The American obsession with quantity over quality (and economic sadism)

Despite grappling with a massive national debt, President Obama seems determined to get even more of his fellow Americans into the debt hole that is modern university education. Earlier in the year, he made an appeal to increase graduation rates (well actually he’s been repeating this crap ever since he got in) and recently he’s announced plans to ease the debt load on graduates in low-paying jobs through federal assistance.

For those of us in the UK Commonwealth this is also bad news, since what the US does has a big influence on what we do.

Of course there is no evidence that high levels of university participation create economic wealth. Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria are three of the world’s richest countries yet have relatively poor levels of university attendance and low graduation rates. They do however, have high academic standards and a reasonable number of high level STEM majors. If mass university attendance was the key to economic growth, Poland would be the richest country in Europe. If fact Poland isn’t even the richest country in Eastern Europe – Slovenia is, and Slovenia has much lower graduation rates.

Now I’m not saying that Obama shouldn’t help low-income earners with massive student loans. Clearly these people are in a tough financial position and since the government encouraged them to go to university, it’s partly to blame for their financial predicament. Students shouldn’t be treated like WWI infantrymen who are casually sacrificed en masse in some vain attempt to gain a few yards of terrority. However, providing debt relief while encouraging more students to go to university is only going to feed the bloated education industrial complex.

If too many students are unable to pay back their loans, then at least three things need to happen:

1. the number of students going to university (especially in the liberal arts) needs to decrease

 2. the quality of university education needs to improve (especially in the liberal arts)

3. universities need to be made financially liable if students can’t get jobs

Admittedly, the president can’t go around saying something negative like “don’t go to university” and expect to win elections, but he can say “we need more STEM majors” or “students need to be better informed about the pros and cons of academic education” rather generic crap like “we need more graduates”. He can also say something like “we’re all responsible for the training of our young people,” and make universities partly financially liable for students who can’t get jobs.

The chances of any of this happening under Obama are pretty slight as a high proportion of the students who will be shut out of university will be from Democrat voting minorities. However, given that the Republicans won’t get the minority vote anyway, there is a small chance they might start to listen to reason as the recession wears on.


Explore posts in the same categories: Education industrial complex, United States

One Comment on “The American obsession with quantity over quality (and economic sadism)”

  1. […] Myth of the Rule of Law and the Future of Repression”Commonwealth Contrarian – “The American Obsession with Quantity Over Quality (and Economic Sadism)”Thrasymachus – “Implicit Whiteness #4 – The Suburbs“, “Better […]

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