The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Colleges and Universities in Crisis: High Cost, Worthless Degrees

There is a crisis in the academic world today. The cost of a college education has risen into the stratosphere at the same time that critics are pointing out that many of the degrees students spend thousands of dollars on are worthless. As a retired college educator, I'm not surprised by this crisis, but I am saddened, especially about what's happened in the once respected field of Humanities and in the social "sciences."

I've just been reading a short piece over at PJ Media's Dr. Helen. She links to Charlotte Allen's review of a self published book called Worthless: The Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major. The book is by Aaron Clarey. Here's a quotation from Allen's review.

Boiled down to a few words, Clarey's message is this: Do not under any circumstance waste your or your parents' time, money, and credit rating to acquire a degree titled "Bachelor of Arts." Those degrees are the "worthless" sheepskins of Clarey's book title. Instead, focus on degrees that will promise you a decent living when you graduate. Those degrees are titled "Bachelor of Science," they almost invariably lie in the "STEM" fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), as well as statistics and accounting, and they involve the mastery of math.     

Allen says that Clarey expresses great scorn for

majors in "Hyphenated-American" studies. That means "African-American Studies," "Gay/Bi/Lesbian/Transgender-American Studies," and so forth. "Frankly, these are particularly dirty and low degrees, in that they are not only worthless, but they target minority groups as their victims," Clarey writes, pointing out that blacks aren't helped economically by paying tuition to explore their black identity--nor gays helped by paying to explore their gay identity. 

That last sentence identifies a particularly odious and disgusting practice. It's really a scam, a con, a hustle. The college or university has built in authority in spades (pun intended, especially if minority shills are used). They say to the gullible student, trust us, we are experts in these matters. American culture is prejudiced against you, but we're on your side. Get your student loan. Study with us and learn how deep the prejudice is in our society. You can then use your valuable degree to help eliminate the prejudice and make society better.

But what kind of real job is available to the student after graduation with a major in one of these hyphenated-American Studies degrees? Maybe she could get a high paying job at the giant Anti-Prejudice Corporation, Inc. Good luck with that.

I suppose the poor student could at least join one of the "occupy" movements. Maybe get on TV. Build a resume that way. Again, good luck with that.

The student today should be a wary consumer. Check graduation rates in a particular major. And even more important, check job placement rates in that major.

If you're a prospective college student, or if someone in your family is, you can easily become an informed consumer. Start by reading Charlotte Allen's review of the book by Clarey, Worthless. Then, buy Clarey's book; it's only $5 on Kindle ($12.95 paper). Do more research. Read more articles and books. Continue looking here and here. But don't stop with a couple of websites. Wear out your Google search engine. You're about to spend a truckload of money. Spend it wisely.

Or, you could take this novel approach from the late '70s, early '80s. Instead of spending those thousands of dollars on a regular (possibly worthless) college education, you could attend Father Guido's famous Five Minute University. Is there nothing new under the sun? This old clip shows you that people have been questioning the value of a college education for a long time. A tip of my shabby old mortarboard to Montana buddy George for reminding me of this.


  1. Excellent clip.

    In re: BAs. Not all of 'em are worthless; The Second Mrs. Pennington git her BA (and two MAs) in Modern Languages and made danged good money as a Jap-English translator... until she got tired of working for Japanese men, but that's another story. Now she teaches English at a big-ass state school and makes OK money.

    Personally? I'm not discounting STEM, but those disciplines ain't for everyone. I think trade schools are generally more worthwhile than universities for your average sorta guy. We'll ALWAYS need good electricians, plumbers, metal workers, carpenters, and the like. And... have you ever known a POOR plumber? I haven't...

  2. You're certainly right about some BA's having worth and the 2MP's experience shows that. Believe it or not, own bachelor's in English from way back in '62 was actually a BS! The college (MTSU) only gave BA's to students who completed 3 years of study in one foreign language. I had 2 in German and 1 in French and so didn't qualify for what was then regarded as the more prestigious degree.

    I also agree that STEM degrees are not for everyone and are hard to get. As for trade schools, they are very useful and worthwhile. I was part of a national group back in the early '90s working with what was called Tech Prep. It was an attempt to blend "hands on" practical learning like that done in trade schools with higher high school standards in general education. The idea was good, but as far as I know, it went nowhere. I think it probably ended up like most other Fed programs that get big grants--awash in paperwork and reports.

  3. Boy, Dan, you sure nailed this one! I remember some college some where offfering a degree in basket weaving! A lot of time and money gets spent for nothing, for a degree that is nothing!
    A-A studies is a prime example as you pointed out.
    Good post

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  5. Ed, Funny what a difference a half century makes. In the '40s and '50s college and professors enjoyed a great deal of respect. They stayed pretty much focused on their field of study and didn't get into politics all that much. But, everything changed in the '60s. Including college and professors. Man, is there anything the '60s didn't screw up? Today college and most professors are a punchline to a bad joke.