is always one of the hardest parts of the educational process. Apparently they have been particularly well received in physics classes.

Thursday, 24 July, 2008  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Our high schools have high dropout rates because they don't provide useful education to 60% of the population.

Furthermore, the percentage that don't belong in college is higher than 60% because a lot of very smart people really don't want to do a profession.

College should be about 25% of the population.

Thursday, 24 July, 2008  
Blogger Loren said...

That bell curve isn't saying much. It's not labeled, and I can't correlate the numbers to anything.

Thursday, 24 July, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Bruce, you are making a lot of sense. Nice work.

Baron, until the average IQ of a population gets well above 115, most children would do better to aim for a 2 year degree, vocational trade school, or self employment if so suited (Bill Gates and other dropouts etc.)

Carl, agreed, 25% at the most for 4 year degrees.

Loren, the bell curve illustrates that only just over 15% of a population with a mean IQ of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 will have an IQ high enough (>115) to benefit from a rigorous 4 year college degree.

It also tells you that a population with a mean IQ of 85 and a standard deviation of 15 will have only about 2 to 3% with an IQ high enough (>115) to benefit from a rigorous 4 year college degree.

Americans of European descent have an average IQ of 100. Americans of African descent have an average IQ of 85. Americans of Mexican descent have an average IQ somewhere in between--say 92.

To use the bell curve as labeled you need to know the pertinent mean and SD.

Thursday, 24 July, 2008  

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