November 17, 2010

Our Local College Bubble

Justin Katz

Frankly, I don't buy this:

Overall, the United States needs to increase the proportion of the population with a college education by 4.2 percent annually to meet the demands of an increasingly global economy, which will require 60 percent of the work force to have degrees by 2020, according to Jeffrey Stanley, associate vice president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

I've been running into too many carpenters with college degrees to give much face-value credence to the assertion that more workers with college degrees are necessary. It may be true if measured against employers' demands, but to some extent, employers are only demanding degrees because it's an easy way to narrow the candidate pool — in short, because they can.

General reading on the topic suggests that degree shortages are much more specific. The economy needs more people with specific, usually technical expertise, not college degrees in general, and the article above gives reason to think that advocates for local higher education are merely seeking to inflate their bubble. Consider:

Those rejected by private schools put increasing strain on the public colleges, officials said. About 70 percent of students entering the Community College of Rhode Island in fall 2010 have needed some kind of remedial work, according to Ray Di Pasquale, Commissioner of Higher Education and president of CCRI.

Students who require remedial education aren't likely to be pursuing the sorts of degrees that lead to jobs for which a college experience is objectively necessary. What our society really needs is to improve elementary and secondary education (and social/familial circumstances that affect attitudes toward education) so that high school graduates are competent for most entry-level positions and pursue higher degrees because they've already got a sense of what they want to do with their lives.

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What we need is more kids to go to vocational schools and for everyone else to remove the stigma of doing so. There's absolutely nothing wrong with learning a trade. Plus, those people who make fun of the vocational kids are the same ones who will be calling those kids 10 years later when a pipe bursts and they need a plumber at 2 am.

Posted by: Patrick at November 17, 2010 11:08 AM

The idea that a school with such low standards as CCRI finds so many students unqualified for participation without remedial education is Exhibit 1 in the criminal indictment of the NEARI.

Posted by: BobN at November 17, 2010 12:48 PM

NEARI is in business to make money for Bob Walsh,Pat Crowley, and all the other executives there and for their followers.
The students?Yeah,right.
NEARI leadership is domianted by Alinskyites and by the way,how many "Brown people" are in NEARI leadership positions?
(I'm not referring to graduates of the Politburo on the Hill).

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 17, 2010 2:29 PM

I think the point is well taken that we need graduates with technical/scientific degrees. I feel sorry for anyone who has a degree in something ending in "studies".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 17, 2010 7:29 PM

I have to agree with Patrick here. I've been employed at jobs that 'require a bacheleor's degree' for almost ten years now, and I don't have one. I've even risen in the ranks beyond some degree-bearing colleagues. I give credit to the vocational school I went to, putting me into real businesses during high school taught me the skills I needed. Working early as an intern/apprentice put me in touch with the owners and managers who taught me to keep an eye out for the bottom line. I've been told that indebted students too often take a 'me first, I deserve a big check' attitude.

Posted by: mangeek at November 18, 2010 9:06 AM

I am all for higher ed, but I don't think a state this small needs 3 state schools.
2 would be find. Get rid of CCRI, then there would be less places for people to give out jobs to cronies.

Posted by: Swazool at November 18, 2010 11:50 AM

Actually if you're cutting schools, then cut RIC. Then you have one 4-year school and one 2-year school. That makes a bit more sense. The 4 year schools are traditionally geared toward the recent HS graduate and the community or junior colleges are for people looking to get training in an area or just take a class. It's really for the "community".

It is an interesting thought though, to have a place like RIC just close up shop and use the land for something else.

Posted by: Patrick at November 18, 2010 12:15 PM

What I don't understand is the equal subsidization of English degrees to Engineering ones. Certainly, we're overabundant in English majors and short on Engineers. Should a state school be using taxpayer money to facilitate career paths that aren't viable here? Shouldn't English and other 'liberal arts' degrees be left to private colleges, while state schools crank-out ready-to-work young people with skills that are in demand?

I'm not sure about getting rid of a school, but it might be wise to eliminate lots of programs that don't really make sense and expand others that do.

Posted by: mangeek at November 18, 2010 1:34 PM

Great post and great comments.

If many graduates of the public elementary through high school educational system need remedial classes to do work at the post high school level,then the public school system has failed.

But also perhaps we should question and examine the requirements for employment. I've heard on local radio that local companies can't find what they consider to be qualified applicants.

Well,Brown University,Salve Regina,Bryant,Providence College,Johnson and Wales,RISD,Roger Williams,URI,CCRI and perhaps some others I've forgotten,all graduate classes every year. Yet,we are told that companies here cannot find qualified applicants.

Why not? It seems absurd. Maybe they don't want to do much training on their dime. They also lose people who don't fall into any narrow parameters they've set,even though loosening those parameters might be beneficial,even to requiring some sort of college degree.

I went to college for a while. I was required to pay big money to be taught how to do things like count ape's teeth and to read many things I had already read on my own in grammar school, junior high and high school.

But if one doesn't have a degree,one is considered intellectually inferior and companies will not be flexible in their hiring policies. If you didn't graduate from college or even Junior college,you are inferior and most likely illiterate and inumerate. Like me!

" A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Posted by: helen at November 23, 2010 1:46 AM
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