Student Debt and Non-Graduates?

Student Debt and Non-Graduates?

A Critical Examination of:

The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn’t Student Debt, It’s Students Who Don’t Graduate

Published on October 18, 2016

By Michael Crow

President at Arizona State University (ASU)

Michael Crow wrote, “There is a lot of talk these days about student debt and the challenges that families face managing this burden. Rightfully so, particularly at a time when too many families are struggling with flat wages and rising costs. But the discussion of a debt crisis often fails to address what I would argue is the greater crisis: the fact that more than half of those who start college fail to finish.”

Many of the US population are unemployed, so the situation is far worse than you think. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million unemployed. A huge of number are underemployed to boot. These flat wages have been around for decades, unfortunately. And education, college or otherwise,  is not going to change that. In her 2013 book, Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch quotes “Krugman [Paul Krugman?] concludes: “So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education is not the answer—we’ll have to go about building that society directly.” [87,88]


So it is not just me saying that education will make a darn bit of difference! I have shown in other essays in other books more proof of this so I will leave it as it is.

Did you ever think that maybe many of these people should not be going to college in the first place? I sincerely believe that only about 25% should be going for a bachelor’s degree and beyond. The top quartile are natural scholars. They can learn at the college pace and at that level. Maybe another 5% should be going for an Associate’s degree. I base these on the Gaussian/Normal/Bell–shaped Curve and on the older definition of what constitutes the start of Superior Intelligence, as in, IQ or percentiles (quartiles). By the way the start of superior intelligence is at an IQ of 110 or the 75th percentile or upper quartile. It does not mean GAT (Gifted and Talented) material though.

This kind of works out about right. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, for all jobs until 2022, only about 4% of the jobs will require an Associate’s degree, so about 5% going is fine. 18% will require a Bachelor’s degree, 2% will require a Master’s degree and only 3% will require a PhD. That is only 23% will require a Bachelor’s degree or beyond, so 25% going to college will actually be about 2% too many. Regardless, we have a glut of college graduates, including STEM or STEAM. We have a glut of each educational level except high school dropouts. We have over 90% of adults in the US with either a high school diploma or GED. We have a need of about 27% of jobs that will require less than a high school diploma. We will have about  39% of the jobs will require a high school diploma. Many of these are bogus needs. As an example employer, the military takes a large portion of those that stop at a high school diploma. This need is too arbitrary. They say it is because of computers. I say computers make the job much easier. A trained monkey could point and click to launch a missile, for example. Note: about 7% of the jobs will require some education beyond high school, without a degree.

Also, many that do graduate fail to get a job for which they went to school to get. They are not in jobs that require a college degree. They are in jobs that a high school dropout should be doing, such as, retail sales.

The more than half that fail to finish cannot be as deep in debt as those that do graduate and fail to get a good paying job. POTUS Obama has said that he did not pay off his student loan until he became a US Senator and he did graduate with a law degree. There was a story of woman that got some master’s in dental hygiene or something similar and she was deep in debt and could not pay off her student loan because she could not get a good paying job that her degree should have afforded her.

Michael Crow posited, “Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off. They won’t get the substantial return on their investment—graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1 million more in additional income over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma—and they typically have not developed the adaptive learning skills that will help them prosper in a rapidly changing economy.”

You are using old data, sad to say! Over ½ of those that do graduate are not in jobs that require a college degree. So far as those that do graduate getting more money over a lifetime goes is no longer true. This may be true for a select few, but not enough, so it is no longer true. The jobs are not there and have not been there for over 25 years now.

Some call it globalization. I call it the greed of the rich or investment class.

Michael Crow declared, “In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped.”

Trapped is putting it mildly. They are fed up with a system that would allow this kind of treatment to happen. So, I would agree with this statement.

Let me take Japan for example. They have a very high college completion rate (And the 3rd highest in the world in percentage of adults with a college degree. We are number 5 as to percentage of college graduates.), but they also make it very hard to get into college in the first place, whereas, the US makes it very easy to get into college and yet you want more. Why?

Many tend think that college is for everyone and it is just as natural to go to college right after high school as it was to go to high school right after middle school/junior high school. Or to go to middle school/junior high school right after elementary school. Thing is, it is not. College is meant for scholars in same way sports are meant for jocks and jockettes. One should not be in sports if one cannot do it (is not physically inclined) and the same with college, if one is not very able to learn.

College is for our future leaders and we should not want the average person to be leading us anywhere!

If you look at each successive level of education there are fewer and fewer graduates and it is as it should be. Most can handle elementary school, fewer can handle middle schools and fewer yet can handle high school. Every level of college less and less graduates here too.

So, we are number 5 in the world in percentage of adults with college degrees. What is the problem? Number one is Russia, number 2 is Canada, number 3 is Japan, and number  4 is Israel. Most of the top 14 countries were relatively small countries, like Israel and Canada.

Russia has about ½ of our population. Canada has about 1/10th of our population. Japan has less population than Russia. Israel has about 2.6% of our population. China and India did not make the top 14 countries. So, I think I am safe in making the claim that we have more people with college degrees than any other country in the world, unless Russia has more than double the rate we have. The percentages, especially the percentages over what we need, is irrelevant.

Michael Crow stated, “According to US Department of Education data, the ability to repay college loans depends more on whether a student graduated than on how much debt they are carrying. The research also found that students who don’t graduate are three times more likely to default on their loans than those who do.”

I thought that Congress made it harder to default of student loans a few years ago. Again, their loans can’t be that much compared to those that do graduate and many that do graduate cannot get a good paying job because the rich sent these jobs overseas.

Many of these students that do not graduate are the ones who are not ready for college. If one takes all of those that passed all 4 ACT tests as a mark of those that are college ready then only 24% are college ready and as I said about only about 25% should be going to college. Community College is crammed with those that did not learn it high school and probably will not learn it in college and these are the ones likely to dropout and default on their small college loans. Tuition at Community Colleges are low compared to other schools. Again, these students probably should not be in college in the first place.

Back about 2008, we had about 75% of the high school graduates (also about 75% of the high school graduation rate. So that meant that 75% of 75% of the US high school seniors  attended college or 56.25% went college. Regardless, this is about twice as many as should go, more than twice as many that are college ready, almost 3 times as many as needed, according to the jobs available from the BLS.

Michael Crow wrote, “Adding to this sobering picture is the reality that only 15 percent of the bottom half of the US population (based on family income) have earned a college degree and only 9 percent among the bottom quarter. At a time when the majority of new jobs require post-secondary education, this is a national shame. Not only does it limit individual socioeconomic advancement, it minimizes the country’s capacity to make the most of talent that exists at every level and in every neighborhood.”

Yes, poverty begets poverty but again education is NOT a sure way out of poverty for most people. I wish people would stop pushing all of this education on everyone, especially the poor, and expect this to end poverty. Education of the masses had very little to do with our country attaining the biggest economy on Earth. We got this circa 1880, long before mass education and long before so-called diversity.

Again, 9% of the bottom quartile is fantastic. It shows that poverty does NOT an inability to learn.

Do you seriously expect that statistics should be based on percentage of the population? Do you seriously believe that X percentage is in the population therefore X percent should be represented everywhere, in everything? This is totally unrealistic and is therefore unachievable. If it is unachievable then it is unethical as well.

Michael Crow declared, “This completion crisis is alarming, but it is fixable.”

It is only a completion crisis in progressives/liberals/Democrats/Socialists/ Communists reasoning.

It is not fixable unless you fudge their grades in order to get them to graduate. Grade Inflation has been a problem according some of those in business. Grade inflation may have happened to allow them to graduate high school in the first place. Or if you want to increase completion percentages then make it harder to go to college in the first place! Get only the best scholars going to college and not everyone, then your completion rates will increase.

Michael Crow offered, “It requires taking a hard look at the gap between enrollment and graduation that has represented a minefield for too many of our nation’s students. It means thinking more about student outcomes and success. According to one recent study, 85 percent of four-year public colleges failed to graduate more than two-thirds of first-time, full-time students within six years.”

Oh My God! Progressives love to come up with buzzwords, such as, outcomes. One cannot guarantee outcomes. Outcome-based education is not possible and it will never work.

College is not a right, nor should it be. College are not there to just push through its students and give them their sheepskins. A college graduate should be the best we have to offer society to solve our problems. We should not judge a school by the quantity or rate of completion of its graduates but by the quality of its graduates. Do you want our schools to become diploma mills? I feel that is what we’ve done to high schools!

Michael Crow wrote, “While many of these stranded learners may feel they’ve missed their chance and blame themselves, I think it’s more useful to reflect on how the system failed them—and how we can help fix this error.”

The system DID NOT fail them. Unless it is the system that tells them to go to college when they could not even handle or barely handled high school, then yes, the system failed them, but not so otherwise. We are allowing too many graduates as it is. Again, probably through grade inflation!

Michael Crow declared, “One of the ways we’ve addressed this challenge at Arizona State University is with our eAdvisor, a digital tool that helps students monitor their progress and stay on track toward graduation. So does our Major Maps system, which outline’s a major’s key requirements, courses and optimal sequence to complete a degree. More broadly, online learning provides individualized paths for both new students and students that dropped out to begin study again, even while holding a full-time job.”

If they need a tool, digital or otherwise, then maybe they should not be in school. Looking at degree plans should be done by prospective students, you know, before they apply. If your students are looking then they are kind of behind the curve. They should have had it planned out on paper before even applying for school. Most degree plans give what should be taken for each semester for all four years. So, a digital tool should not be necessary.

Online learning is very suspect in my book, for most people. I know of a Community College professor that said that her online students did worse, on average, than her face-to-face students.

Students going at their own pace is not realistic. It will not be that way in most schools and not in most jobs. They make take way too long to complete something. There are deadlines in the real world!

Again, you are just trying to get more kids with degrees. Why???? I guess that you wrongly assume that that in and of itself will make them more money over  their lifetimes and pay more income taxes, etc.

What is this — the new and improved marketing ploy? Since it is new (technology) it must be an improvement on the old way? It is not.

Michael Crow wrote, “While the reasons students drop out are varied and complicated, we are finding that plenty of students who left school will jump at the chance to complete their degree if they can. Our partnership with Starbucks, the College Achievement Plan launched in 2014, has attracted 8,100 enrollees and graduated more than 200 so far. This online program, which boasts 140 degree programs, has included students who couldn’t afford the cost of continuing, those who dropped out to get married and raise a family, even those who struggled in their first year and doubted their ability to succeed.”

The tuition is fairly high from what I saw. At $600 per credit for a BBA, that can easily be $1800 per class. At 120 credits that is $72,000 for the whole degree. This is does not include the occasional odd fee. You claim that this a good value. Really?

Why do you target Starbuck’s?

Michael Crow suggested, “The target of this program is to help 25,000 Starbucks employees earn an ASU bachelor’s degree by 2025 with the tuition fully reimbursed. That may sound ambitious, but it represents an achievable goal fueled by our shared commitment and recognition that earning a college degree changes lives.”

That is 100 per year. At this rate you’ll be lucky to get 1200 by 2025. Again, a college degree does not change lives. You are still living in the past, over 25 years ago.

If you do make you goal and let’s say they all choose BBA then 25,000 X $72,000 is $1,800,000,000 ($1.8 billion) for ASU by 2025. That would pay a few bills!

Michael Crow continued, “Just imagine if 100 companies like Starbucks and 100 universities committed to a similar program. We could help 2.5 million more students who dropped out of school complete their degree. We would not only meaningfully improve their future prospects, but also strengthen our nation’s educated workforce and capacity to solve problems.”

Yes, 25,000 Starbucks Employees with bachelor’s degrees solving what kinds of problems at Starbucks? We already have too many college graduates. We do not need more. I am guessing that Starbuck’s will not hire these graduates into better jobs that can afford to pay back maybe a portion of a $72,000 student loan. If the students do not pay then who does? That is still a hefty tab someone has to pay.

Again, a college degree does not necessarily mean a good paying job. It does not mean such more often than not. Again, over ½ of college graduates are not in jobs that require a college degree.

Starbuck’s supposedly has over 182,000 employees, worldwide,

Again, only 18% of all jobs up through 2022 will need a bachelor’s degree, only, and 20% if you throw in the 2% for Master’s degrees. ASU does not have but one PhD online and that is an EdD. You can add another 3% if you want to and make it 23%.

Talk about a glut of college graduates. We already have that and yet you want 2.5 million more graduates? For the life of me I do not understand why!

As I have a habit of doing (I should do it more) I like to write about the author that I am criticizing . More specifically I want to know and I want you to know about his or her academic career.

Michael M. Crow got a BA in Political Science and environmental studies, He has a PhD in Public Administration from Syracuse (Science and Technology Policy).

Both of these degrees are basically the same, in that they are mostly based in Sociology. I have a natural disdain for sociologists and their research methods. Both of his degrees tend to reinforce one another concerning how government can affect things like education.

I am not the only one either. Again, to quote Diane Ravitch, in her book published in 2000, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms,  “He [Mortimer Jerome Adler]  seemed to relish insulting his audience, as he did when he first arrived at the University of Chicago and told a gathering of eminent social scientists that their methods were flawed.”  [p. 304]”

According to Wikipedia, “Mortimer Jerome Adler (December 28, 1902 – June 28, 2001) was an American philosopher, educator, and popular author.”  So, I am in good stead. Although he did not say, in her book, what was flawed about their research I do agree with his sentiment.


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