Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not Paying for Harvard 

Harvard has announced it will drastically cut tuition prices soon. You can read the details in this New York Times article.

An alum of Harvard has a very interesting take on the proposal. You can read his comments here. The important paragraph is below.

On this plan, Harvard would simply collect (for the sake of argument) 1% of the student's income for the thirty years after graduation. Those going to hedge funds and law firms will pay more while those pursuing teaching or public interest work will pay less over time. To avoid perverse incentives, one would probably have to ensure that everyone falls prey to this system--lest the people who know they want to be investment bankers would try to opt out of the system by securing alternative funds. Of course, that point generalizes beyond the pool of Harvard applicants too, but my guess is that enough people want the branding that at the time of application to college, they would be willing to authorize paying an additional Harvard college (or law school) "tax" for the years after graduation. Meanwhile, it would place the burden of paying for higher education on the person who benefits most directly from the education: the student, rather than the parents.

Think about this just for a moment. You have 2 children. Both go to the school of your choice (state university, ivy league, private). Both get a 4 year bachelors degree. Both have 4.0 grade point averages. Now ask yourself what did the education of your children cost and how does that compare to what they will earn?

Can't do it? Oh, but the one critical factor left out was what will your children study. One child will study polymer science and one will study elementary education. Now, what did a college education cost and how does that compare to what your child will earn?

The point being that education in the US has evolved into something artificial. I have so grown tired of the complaint about newly graduated college students. "They don't know anything about the real world." Duh! What makes you think anything they have been taught since Kindergarten is about the real world. In the real world, risk has rewards or is avoided. I cannot walk into a bank and get a business loan for a venture that will not pay for itself. The bank will not loan me money unless it is very certain that my venture will be very profitable or that I will create assets that it can recover should I not be productive. What is the equivalent in education? There is none.

Think about education in the US. Do we really follow a path that will create productive citizens?

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