Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What's Your Major, Governor?

Why do colleges charge the same amount of money per credit hour, regardless of the specific course?

Does Econ 101 provide the same value as Econ 301?
Does Econ 301 provide the same value as insert-easy-to-make-fun-of-class-here?
This can be extended to groups of courses, or majors.

Is a B.A. in History worth the same as a B.S. in Engineering?

Maybe. But if not, then why should a student expect to pay the same amount?
Wouldn't it be logical for a student to take more of the "undervalued courses," which in this case would mean the more useful courses (since the cost is a push)? It seems there is a forked path for students:  one way (COAST) is to get a degree with the least effort possible, expecting the credential per se to be sufficient; the other way (STRIVE) is to shoot the moon and get an intense education that likely leads to an elite graduate school.

If true, one would expect a split rush toward the easiest classes and the hardest classes while ignoring the middle road as much as possible. Is this why we have both so many law students and so many non-mentally-taxing degreed grads?

A student may not be able to do much about this strange flat-pricing per credit hour system. But a government can. A governor could decide to vary the students' tuition subsidies based on some ranking on what classes/majors are most important to the public good.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Are All State Colleges Above Average?

Does your state have particular expertise at running colleges? Maybe so, but some states surely do not. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that states subsidize $19,200 per student.

A state can decide it is good public policy to subsidize higher education for its citizens. If so, the state faces a decision on how best to deliver. States commonly subsidize tuition for students at state-run colleges.

One perfectly valid option is to give the $19,200 to the student for use at any credentialed college anywhere, public or private. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that 29% of students would select a private school instead. Surely some percentage would opt for a public school in another state.

One historical objective of limiting the subsidy to in-state public schools is to keep the educated citizens in the state. Brain Drain. To meet this objective, the state could require a graduate move back to his original state for a certain period, or else the subsidy becomes a loan. A state might even get out of the college business altogether and distribute the savings to students for use as tuition elsewhere.

Clearly states are not likely to take this radical step, especially the ones that are better at football.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Garfield Minus Garfield Plus Dexter

What an inspired idea! Garfield the cat only makes commentary in thought bubbles, so the man in the cartoon is the only one actually speaking; he must be imagining the cat's comments. Remove the cat's imaginary words, and you can see the reality:

Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.
I have watched the show Dexter and thought how boring and tame Dexter must seem to his co-workers. His pithiness, keen observations, and insightful remarks are often buried in his inner monologue. The DVD set should have a bonus feature that lets the viewer experience Dexter as his friends might. That should really highlight the contrast of his true self.