Category: Economics

The U.S. Senate’s bipartisan “task force” committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), released its report on ways Congress and the U.S. Department of Education could streamline and hopefully reduce federal regulations now overwhelming America’s 6,000 colleges and universities–especially the nation’s approximately 4,000 private institutions–while still protecting students and holding schools accountable to taxpayers.

According to the committee’s press release, “The task force’s objective was to provide specific recommendations on reducing, eliminating or streamlining duplicative, costly or confusing regulations and reporting requirements to Congress and the administration in anticipation of the ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

Senate education committee Chairman Alexander said, “The stack of federal regulations on colleges and universities today, which stretches as tall as I am, is simply the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden. This report will guide our efforts to weed the garden and allow colleges to spend more of their time and money educating students, instead of filling out mountains of paperwork.”

Alexander announced a hearing on February 24 to discuss the findings of the report.

You can read the committee’s report here in pdf.


Academic specialization and task-specific career training has had the unintended negative consequence of narrowing and restricting our culture’s perspective on the world. That “narrow-sightedness” spawns narrow-mindedness and decreases our ability to anticipate and adapt to change, to think creatively “outside the box,” or to engage meaningfully, fruitfully with others outside our own narrow spheres. This approach to education and training has produced fewer, not more, creative problem solvers and visionary leaders and weakened our social, political and ecclesiastical communities. We have a generation that knows only how to look through a pipe darkly. As a culture, we have no peripheral vision. It is self-inflicted cultural blindness.

The modern university has made academic and vocational specialization a cultural norm.

College students are pressed from Day One (of high school actually) to declare-and fixate-on their “majors,” their supposedly long-term career goals, as if little else mattered. Short-sighted businesses and HR offices look for graduates who can fill the pigeon hole of immediate need. They often treat graduates (from assembly-line degree mills) like replaceable parts. If the freshly minted graduate doesn’t work out so well, they toss him or her out and grab another narrowly trained fresh-faced widget off the academic shelf.

The results have not been pretty.

We do not have better educated students, a more skilled workforce, or a more informed citizenry. Instead, we have a generation of mostly instrumental functionaries with tunnel vision. They may know how to look through and navigate the tiny world within the narrow confines of “their little pipe,” their niche area of specialization, but they are pretty much useless beyond it. There they are condemned to be little more the dutiful consumers of the commodities of our increasingly secular culture. They have not been equipped to be makers or shapers of culture. To the contrary, they don’t have right intellectual breadth or cultural horsepower for that higher level of engagement.

But they can feel pretty darn good about themselves when compared to the bar set by “Dumb and Dumber To” in the theaters.

Academic specialization and task-specific career training has had the unintended negative consequence of narrowing and restricting our culture’s perspective on the world. That “narrow-sightedness” spawns narrow-mindedness and decreases our ability to anticipate and adapt to change, to think creatively “outside the box,” or to engage meaningfully, fruitfully with others outside our own spheres of training and function. This approach to education and training has weakened our social, political and ecclesiastical communities to such an extent that it will take years to repair the damage, even if we could change things tomorrow.

We have a generation of university graduates who know only how to look through a pipe darkly. As a culture, we have no peripheral vision. Ours is self-inflicted cultural blindness.

Historically, the integrated classical Christian liberal arts have provided the world with men and women who have peripherial vision, who see the relationships between different aspects of life, who can anticipate change, who solve problems creatively, and who understand the bigger picture. The liberal arts help them understand where they are on the map of life and creation, where they’re headed, and why. Classical liberal arts graduates are some of the few who have a wide-angle perspective and peripheral vision to lead and to shape culture today. We need more. Many more.

Next Entry: Recovering Peripheral Vision 

If you’ve been looking at college costs lately, you know it isn’t pretty out there. But it’s encouraging to see just how well NSA stacks up against both its private Christian peers and our regional state-funded universities and colleges.

The bottom line is this: the net price for attending New Saint Andrews College for one year is almost $8,000 less than the average comparable Christian college and only about $2,000 more, on average, than our closest regional state universities and colleges.

But the biggest (and often hidden) difference shows up on the matter of student debt. New Saint Andrews College offers no federal or commercial bank loans, so our students (freshmen to seniors) simply accumulate no debt burden. By contrast, students at comparable Christian colleges end up with an average of almost $16,000 of debt in their freshman year alone! Students at our closest regional public universities aren’t much better off: the average public university full-time freshman can expect to be almost $14,000 in debt at the end of his or her first year. No wonder total student debt now exceeds the nation’s total credit card debt.

So not only does New Saint Andrews have one of the lowest tuition rates and average net prices (after financial aid) among most public and private colleges and universities in the United States, its tuition is less than what the average full-time freshman will accumulate in loan debt at those other institutions. NSA is simply a great value.

The numbers pretty much speak for themselves (and, yes, please do read the fine print!):

Why NSA is the Best Value Averages Chart

A new Gallup Poll of college presidents confirms what I have said for years:  Colleges generally do a poor job of preparing students for specific jobs. Worse, universities and colleges that stress job training usually hurt students by neither training them well nor educating them well. The dominant vocational-training model of higher education today may have high student (and parent) appeal, but it sells students short by failing to deliver on the skills and it buries them in a mountain of debt in the process.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, nearly nine in 10 college presidents said in the survey that an emphasis on “critical thinking” skills and personal development is very important preparation for graduates to get jobs, but only about 40 percent think their own institutions are very effective at providing students with those skills, which are so necessary for success in any career.

801 presidents from a variety of American colleges and universities completed the survey in May and June 2014.

The survey shows that while most universities try to train their students with skills for the job market, a significant number of presidents acknowledge their institutions do a poor job of doing it. The irony is that most colleges and universities today boast to prospective students that they are essential training camps for future job seekers. Shockingly, a significant number of the presidents surveyed don’t actually believe their own institution’s recruiting hype.

According to IHE, 78 percent of presidents surveyed said that providing internships that apply what students learn to “the real world” is very important, yet only 38 percent reported that their institutions do that very well. Put another way, 72 percent of the institutions represented in the survey aren’t very good at giving students what they claim to be giving them.

The survey reveals that university presidents of voc-tech-oriented institutions are now admitting that the model they’ve been operating under is not working and that students aren’t getting what they’re paying for.

“This calls for a serious change,” said John Pryor, a senior researcher at Gallup who specializes in higher education.

The change, I’d suggest, is returning to the classical Christian model of liberal arts education that educates well the whole person for all of life, not just for narrowly defined, here-today-gone-tomorrow careers.

For more on this survey, see Presidents concerned about job training

According to Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a surprise ruling last Thursday, barred the government from requiring Wheaton College to fill out a form in order to be exempt from the new federal requirement that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes contraceptive coverage.

The Supreme Court order says that Wheaton needs only to inform the government that it has religious objections to parts of the health care law. Wheaton argued that requiring the College to fill out the form clashed with their religious freedom and the heath coverage in question violated its religious beliefs. The Obama administration tried to offer  a compromise on the health care law, but a number of religiously based colleges and organizations rejected the idea that they need not pay for contraception directly, but cover it indirectly under their insurance plans.

Read more at Supreme Court orders government not to require Wheaton College to fill out form on health insurance coverage.

New report says “desparate” U.S. universities are turning to for-profit businesses to help them boost their international student enrollments as they face deeper budget cuts and sagging finances and enrollments.

News | Times Higher Education.

This terrific graphic by Ben Schmidt is a terrific visualization of how college majors pursue various careers and professions. The data behind the graphic is from the American Community survey. The left side identifies the college majors (in large groupings) and the right side shows the common professions actually pursued by these graduates.

The width of each stream shows how many people with a particular major are working in that field. Hold your cursor over the graph to follow specific subfields and career trajectories.

Schmidt has also broken down the data more narrowly to specific subspecializations here.  And he has another graphic showing the change of college degrees over time.

Graphic: Majors to careers visualization.

Thx to Micah Mattix and Prufrock at The American Conservative

The American Center for School Choice and the Commission on Faith-based Schools has released a disturbing report, Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future that notes faith-based schools are disappearing due to increased internal financial pressures and the external drains “free” (tax-funded) government alternatives, such as charter schools, are causing on school enrollments.

Funding continues to be the thorniest issue. For faith-based schools, however, the solution will not be found in direct financial support from state or federal government sources (other people’s tax dollars). That will only develop further dependency of faith-based institutions on government, which inevitably has unwanted and anti-faith strings attached.

What is needed, instead, is a new model of education funding, wherein the states do not privilege secular education with full funding from a state-based coercive tax system (which drains families of faith and others who prefer alternatives to the statist education system), but allows all families full educational choice to send their children to any schools they wish and can afford. The statist education system is threatened by that approach, but undoing the hegemony of state-based education is the only way to stop the continued decline in K-12 education in the U.S.

Allowing people the full freedom to vote with their feet and their pocketbooks (and not be forced to support the current statist system through coercive taxation) will result in a stronger, healthier and higher quality primary and secondary (and post-secondary) education system for all in the long run.

A new long-term report indicates that liberal arts graduates may start off slower than their undergraduate peers who specialize in other fields, but they tend to make up ground over the years and make more money than those who studied professional and pre-professional programs by the time they reach their mid-50s. The study was a joint effort by Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

According to a story in Inside Higher Ed,

“Liberal arts majors may start off slower than others when it comes to the postgraduate career path, but they close much of the salary and unemployment gap over time, a new report shows.

“By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money than those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates. But that’s just one part of the paper’s overall argument that concerns about the value of a liberal arts degree “are unfounded and should be put to rest. [emphasis added]

“That’s a myth out there – that somehow if you major in humanities, you’re doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life. This suggests otherwise,” said Debra Humphreys, a co-author of the report and vice president for policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “That sort of journey to professional success is more of a marathon than a sprint.”

The report, “How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment,” includes U.S. Census data from 2010 and 2011 . . . . Humphreys and her co-author, Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at NCHEMS, looked at long-term career path and salary data as an answer to the many short-term studies on recent graduates that have fueled the assertion that liberal arts graduates are disproportionately un- or underemployed.”

For the full Inside Higher Ed article, go here: How liberal arts grads really fare, report examines long-term data.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new report tracking non-college-degree credentials in the marketplace. According to the report, 50 million adults hold some form of non-degree-based credential that qualifies them for employment and boosts their earnings.

What this report also suggests, though doesn’t state, is that a college degree isn’t the only ticket to the workforce or lucrative employment. The necessity of a college degree for employment or professional career has been highly overrated and overstated, especially by higher ed industry itself, for years. Moreover, the report weakens the decades-long criticisms by vocationalists and academic specialists against a liberal arts education as an obstacle to meaningful and fruitful employment.

The Census report notes that 11.2 million adults, who have a high school diploma or less, earned professional certificates or licenses without a college degree. Approximately 5 percent of working-age Americans have not attended college, yet have earned some form of work-related professional credential beyond high school.

According to the report, “If this alternative credential were incorporated into an expanded measure of education, these 11.2 million people might be recategorized into the ‘more than high school’ category, representing a shift of almost 5 percent of the adult population.”

The report also showed that those who hold non-degree credentials have the potential for higher earnings. Generally, full time employees who hold some form of alternative credential earned more than those without.

The full U.S. Census Bureau report can be found here: Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials: 2012:  Household Economic Studies.