I’ve been watching a movement that started in the UK- that has huge implications for the parent company of LexisNexis, Reed Elsevier. It seems a university researcher started wondering why research paid for with government funds was being sold back to the government by the “scientific press” at extraordinary expense in the form of “professional journals.” His university was spending millions to buy back i-s own research.
Now that we have the Internet, the costs of publishing has dropped dramatically, yet the costs of these peer-reviewed publications hasn’t. It’s all about cache and tradition.
We have another case of similar bs going on right here in the Miami Valley. While everyone is told that Sinclair College is an amazing value and a great way to earn an associate’s degree and then transfer to a four-year school to get a bachelors, it doesn’t quite work out as smoothly as we’d like to believe.
Example. Non-traditional student (single mom, with 2 kids, coming back to school at 29 for a career change) graduates with honors from Sinclair in Visual Communications and the internship with LexisNexis turns into a job. At first, income is low, and UD subsidizes its ridiculously high tuition and LexisNexis provides support and school is relatively affordable. After 2 years in school part time, scheduling gets tougher and income has risen and now tuition skyrockets. Also, federal financial assistance drops.
Investigate transfer to Wright State. Admissions says wonderful, send transcripts, and we’ll talk. Tuition is considerably lower and scheduling around work schedule is easier. Then, the rejection. “You have to complete a “majority of your coursework at our school to get your degree, we’re not going to accept all of your credits.” Wait I say, these credits were financed mostly by us- with the goal of creating a college graduate. In another case of “you didn’t build this” the Universities seem to forget where a large proportion of their funding comes from- the taxpayers.
How many different ways do we subsidize public and private universities? The list is endless:
- In the case of public universities- we build the buildings, we pay the staff, we make grants to students, we supply students with low-interest loans and of course, we don’t charge the schools property taxes (and in the case of Sinclair- we directly financed their debt-free school- the only public school with zero debt in Ohio, with our property taxes).
- In the case of UD (or any private school)- guess what, we don’t build the buildings (although we give huge tax breaks to GE when it builds a building on the UD campus) we don’t pay the staff directly (although through research grants, and funding student loans and grants we subsidize their pay) and yes- they don’t pay property taxes either.
We have a huge investment in public higher education. If the government got out of subsidizing higher-ed, no one would be able to afford it except the very rich and the smartest who would be sponsored by industry who need the brains to continue.
So with the new focus on improving graduation rates at public schools, why are we treating college credits paid for in large part with public dollars as a private currency only good at an individual school? Just like we have the laws protecting interstate commerce and creating a common currency to enable trade and growth- why are college credits treated as proprietary property of schools that are paid in largely by the public? Why do college credits expire? My on-the-job experience doesn’t expire in the real world? Why aren’t college credits, as long as they are bestowed by an accredited institution, fully portable and without an expiration date?
In a free market economy, people are supposed to be able to move to where the jobs are, competition is supposed to be stoked by market forces competing without artificial restrictions. Competitive expertise is supposed to be highly valued and accessible without artificial barriers put in place- so why can’t I learn my physics from MIT, my humanities from Harvard and my English lit from Dennison if I so choose? Why can’t I assemble an education that meets a single standard- a set number of credits in an accredited sequence from any accredited school and gain a diploma? I can build almost anything else in the world with suppliers from across the globe- why not my own education?
While the idea of a degree from Harvard having more value than one from Hiram, in the end, it’s what you do with your knowledge that counts, not where the degree came from. We’re questioning the value that higher education is providing more and more these days- and don’t have to look far to see college drop-outs making it to the “proverbial top” – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg (there is a wikipedia page to Harvard drop- outs that “made it” that’s quite interesting).
Considering we’re well into the “information age” why are we still holding on to traditions from the 17th century when it comes to education? It’s time to re-invent higher ed with a simple change- if your institution accepts public money, it must accept all accredited college credit no matter where it comes from or when. We’re investing in people- not pomp and circumstance, and if you earned your credit at Sinclair/UD/WSU there is no reason you can’t graduate with a degree from the University of US- the taxpayer, we helped fund it.