Why is the university degree a signal and why should you be worried?
He is back! I’m not Goldie Blumenstyk (though he gives some ideas below). I’m Scott Carlson, also a senior author in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which covers the cost and value of the university. Subscribe here I think this week:
Why graduate school is a signal and why you should be worried
I’ve been thinking about my previous interviews with Bryan Caplan. Caplan, a libertarian economist at George Mason University and author of The Case Against Education: Why the education system is a waste of time and money argues that people at school really do not learn anything. Above all, college students are sending the signal that a college degree is being sent to employers, friends and family. When you graduate from George Mason, he says, send a signal that you have the tenacity and intrinsic intelligence to navigate the maze of the university, and you probably have the ability to achieve similar results in the workplace. If you’ve graduated from Stanford or Harvard, all the more.
I will be honest. When Caplan and I talked to each other last year, first for a Chronicle interview and then for an hour at C-SPAN After Words, I did not buy it. A certain degree value is clearly a signal. However, Caplan rejects the idea that people receive a lot of education, that sometimes they use their university lessons in history, literature or philosophy in their daily lives. If you look at the C-SPAN interview in about 30 minutes, I suggest that the university can familiarize people with ideas that they can explore more deeply in the future as they mature. Caplan also throws it off. “It happens from time to time,” he replies and I laugh.
I do not laugh anymore. I still think that Caplan is wrong to say that education offers nothing to cultivate or to expose people to new ideas. But I was thinking more about the priority of the university signal last year, and last week two elements in the news showed what graduation meant.
First, of course, we learned that some Hollywood stars and other wealthy people paid for their children to visit elite universities with invented services. The Americans were angry at the memory that the rich do not follow the same rules as all of us, especially in higher education, as if they did not know about Jared Kushner’s academic career. Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have ensured that their children receive a signal from the university that impresses their colleagues and secures their socio-economic status.
The other article was the cover story of The Chronicle, written by my colleague Beckie Supiano, about why Enterprise Rent-A-Car and other companies under the Enterprise brand name only college graduates. For Enterprise, Beckie writes, “A college degree is important because it suggests that a candidate has the right combination of skills to succeed in an entry-level job.” Suggests before wise
The #collegeadmissionsmandalcandal in Twitter is pushing for the delegitimization of the admissions process, which is already under the aspect of positive action and legacy status, not to mention major university sports.
In the long run, however, what companies do as a business is much more general and threatens public opinion about the value of the university. I interviewed Marie Artim of Enterprise for my 2017 report, “The Future of Work,” and since then, I’ve been using the company as a role model for talks and discussions across the country. The company is not looking for graduates with specific technical skills as the company trains its employees extensively. Instead, Enterprise believes that a college degree encourages students to develop those hard-to-reach “soft skills” that so many employers are looking for today: creativity, empathy, and communication skills.
However, it is problematic to define the degree as an obstacle to a job. First, there is no guarantee that the university will provide these skills; it simply indicates that applicants can have them. Noel Ginsburg, managing director of a plastics company in Colorado and advocate of the learning model, told me that the real work environment in the real world of the workplace is probably better for teaching social skills than the university.
Second, whether intentionally or not, companies and other employers can use the college degree to filter their group of applicants by socio-economic status. Of course, a degree can be an indication that you are persistent, communicative, etc., but because people who are white and rich are more likely to graduate in a four-year institution, this is also an indication that you have a degree certain social level.
The company would certainly contradict this concept of signal classification as others would. That is not crazy. In the same week as the regulatory scandal broke through, Byron Auguste, an economist and founder of Opportunity @ Work, published an article in Forbes calling into question the title signal. “Too many employers use a college pedigree as a crutch, a simplistic abbreviation when they lack an effective way to reduce their pool of applicants,” he wrote.
All this is deeply depressing to me because I still think that education can make people become deeper and curious thinkers whose benefits are more important than just getting a job or earning admiration from acquaintances. I grew up in the Twin Cities, in a state where a way was found to increase education spending and to spread wealth among public schools. Today, Minnesota has the highest literacy rate in the country, and Minneapolis and St. Paul have a strong economy, broad support for the arts, and a commitment to the inclusion of their growing and diverse populations.
In 1998 I moved to Baltimore and was amazed at corruption, crime and stagnant economics, all the results of racial segregation and the decline of production. But most of all, I was surprised by the number of exclusive private schools that existed between the farms of the city compared to the dysfunctional schools in the working and abandoned neighborhoods of Baltimore. And I was surprised by a general question from the locals at dinner: “Where did you go to school?” I discovered that they did not ask me where I’m going to college. They asked me where I would go to high school. It was a quick way to meet someone after class.
Some children receive early elitist educational signals, and with family ties, they can turn those signals into a career in a consulting firm or a White House job. Families in modest communities improvise their resources to send a promising son or daughter to college. Given the many pitfalls a child at the university can avoid, it’s a big bet on a signal that’s more important than ever.
Is that what we want the university to be? Among all ways of changing education, and what that means, in a country hampered by its growing inequality, the system of admittance and bribery can be a moment that causes the nation to realize the true value and purpose of a nation Re-evaluate the title of the university
Appointment of the week.
“I’m proud that when their time comes, they’ll meet my son in an old-fashioned way: choosing from parents rich enough to buy a house in a good school district and a preparatory course for the SAT . “
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media science and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia, responded in a tweet to the scandal of admission to the university.
Auditors to the rescue? And do not forget the trustees.
While completing a large project, Goldie could not resist weighing the following:
From all the reports and pensive comments on the recording scandal last week in The Chronicle and elsewhere, I was particularly impressed by the comments of an investor from a well-known and interviewed education company, Ryan Craig. He mentioned two groups of university officials that most of the others do not have: auditors and board members.
As Craig described in his Letter of Gap, he turned to Terah Brown, executive director of the Association of University and University Auditors, who represents the internal audit department at 500 colleges and universities. Brown told him that he was unaware of any reports or statements from the university that indicated that the comprehensive reviews of the licensing function are typical or have taken place.
“A process that allows coaches to reserve margins for bribes is exactly the kind of material weakness that would be found during an internal audit and should be remedied by introducing a new control,” Craig wrote. “Given the importance of standardized approval scores, examiners with the right approach can insist that the reports from the College Board and the ACT prove their controls, which failed or did not exist, according to reports this week.”
But do not blame the auditors. As Craig also wrote, “According to Brown, the board is setting the path for reviewing the audit.”
Craig is smart to have recognized this problem. Internal auditors at universities tend to gain control over finances, but they can also take important control over other forms of misconduct. The directors are the trustees and the administrators.
The administrators are now in my thoughts, because I will speak at the meeting of the Association of Boards of Universities and Colleges in Orlando, Florida, next month. It has been years since I participated in the annual meeting of this group. I remember being surprised at how few trustees talked about conflicts of interest in academic research, which was an important topic at the time. Now I wonder how much this registration scandal will dominate the debate.
In his newsletter Craig presented his own theory why trustees do not want to hire auditors in the approval process. “I suppose he’s less naive than hypocrisy,” he wrote, “because closing the side door would probably mean closing the back door and getting a lot of money in through the back door.”
Sure, it’s a cynical attitude. But it is a good challenge for the trustees to show him that he is wrong.