Can we sell a good undergraduate degree for $10,000?

Dylan Matthews has an interesting discussion of a plan by Anya Kamenetz, you can read an outline of the plan here.  The upshot of her approach is that an entire degree can be done for 10k per student.  There is much in the plan I have sympathy for, and I do think higher education could be much cheaper and still serve most of its useful functions.  That said, I consider this specific proposal to involve some overselling.

Let me just pick up on the single sub-proposal closest to my life:

She [Kamenetz] would also abolish the major of “business,” the single most popular undergraduate major, but perhaps also the least rigorous, and which produces relatively poor-achieving students. Instead, she’d fold practical business classes into the economics major.

Let’s just, for the sake of argument, accept the premise of the business major being less rigorous at many schools.  I would not make such an incendiary claim myself, certainly not about my own school, but this is an exercise in logic, not empirics.

OK, so at many schools below the top, what would happen?  It would be simple: many of the former or would-have-been business majors would not be able to pass the mid- or upper-level classes of the economics major.  What then?

You can flunk out the less scholastically oriented business majors, which is probably not a good idea.

Or you could make all of those economics classes much easier, which is also probably not a good idea.  The better students lose out and the whole major becomes worth less money and also less prestigious for the school.  In essence you end up abolishing the economics major.

Or you can push the former business majors into some other easy major (communications? education?…those are againt purely hypothetical examples, please put aside the empirics).  That’s not the end of the world, but then the point of the exercise is less than clear.  If a lot of students want to be business majors, is it such a big educational gain to shovel them into some major they perhaps do not want and may also be less marketable?

The most likely outcome would be the creation of a multi-tiered economics major, with a harder track and easier track, labeled accordingly, a bit like the B.S. vs. the B.A., though different in the details.  Again, that is hardly the end of the world, and maybe the idea is worth considering, but at this point we must again ask where are the gains.  I have an idea: let’s call the less rigorous economics track the business major.  Or in the interests of the fig leaf producers, how about the business economics major?  The reality is that many schools do combine economics and business and they don’t seem to achieve major competitive or cost advantages in doing so; in fact they may be more likely to encounter clashes of mission and disagreements over what kind of faculty to hire.

(Are there big gains in overhead reduction from consolidating these two departments?  I don’t see it.  And note that some business schools which contain economics departments are broken down into “groups,” sometimes with semi-autonomous status to limit conflict and transactions costs, and that is going to bring back some overhead costs.)

And so on.  Many parts of such proposals cannot be readily translated into reality, at least not a reality where the cost of a four-year degree sinks to 10k total.  A big problem with a lot of “good ideas” for education is simply that (in various hypothetical universes) the students are not up to them.

Comments

The idea seems bizarre at the $10,000 price-point (sans subsidies). Even for a no-lab-work needed, low-capital-investment major, say History or English Lit.

I'll generously base it on a class-size of 60 students. That's an expense budget of $150k a year. Now how much, exactly does even a bare-minimal cover-all-required-classes team of, say, four "good" professors need to be paid a year? Forget, classroom-rent, heat, lights, projectors and all overheads.

I think the pricing is silly.

Adjunct professors earn 1,500-4,000 per course, according to Wikipedia. Adjunct professors could teach the 32 classes in a four-year undergraduate program for $100,000 or even less. Maybe this wouldn't be good, but note that expensive universities are already using adjuncts, as well as PhD students, to teach courses.

However, I think the best bet for delivering a $10,000 degree would be moving away from the traditional model.

Well, I didn't think our strategy for a "good undergraduate degree" was a course entirely taught by adjuncts. A full Professor, even for History, at a reasonably good University (say top 20 school) with maybe 10 years teaching experience should be making in the neighborhood of $70k is my guess.

Now if you are arguing we don't even need experience nor quality to deliver a good education, that's another story altogether.

Are courses taught by adjuncts lower quality, on average, than courses taught by tenured professors? On the one hand, professors have more experience and the people who get tenure should be the best people. On the other hand, job security can lead to low effort. And tenured professors may be more focused on the research and writing aspects of their jobs than teaching. Furthermore, because of the intense competition for academic jobs in many fields, highly talented people end up in adjunct roles.

You are probably right that this wouldn't be a workable model overall. But I wouldn't assume that it would lower quality.

Very few disciplinary problems with college students so classes could go to 100. Rental space is cheap and you could get professors to teach 9 credits a semester for about 150,000/year total compensation. So with summer classes each prof would teach 27 credit hours per year for 100 students. That would be (150,000/27)/100 = 56 multiply that times 30 credits per year = $1,666/year * 4 years = 6,667. That leaves $3,000 per student for class room rent and for overhead. It could be done if there were enough demand for it.

' I would not make such an incendiary claim myself, certainly not about my own school, but this is an exercise in logic, not empirics.'

Deciphering this line, using the old style GMU PR dept decoder ring, it would read like this - 'nobody here is silly enough to say in public what we say in private, but since this is an exercise in logic, you can all figure out what I really think, especially when anyone bothering to look at empirical data recognizes that business school is for signalling, not academic merit.'

Which is then, only as an exercise, backed up by the following line - 'OK, so at many schools below the top, what would happen? It would be simple: many of the former or would-have-been business majors would not be able to pass the mid- or upper-level classes of the economics major. What then?' See, the decoder ring still works - many business school students are a joke, unable to master a real academic subject, though no will make that claim in public, except as an exercise in logic, based on my empirical experience as a tenured member of the GMU Econ Dept. faculty.

The funny thing is, I almost wrote about how the communications or education students are the butt of jokes even among those in the business school, as part of the GMU PR Dept decoder ring base package, but it would have been stretching. Nonetheless, it is nice to see just how hard it is for anyone at GMU to resist such an empirical claim, while declaiming any intent to point out the reality (I haven't looked at the figures for the Education school for a couple of decades, but they were unbelievably low back in the late 80s/early 90s) - 'communications? education?…those are againt purely hypothetical examples, please put aside the empirics'.

But here is something not translated by my outdated decoder ring - 'the students are not up to them'. Or is this another subtle remark about average being over, and how the best students require more attention from star educators, whose pay should rise accordingly? Thus removing the idea of a fair priced education for a large number of people, and replacing it with expensive education for those that can afford it. Though with free online courses, provided by beneficient educators without any seeming motive involved at all, except the greater good of us all. Well, except for all those who couldn't learn it in the first place, of course.

It's blindingly obvious to me (I got both a Master in Econ and an MBA, both from non US top tier schools) it's blindingly obvious that business school is a lot less rigorous (it's also very obvious to me that econ is a lot less rigorous that STEM, BTW). However, it's not obvious to me that the top tier MBA's are necessarily weaker students than most economists.

I've definitely bitched and moaned about there being too many dumb people in both programs (I've only met a handful dumb STEM grads, though).

One distinction that must be kept in mind is the difference in quality of an undergrad business major versus an MBA.

Aside from the MBA vs undergrad issue, I think this discussion mostly pertains to students not attending top tier schools. We're not worried about the rigor of a Wharton undergrad.

Students really interested in doing "business" would be better off getting practical experience working at a real business, or doing some practical entrepreneurship in a supportive environment a la Y Combinator. Studying for a degree in "business" is indeed, at most schools, useless, beyond the signaling mechanism that one has graduated with a 4 year degree.

There would be a ready market in "applied" economics...I think there was even a degree program in that that used to advertise here. For example, I'm fascinated by economics books, love Freakonomics, and like to apply economics to everyday life. But advanced stuff puts me to sleep.

"Students really interested in doing “business” would be better off getting practical experience working at a real business, or doing some practical entrepreneurship in a supportive environment a la Y Combinator"

This appeal to real world experience being superior brings out the huge flaw in Tyler's argument (or rather, in Anya Kamenetz's argument, but Tyler could have been constructive in his criticism instead of just scoring points)

That flaw is that if you're worried about the performance of lower ranked schools in terms of educating students for the real world, then it's _economics_ that needs to go, not business. Students can get all the economics they'll ever need from "Armchair Economist", "Free to Choose" and the like.

More advanced economics can be relevant if you go into teaching, consulting (it enhances one's ability to bullshit) or the Federal Reserve bureaucracy -- but those are jobs that are mainly within the reach of elite school graduates. And elite schools feel no pressure to either eliminate economics or decrease their tuition.

Exactly. Not only are the non-signaling educational aspects of a "business" degree fairly worthless, but they are also unwanted. Few if any people want to major in business. Many people want a diploma* because that's what they need to get a job. They want to do as little work as possible getting it so as to leave time to enjoy the only pure free time they will have in their lives until retirement (if they make it that far). An inexpensive diploma mill has much to recommend it. We have plenty of diploma mills already (and not only in the much reviled for-profit sector) but fewer and fewer inexpensive ones.

That kind of institution complements rather than competes with MOOC type institutions that provide intrinsic benefits, but few signaling advantages. Get a four year vacation early in life and the necessary passport to work, then later on when you actually know what type of expertise you need go back and take some MOOCs to learn it.

* Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have! But they have one thing you haven't got - a diploma.

"I consider this specific proposal to involve some overselling"

Overselling is part of Kamenetz's mode d'emploi. Her book the Do It Yourself University was silly. However, it is good to see that (at least according to Matthews' article) she has backed off on her claims that online classes can replace bricks-and-mortar classes: "So Kamenetz wants to scale up blended learning through MOOCs, but not through relying exclusively on online classes, which tend to have huge dropout rates and abysmally low pass rates." She was wrong about online classes and I expect she's wrong about many of the claims in her proposal. (However MRU, Alex especially, still seem to be beating the drum for online classes, which are good only for relatively narrow ranges of students.)

It seems a bit premature to make claims about what/who MOOCs are good for. It's still very early in their use and development.

Somebody who can only afford $10,000 for a college degree likely needs to get a moderate paying job immediately upon graduation. How in the world does it make sense to deprive that fairly poor person of courses that have some connection to employment in favor of forcing them to study economics?

A better understanding of economics would be of considerable benefit to people at the lower end of the economic scale. And society in general.

Here is my proposal: shut down the bottom 30% of universities. There will be a net increase in overall education in the nation. Yes, increase. The bottom rung of students will get jobs and learn economically useful skills, while missing out on 4 years of indoctrination that makes them stupider for having attended college.

Yes, shutting down Liberty University ( with its 25% graduation rate after 4 years and 36 out of 100 ranking - http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/liberty-university-10392 ) would go a long way into solving the problem of students 'missing out on 4 years of indoctrination that makes them stupider for having attended college.'

While at it you could also prune a lot of the less employable majors.

There might, arguably, be some need for Womens'-Studies majors, but surely not as many as we seem to churn out.

Employable changes over time. The highest unemployment rates among recent college grads are in comp sci and architecture. There are many articles about the glut of STEM grads and how it's a myth that more STEM equals more and better jobs. Search for accounting jobs on indeed.com and then search for chemistry or biology jobs and you will understand why so many students choose business. There are far more jobs in business than economics and STEM.

People should study what they are good at and what they enjoy. Life is too short and unpredictable - and since average is over and most people are going to be working in low salary service jobs it doesn't really matter what you study in school anymore.

Search for accounting jobs on indeed.com and then search for chemistry or biology jobs and you will understand why so many students choose business. There are far more jobs in business than economics and STEM.

Looking at the number of jobs is only half the task. You also have to take into account the number of people with degrees in the different fields. I would imagine that business majors significantly outnumber chemistry majors.

Also have to look at the salaries. STEM salaries are not impressive (other than MDs) when you consider how much harder the material is vs accounting, finance, real estate, sales, etc. Our country doesn't reward science and has only recently rewarded computer science (high frequency trading - yay!) - it makes sense for average people such as myself to go into business vs. STEM. The only STEM folks I know who are financIally successful are MDs. It's a sin but that is capitalism.

"The only STEM folks I know who are financIally successful are MDs"

It's safe to say you don't live in the Bay Area. Or anyplace that produces or refines oil. Or anyplace that designs or manufactures any type of semiconductor or complex mechanical equipment. Granted, I don't know many engineers who make as much as, say, a cardiologist, but I know a lot who make more than a GP. And I know a couple of engineers who make cardiologist money (though all of them are senior managers at my employer and have either MBAs or law degrees too). An engineer who could make it through med school probably makes as much as a GP, without having to go to grad school. Based on my admittedly anecdotal evidence, an engineer with an MBA or law degree makes more than most doctors.

"There might, arguably, be some need for Womens’-Studies majors"

Not really, but it's important to note that for all the squealing about this type of degree, in the last 30 years grievance studies majors have gone from "practically unheard of" to "extremely rare".

@J1

Yes, you are correct - I do not live in those areas. Where I live most people work in FIRE or computer science. The comp science folks are doing great, but the bio/chem/neuro folks aren't doing so well. I don't know any petro/elec engineers. One complaint I've heard re: engineering is that the starting salaries are great, but the salaries plateau quickly, necessitating a move into management.

"the salaries plateau quickly, necessitating a move into management"

Agree completely, but isn't that normal career development in any field? A doctor who wants to make serious money needs to move into some sort of management, either by starting a business or joining a practice as, for practical purposes, a manager.

What are you talking about?

All area, ethnic, and civilization studies majors account for less than 0.3% of majors. Women's studies doesn't even show up as a discrete category. In contrast, 25% of all majors are some form of "business" major.

See Georgetown's "What's It Worth" study to see majors ranked by popularity.

Here is my proposal: move to a certificate system, instead of cramming every major into the same four-year model. Get rid of subsidized student loans; if you're in a major that will actually earn you money (and perform well) you will find backing. Maybe keep the subsidy for the base "general education" cert.

Wait, "business" is the single most popular undergraduate major? You're kidding me.

Last time I checked, 30% of undergraduate degrees were awarded in business. Much of the criticism of colleges by those on the right is based on the outdated notion that most students major in either liberal arts or STEM. The truth is that most students major in subjects that were not even offered 50 years ago and still are not offered at selective colleges and universities. Or, even worse, Conservative critics blame worthless women's studies and similar ethnic studies majors for all the problems young college graduates have finding work. So few people actually major in women's studies that, if you took every single person who graduated with a women's studies degree last year, it would not equal the number of people who graduated with a business degree at one of the largest public universities.

You showed that straw man who's boss.

You know, if "business" means four years of accounting, I can see the value. If its just liberal arts without the liberal arts (meaning the same old "It doesn't matter what your degree is in, as long as you have the BA after your name", but without any actual content for its own sake, even), that's pretty much a big grift, isn't it?

Or have we really reached the point where you can't move into management at, say, Walmart, without your degree in business? I'm not saying retail management is not a hard job -- I'm saying it seems ridiculous to think a BA is going to be the difference between being good or bad at it.

Re: Walmart, it's probably a combination of signaling and the ability to cash in on a terrible job market. The degree signals a certain level of literacy and since so many college grads are out of work Walmart can insist on a college degree. And everyone gets pushed to the left of the income curve, the college grads take the jobs that used to go to HS grads.

Believe it, but find it sad and a sign of a seriously disordered economy, it's essentially paying into the system to get a place in it, very Sopranos.

Sadly, (undergrad) business has replaced the less rigorous humanities as the default backup major for students who can't handle more difficult majors. If you got rid of the business major, the most likely scenario would not be that a two-tier econ major developed, but that the backup major path returned to its original configuration. Tyler, stop worrying.

This can be done, and with a little more time and a blend of MOOC and traditional models, will happen. It would happen faster if the government didn't facilitate so much "aid" (mostly loans) that inflates price (well, sticker + variable pricing). Someone will solve the prestige/signalling issue (either one of the big brands will break ranks (that's starting with their participation in MOOCs), or someone'll pull away enough quality/prestige professors to build prestige that way (my understanding is Chinese universities have been doing this). Once employers start accepting an alternative degree, look out below (on price).

Funny, the econ/business funneling worked precisely the opposite way at my undergrad school (Michigan). The BBA program was very competitive -- students applied for it during their sophomore year after taking a few prerequisite courses. The majority of people who weren't accepted to the BBA program for their final two years ended up being econ majors. I think the undergrad econ program is supposed to be ok at UM (not great), but it was definitely viewed as less prestigious than business. Most kids viewed the BBA as their path to more money and a first step toward applying to MBA programs a few years later. It would seem to me this is also the case at quite a few other schools.

Yup. Same deal at Illinois. Undgrad business majors pay $5K more per year than LAS too.

I was an Econ major at Fancy U- not very rigorous.

I thought psychology was the most popular major. It is also one with the worst job prospects.

Psychology is probably the most popular of the liberal arts majors, but most college students these days are not majoring in any of the traditional liberal arts majors. Instead they're majoring in business, health professions, education, or other pre-professional programs. And yes I think the surveys show that psychology majors have the lowest salaries; dunno about employment rates.

Biz, then psych, according to this:

http://www.princetonreview.com/college/top-ten-majors.aspx

Of course, in terms of logic AND empirics, education is the least rigorous field of all: the Kamenetz approach seems to support that assertion unambiguously.

Please - go spend a year teaching in an underachieving urban school and then tell me it's not one of the hardest jobs out there. I highly recommend Confessions of a Bad Teacher - it will blow your mind.

How does the difficulty of the subsequent job have anything to say about the rigor of the prior education?

Undergrad teaching programs involve student teaching - it is extremely challenging.

...which says nothing about rigor. Oops!

Vern, I think you may have a very narrow definition of rigorous. Practical experience in the precise setting you are being trained to work in is quite rare in most undergrad majors. Teaching is one of the exceptions.

The original statement was: "... education is the least rigorous field of all", it's possible that's incorrect, but if so, it's not far off.

Attempts to conflate how hard the job is in practice with the educational rigor needed to get a degree are missing the point.

He didn't write that teaching was easy, he wrote that the college programs claiming to teach the teachers are mostly worthless, and he is correct.

I'd have to agree, although my program was years ago.

Our state put in a safety net testing program before licensing teachers, they had to pass a basic grammar and mechanics test after all the college work was complete. I was told it was its level was eighth grade, and I believed it. When I went to take the test, the line was long with many people taking it for the second (or perhaps third or fourth) time.

I got one piece of information out of one education class that applied to classroom teaching.

Of course, maybe I'm the exception or unteachable, but at the time I was teaching it was pretty common knowledge the ed classes were nothing but expensive hoops.

Student teaching might be difficult or not, but I would not consider it intellectually rigorous -- unless you consider grunts in no man's land to be doing rigorous academic work. Keeping your head down is is more a gut thing.

Over half of undergrad education majors never become teachers, and most high school content teachers didn't major in education.

Education credentialing occurs outside of ed school, with the credential tests. SATs for elementary school teachers are slightly lower than college graduate average, for high school teachers well above the average in the subject taught (except math teachers, who are above average in both). Using the hiring numbers or SAT numbers of undergrad ed majors has nothing to do with teacher hiring.

http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/teacher-quality-pseudofacts-part-ii/
http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/teacher-quality-pseudofacts/

Are education classes valuable in the intellectual sense? Not really. Not in the sense you mean it. But in terms of building a foundation of knowledge and opinion that teachers build on? Yeah, a bit.

When I was at Rice many many years ago, there was no "business" major, and so they actually did have two economics majors like you describe. The "for everyone" degree was called "economics", while the degree you took if you want to (say) go to grad school was called "mathematical economic analysis". There was also something called "managerial studies", which seemed mostly geared toward "student-athletes".

Other (prominent) universities still do this. UCLA has Economics and Business Management Economics. UCSC has Economics and Business Economics. I recall seeing places where it was just Econ, but you could do it for a BS or a BA, with the BS targeted more towards developing you for graduate work.

Econ profs are cheaper than business profs, that's where the gains are.

Many of these criticisms assume that the student body at the $10,000 school will resemble that at many state universities and the like: some very bright and hard-working kids and some lazy and/or not so bright ones. Why assume that? Perhaps separate schools, some for excellent students and others for the not-so-excellent, would be a sensible way to go. The thing I liked best about my own undergrad school was that none of my classmates were dumb, and, after the first year sort-out, none were unwilling to do the work. It made it a lot easier to take the pretty heavy workload. And we didn't have business or education majors.

Lol - probably the funniest post I have ever read on a message board.

Ok, I can't resist. If none of your classmates were dumb..............it was you!

10k? Works fine in Germany for a 3-year bachelor's. Granted, class size is regularly 150-500 (rarely drops below 40 even for arcane topics) and the professors are either civil servants or postdoc teaching slaves.

Prof. Cowen is a civil servant (with fantastic job security due to tenure), paid by the Commonwealth of Virginia for his teaching at GMU.

It's interesting how someone can be literally right but totally wrong on every point.

Not clear to me how getting rid of the biz degree reduces costs. It's only one of the many fairly bogus majors at many schools. The burgeoning shock waves that are pulsing through the ed system are going to blow up the whole concept of "degree". It will be replaced by credentials for specific, standard knowledge/skill sets. If there aren't very many of those in what is now a degree, the amount of time/cost that it takes to earn the corresponding credentials will reflect that. I.e., "4 year biz degree" may be obsolete, to be replaced by "12 biz credentials earned over 18 months".)

The 10k degree is going to become the new normal. Modern, fully-digital students want their content (teaching) on-demand and on their mobiles. Delivering that to the millions costs very little. With proper incentives (see video games) those millions will learn very quickly and by "doing". As AIO describes, even bad students display all kinds of motivation in the right context. School have to figure out how to tap that.

And of course, many institutions have arteries so hardened that they will die rather than move to the new way. Maybe 50% will go?

And of course, many institutions have arteries so hardened that they will die rather than move to the new way. Maybe 50% will go?

If that 50% includes governmental institutions, they may not "go" in your lifetime or mine, since there is no market forces involved to enforce change.

"I would not make such an incendiary claim myself, certainly not about my own school, but this is an exercise in logic, not empirics."

Wow Tyler really turned the Straussian dial up to 11 with that statement.

Aren't we likely to just shift a lot of the cost?

There are a lot of states now paying for kids to do dual credit, saving money on teaching them high school courses by essentially outsourcing basic courses to the state university and community college system, largely online.

My kid will be able to get probably much of her last two years of high school and first year or two of college done on mostly the state's dime, if she wants to, starting in a couple years.

At that point large populations of students will not be looking at how to pay for a BA with $10, but how to pay for the last two years of the BA with whatever. I'm sure there will still be some competitive advantage to the signalling of doing it the old way, but I doubt it will be enough to overcome the advantage of leaving college without massive debt.

And at some point it we may switch over to where hiring employers will look at a 22 year old with a $150,000 BA and toss his resume because he's obviously not as smart as the guy who got his ticket to the middle class for only $20,000 at the age of 20, or at 22 with a year of real world apprenticeship, internship, or other experiential learning.

Tsk tsk - you must mean "hiring algorithms"

Unless I missed it, Tyler is skating the real issue, and allowing Kamenetz do the same. Tyler seems to assume that the kids would just redirect, and points out the problems, arguing that keeping business degrees is a wash. I'm not sure why Tyler is assuming that Kamenetz is only calling for an end to business majors. If so, the obvious argument is not "the kids will just move elsewhere" but "why not end all the degrees that have low standards and rigor?" and, perhaps, questions Kamenetz's objectivity. Perhaps Kamenetz just has it in for business majors.

But leaving Kamenetz out of it, why would Tyler argue in favor of keeping low ability students in college? Why not ensure that no students who can't maintain a certain level of rigor, regardless of the major, should not be allowed to attend college?

That seems to me the obvious question for both--is the problem *who* is going to college, or the majors that have arisen to handle them?

Here's an even cheaper way to do college: Give each student a library card and tell him to come back whenever he likes and if he passes an exam (which costs extra to take), we give him a degree.

CLEP won't get you all the way to a degree, but it is along the same lines you are recommending.

The University of London and Heriot-Watt University offer degrees up to MBA by a similar procedure.

I like your suggestion, but don't think the library is even necessary.

My 4 year CUNY business degree was something like $12K back in the late 1990s. Large class sizes, many adjuncts, no real campus, no frills.

Returning to Tyler's logic exercise... one way to solve the problem of what to do with today's business majors (or any low-achieving group of students) without lowering the quality of the education you give is to simply not admit them.

This is my best proposition, but college has attained a mythical "intrinsic good" status in our society. Logically speaking there is no reason people not in the top ten percent of the grades/intelligence should go to a university. Trade and technical schools can handle most of it, even some of the higher end stuff like programming. Apprenticeships the rest. The dilution of the talent pool will eventually lead to a devaluing of the degree. But what are you going to do? The "happy ending" of every popular teen movie in the past forty years has been the protagonist going to college. It's ingrained now.

Yeah, from that side.

But there's an inherent bug in the system, every overpriced tuition is an incentive for a college to expand its student body population and even adjust its standards for admission. I realize there are counter-incentives with pricing, but that's more long term and unless your school's expensive reputation is really based on performance and job placement (instead of on, say, tradition or branding or the football team) there will be weaknesses in the counter-incentives.

I don't see how there can be a solution for that, in the whole system. You can't expect a university, which is a business, to turn down a bunch of extra money.

The student loan system has wrecked much of higher education. Or at least helped it wreck itself.

I'm sure we could *sell* an undergraduate degree for $10,000; hell, why not $5,000? But that's not really the issue, is it? The issue is whether we could *produce* an undergraduate degree for $10,000.

And note that Kementz intends all her proposals to apply to *public* institutions, leaving private schools (especially the Ivies and their ilk) untouched. What she proposes is good enough for the masses, but not for the elite, is, I think the message. Yet another way of creating inequality...

The economists would drown the business students with calculus and run off most of them.

Calculus is to business what a bicycle is to a hog - worthless.

But the economists could smirk a lot.

Then the administrators would have a fit about lower retention rates and the business major would be reinstated.

I wonder. Are there a disproportionate number of top entepreneurs, or even CEOs, who have degrees in economics?

If you are running a business, is a rigorous knowledge of macro all that useful?

Not sure about other publics, but UOregon required two years of "business calculus" as part of their major. As far as I could discern, it was pretty much the same thing as the general Calc courses, but with story problems and economic terminology thrown in. The normal math courses turned out to be the better deal as they were credited prerequisites for a far greater amount of majors. In my experience, most Sophomores really haven't committed to one area of study or the other; it is best to keep your options open.

I was an Econ major, but I think the sneering of econ folks at business majors here is kind of pathetic.

'Business' covers a variety of majors. Accounting is an excellent major, harder and more useful than Econ.

Agreed - my "business" degree included lots of Econ. The Finance and Accounting classes were totally legit although the marketing and management classes were soft. But plenty of non-technical folks in my neck of the woods are making tons of money via online advertising, so the marketing classes really are important these days - they just need to be tailored to the digital world. The management classes are probably the least useful and rigorous.

Top quality liberal arts colleges do not have business majors yet their graduates manage to perform well in private business careers. They major in all sorts of areas, economics, political science, art, psychology, etc. They end up as CEOs of major corporations. Indeed, kill undergrad business schools / departments. The economy would be better off and so would those schools and universities.

If the students are not up to them, let them starve and their jobs taken by higher-achieving students from elsewhere. Even if their skins are not as prestigiously pale, and their pronunciation a crime against the English language.

"Business" is not a single discipline like Economics. At least at my school it includes finance, accounting, logistics, operations research, management and human resources. These latter span a wide range of difficulty and employer demand.

Indeed. Many schools actually have Econ rolled into their business schools; this more expedient than having Econ in a general letters and sciences school to me, as many of the prerequisite courses between Econ and the Business majors overlap anyway.

I know you said this wasn't empirical, but. Does an economics degree actually lead to greater returns than a business degree?

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