Degrees in Demand

For a highly specialized Bachelor’s or Master’s in half the time, or less, with high income potential, no student debt.

Below, you’ll find the Reasoning & Rationale to what we call a Bill-Request. Once certain milestones are met, as defined HERE, lawyers will be called upon to draft what will then become a Bill-Demand to Congress and the President.

Published in 2015

This is our call for a new and inexpensive plus intensive and purpose-driven FEDERAL system to educate those amongst us yearning to earn a SPECIALIZED Bachelor’s or Master’s degree — one that’ll have a terrific job waiting at the end of it — in a lot less less time than it’s taking now.

We need a new kind of college and university graduate. We need to get our most determined and our most indefatigable, or our brilliant, out of prolonged stays in institutions of higher education, and into production on behalf of the country, ASAP.

To complement – and not replace – the current system that yields an undergraduate degree in about 4 years and a graduate degree in about 2 years, we need to consider the options of 1-and-2-year Bachelor’s degrees, and 6-month and 1-year Master’s degrees, of an intensity never before contemplated, with up to 60 hours in class per week, in a 6-day week, with instructors of the highest qualification, brought in to teach from industry and abroad.

And let those degrees be in the APPLIED – applied, that is, to the needs of a technology-linked, robotics-infused, manufacturing-centric, and services-supported economy, wherein the employed are specialists at something that the world’s consumers need and demand.

And let these Applied Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees be awarded tuition-free (and low cost in every other way) to those who graduate surpassing a reasonably good G.P.A.

Where would such a university system find funding for such charity? In the Economic Party blueprint for its Treasury, and its plan to dramatically augment the receipts of the Treasury, currently funded by a tax base that — on a pie chart — is merely a sliver of a vastly expanded tax reservoir waiting to be harvested. (That blueprint can be found HERE.)

Remember: Republicans and Democrats have had no problem putting up trillions of dollars to save the hides of bankers, so why not put-up less to lift the livelihood of our workforce, present and projected? Why not put-up less to advance the sustenance and well-being of their families?

Part 1:

In the 1-year Bachelor’s programs, how about classes that run for 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, for all students enrolled in the intensified curriculum. For those having a hard time keeping up with the accelerated pace, how about the 7th day devoted to helping them out . So dense should the demands be on the enrolled, that only the most dedicated, industrious, and tireless — or the brightest, sharpest, and fastest — make it through to graduation. (Not everyone can be extra-smart, but just about everyone can be extra-hardworking — the federal system envisioned will have no place for someone that’s neither.) Those on student aid who make it through to graduation and score above a predetermined GPA, should be awarded an exit that is instantly student-loan debt-free.

As for the 2-year Bachelor’s program, that would be for those who wish to take it a bit slower, have extra-curricular demands on their time (family/job/sport), or desire a broader base of study above-and-beyond a core Applied (someone who wants to study and master a few major foreign languages, for example — languages that might be in demand with recruiters at multinational corporations, perhaps.)

Of course, there’ll be lots of burnouts in the 1-year Bachelor’s sprint. But just as there are lots of aspiring Seals who flame out through Hell Week, the idea is to extract the best at the finish line, as fast as possible. And, by the best, again we do not mean just the advanced-IQ types (not everyone’s born with that), but more the very-hardworking (every student can muster that, if his or her mind is set to it). Smarts and wits will help, but so will endurance, want and willpower. And, again, to make sure the federal government does not sponsor and foster centers of higher learning geared solely for the gifted, let the 7th day (of the 6-day class week) be for teachers & tutors to work with those wanting to get ahead but falling behind.

Let the price tag for all accelerated degrees cost only a fraction of what the traditional degrees cost. How? There are lots of ways to contain costs without jeopardy to quality. (On this, much can be learned from some of the best institutions of advanced study abroad, like the world-renowned Indian Institutes of Technology.) And, to repeat, if there are loans taken by students from financially limited, middle class and poor families, let those loans be forgiven for all those who exceed a defined standard of performance.

In this vision, there’ll still be private and state institutions providing 4-year Liberal Arts Bachelor’s degrees and 2-year Master’s degrees for those who want that, but there’ll also be: federal universities, instructor-staffed by some of the best teachers and professors, industrialists and entrepreneurs the planet has to offer, competing with those America has to offer at competitive rates, providing students with a superhighway, an Autobahn, with no toll booths along the way to take their money, or slow them down, so that they may get to productive capacity on behalf of the US economy, in little time and little debt if any.

A mountain of student debt, a trillion dollars high and climbing, in a good-jobs-harder-to-get economy, as our current DC minders have bequeathed upon us, is NOT the answer.

More multi-year student loans, that jack up the cost of education, is NOT the answer.

Parents still paying off old student loans while their kids are taking on new student loans, is a system that must have been designed by the loan-providers and their behind-the-scenes surrogates, i.e. the usual suspects. And if the loan-guarantors happen to be the nation’s taxpayers, as they increasingly are, even worse.

State and community colleges, with budgets tethered to funding from local and property taxes, are in and of themselves inadequate. We cannot have one part of the country, in good economic and real estate straits, providing better quality education to its students than another.

Again, we must dispatch as many of our young adults as possible, to work and build America, much earlier in their lives, and with a whole lot less debt, if any.

Part 2:

To put all of the aforementioned in real-time perspective, take a look at what’s happening now:

State universities are raising tuition and fees. As of this writing, across the country the average raise is over 8%. California is seeing over 20% (no wonder Sacramento has had so many angry students encircling its Capitol Rotunda)

State tuitions are now a quarter of median income earned by families in a year. (The ratio’s been rising fast since the housing bubble burst and spawned a crisis.) It used to be a tenth of median income before the bubble topped, and less before the bubble began. You can thank the Federal Reserve for that.

States’ commitments to higher education saw especially sharp cuts in 2009, 2010, and 2011. As for those who blew the housing bubble and spawned the crisis (i.e. bankers lurking behind the student loan providers and their government enablers), they’re doing fine. You can thank the Federal Reserve for that too.

As of this writing, Americans owe an average of $27,000 (and climbing) in student loans. By Dec 2012, student loan debt exceeded both auto loan debt and credit card debt. Taking out persons over 55 years of age and under 22 years of age, about 1-in-5 have two or more outstanding student loans. The delinquency rate has increased by near 50% since the real estate bubble burst. Since that bubble burst, student debt on average has risen 60%. In the early 1980s, medical students averaged under $20,000 in debt. That’s up near eightfold now, and climbing. Law students have watched tuition costs quadruple in just the last two decades.

Meantime, with student loan balances at a trillion dollars, and about a quarter of student borrowers past due, student loan providers and their financiers are hocking even more student debt, emboldened by politicians, including presidents, serving up taxpayers as backstops.

By 2012, the federal government was issuing near all the student loans (all but six or seven percent). Result: an emboldened Education Establishment hiking tuitions, raising salaries, and going from what should be a public service to living the high life.

We don’t mean to over-generalize here, but the Higher-Ed Establishment has gotten off very well in the new arrangement, at the expense of students and taxpayers whose fates are irrevocably intertwined (as we shall show you, below, under part 8). Matter of fact, while debt-overburdened college grads are struggling with unrelenting real income erosion, a great many Ed-Establishment insiders and administrators are enjoying ever-climbing golden paydays these days. According to a report by the Spectrem Group, of all the 2011 households in the US with between $1 million and $5 million in net worth, excluding primary residence, educators came in second place, comprising 12% of those millionaires, well ahead of corporate executives at 7%, and double the number of entrepreneurs & business owners (at 6%). Pretty darn amazing, we’d say. We didn’t realize teaching had become such an awesome path to millionairedom.

Housing was a bubble. Education is another bubble. In each case, the bubble’s enriched the few. And, in each case, the rest were left holding the bag. Homeowners and students have much in common, in this sense.

Part 3a:

To contemplate:

While real government spending on education increased about 1200% over the last 60 years, and politicians of both stripes have to no end pushed the value of education and the notion of “investment” in education, scores on standardized tests have languished. Over those 60 years, measures of human capital have languished. Measures of the value of the degree, and the return on it, have languished.

And while some who subsist, or earn interest off government’s “investment” in education, have enjoyed the largesse, students today, yesterday, and the day before, are worse off, more in debt, underpaid, and increasingly underemployed.

With a 13-fold increase in taxpayer spending on “investment” in education, we know who’s made off on that investment. Their return has been stellar. With taxpayers in the loop, how could it not be?

Makes you wonder if it’s all a racket.

Actually, we don’t wonder.

If they could’ve, we’d bet the racketeers would’ve made the Bachelor’s Degree a 6-year or even 8-year debt-financed ordeal, instead of just 4.

Part 3b:

While the price of attending a 4-year college has risen by 128 percent since 1980, the return on education “investment” has fallen, and measures of critical thinking / complex & deductive reasoning / logical processing, and a host of advanced cognitive skills of America’s students, have dwindled.

In the early 1980s, 43 percent of instructors were adjunct professors. Not to generalize, because in every bag of apples you’ll find the rotten ensconced among the good, but that percentage has risen dramatically since, as many of the tenured have incrementally sidelined themselves from teaching, with a lot of them not just teaching less but ‘consulting’ more — matter of fact, they can now often be found extolling the virtues of the oligarchs and oligarchies they’ve been lucratively ‘consulting’ for. Charles Ferguson’s documentary “Inside Job” put the flicker of a lighter on some of this.

Which is why it is imperative that: All ‘experts’ rendering expertise to, submitting briefs to, or testifying before any governmental body, in a regulatory proceeding especially, must at their presentation/hearing divulge, for the public record, all their sources of income (both tangible and intangible) that represent probable and even possible conflicts of interest. Academic ‘experts’ — professors of finance, economics, law and public policy, in particular — must also be held to the highest standard of disclosure in this regard.

Part 3c:

Not to bundle all internships into the same bag, but the spread in internships, the exploding trendline for what is in essence unpaid labor in exchange for university ‘credits’, is looking a lot like a racket too.

In the early 1980s, less than 1-in-20 grads underwent an internship. Three decades later, 17 in 20 had undergone one.

To put it bluntly, just about every student is now paying to work, versus getting paid to work. Some fat-cat university financiers and their litter of fat-kitten university administrators now routinely urge students to perform multiple internships as prerequisites to hire.

Part 4:

If there are motivated adults, middle-aged and older, that are out of work or can’t find work, and happen to be willing and wanting to put themselves up to the challenge of their younger peers, let us find ways to accommodate them, and include them in this federal university system. Let us see that their families are fed and sheltered, if necessary, through their commitment to a highly concentrated regimen of supra-quality education or re-education.

In Sep 2011, the number of ‘out of work more than 6 months’ shot up 208,000 to 6.24 million, 44.6% of the total that is officially recognized as unemployed. (The unofficial unrecognized number is a national shame.) The average duration of unemployment rose to 40.5 weeks. 4.4 million have been unemployed for a year or more. The trajectory for this category of the jobless has been clear and one-directional for years now. If we don’t get on top of this, as if it were a crisis of the utmost priority, we risk dooming a lot of these human beings to poverty. Their children — our children — must be spared such plight.

Part 5:

We must, as a nation, encourage the early and advanced learning of mathematics and science for our young, in particular applied mathematics and applied science.

As a nation, we allocate way too much of everything to song and dance — just turn on the TV for kids and teens, and you get the picture.

Sure, the fun stuff is an integral part of growing up, but its over-allocation is setting our kids up for competitive disadvantage against students in major economies as well as emerging economies.

It’s documented fact that American 15-year-olds rank in the bottom half, of all advanced nations, in math/science literacy.

The OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 tells us that students in many leading global manufacturing nations, and regions, have established either wide leads over US students in the field of mathematics. American kids came in 23rd in science and 31st in math against kids in 65 countries, according to PISA.

In parts of Asia, where math training is intensive at an early age — and sometimes very early age — the disparity gets stark. To illustrate, in China:

  • Math, Physics and Chemistry are core subjects in middle school.
  • Math, Physics and Chemistry are core subjects for school entrance exams.
  • There are entrance exams to get into both middle school and high school.
  • Students are pushed by parents to study for several hours after school.
  • Students are encouraged to attend tutoring after school, particularly in math and science.
  • Students are encouraged to attend Saturday classes, particularly in math and science.
  • In China, classes routinely start at 7.30 am and run until 5.00 pm.

In stark contrast, the American school day is too short, the American school year is too short. The quality and quantity of our school curriculum is far behind.

(Didn’t Steve Jobs, cofounder and CEO of the most valuable company on Earth, Apple, once talk to Barack Obama about all this, only to hear his President pay him lip-service?)

Part 6:

Computer science must be taught early and intensively. Basic computer science, programming/coding, should be added to the elementary school curriculum, right alongside reading, writing and math.

Part 7:

From The Washington Post: …automated factories demand workers who can operate, program and maintain new computerized equipment. Many of those who have been laid off can operate only the old-fashioned manual machines.

Technology is in metamorphosis, always. Thus Education and Training must, until retirement, be lifelong. Employers and employees must mutually commit accordingly. Government must dedicate its incentives accordingly.

Part 8:

In 2011, about 400,000 Americans with either Master’s degrees or PhD’s were on some form of government assistance or outright government welfare. More than 5000 PhD’s worked as janitors.

In 2010, about 85 percent of college graduates returned to the beds they grew up in, with Ma and Pa, except with added weight atop their shoulders, saddled with more than $27,000 in debt on average per head.

53.6% i.e. more than one-half of all Bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed in 2011.

1 in every 3 with a Bachelor’s degree, is in a job that requires no Bachelor’s degree — how many hundreds of billions of dollars in student debt is that!

The ratio of undergrads who could not find work in an area relating to the degree they earned, is so fluid and rising, we’ve been having trouble keeping up with it.

About 18 million college grads are working well below their skillsets. The number of college grads doing low income tasks is on the steep increase. A growing number of receptionists, sales clerks, customer service reps, cashiers, tellers, waiters, bartenders, construction workers, baggage handlers, taxi, limo, valet, and truck drivers, food runners and delivery personnel, kitchen and cleaning staff, wield both expensive B.A.s and ever more expensive I.O.U.s.

Pay for college grads is down in the decade, and down hard. 2 million college grads are jobless and earning zero dollars, but for those lucky enough to have jobs: college graduate males, aged 23 to 29, earned just $21.68 an hour on average in 2011, down 11 percent over the decade after inflation; females in the same category earned just $18.80 an hour, down near 8% in the decade. (Now, how much do college students pay in tuition etc for an hour in the classroom these days?)

Reminder to all who trumpet recent jobs figures: (a) All the net jobs created since 2008 have been part-time/low-wage. The trend remained persistent through 2012. Just a few years ago, retailers had 70 percent full-time staff; now 70 percent are part-time. The official job growth stats coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics can be … no, they are deceptive. For every 1 full-time firing, there may well be 2 or 3 part-time hirings. And (b) Nearly all the jobs created since 2008 have gone to age 55+, many of them forced to return to work. While job growth for age groups 16-to-19 and 20-to-24 have declined or flatlined, in the 94-million strong 25-to-54 age-group, employment has imploded — 2008 into 2012, 5 million jobs of theirs have vaporized.

In the last 30 years or so, virtually all the net new jobs created in the U.S. were created by firms that were 5 years old or less. Small businesses, employing anywhere from 1 to 49 people, employed about 48 million people by a recent measure. Medium-sized businesses, having between 50 and 499 employees, had 42 million on payroll. Large businesses accounted for just 17 million American jobs. But, according to the Commerce Department in 2011, US multinationals reduced their domestic workforce by 2.9 million people in the new millennium, but grew their foreign hires by 2.4 million.

As the student debt trajectory rises perilously, dangerous tax implications arise as collateral damage, impacting America’s small businesses the worst. America’s young are hurting. The next financial crisis will dramatically escalate the tax burden on small businesses, translating to fast-falling job prospects for the young, and even more of them hurting.

Part 9:

We have a lot of celebrities — from the world of sports and entertainment — going through the White House at the invitation of our Presidents, frequently. In light of that, and knowing how valuable a President’s time is, how about we entertain an alternative:

The President of the United States should, as often as possible (once every year, at least) invite the best of our youngest students, say ages 7 through 14, from all over the country, to the White House to accord them national recognition.

Let these kids then return to their schools and encounter not just admiration and envy, but new competition to make the White House invitation list, and a one-on-one photo op with the President, the following year.

A President’s capacity to inspire our young ones to strive for excellence, and possibly greatness, cannot be underestimated.

Our Presidents have routinely granted presidential medals to barons of bailouts. Medals of Freedom have often gone to individuals who’ve done nothing for freedom. Heck, Medals of Freedom have been awarded to musicians who’d performed abroad, privately and secretly, for outright tyrants of freedom. So why not periodic grants of presidential medals to our finest students, with all the pomp and splendor of a Rose Garden ceremony to accompany?

Our Presidents have shown a propensity to fight or extend our external wars, lost often to incalculable meaninglessness and purposelessness. (Of course, beneficiaries in the military-industrial complex would point to their burgeoning bank accounts and disagree with that.) If only a new kind of President were willing to wage an internal war against structural unemployment and underemployment, against wage-deficiency, then there’d be winners across the board, and it would be both meaningful and purposeful, in ways that can be calculated.

Think what that would do to median income, and the transmission of income. Think what that would do to the national wealth, and the distribution of that wealth. Think what that would do to the overall health and harmony of American society.

It may take years and a bottom-up rejuvenation of our archaic (and parasitic) ways of education to get to a good place in this long journey to a lasting prosperity, but if we as a nation committed, if we as a nation dedicated, then all is possible.

You’ve just read the Reasoning & Rationale for this Bill-Request. Your vote in support of it, is appreciated.

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