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No Mercy No Malice

How I Got Here

January 6, 2023

I’ve been writing and speaking about higher ed for years now. Specifically, how it’s turned into a luxury good: exclusive, scarce, expensive. In 2020, it looked as if an accelerant (the pandemic) and a disruptor (technology) would change this. It hasn’t. Colleges doubled down on exclusivity. Unremarkable young Americans continue to be denied access to the best path to becoming remarkable. Making this post, which I wrote over three years ago, more relevant. That’s not a good thing.


[The following was originally published on March 15, 2019.]

State-sponsored education is who I am, and how I got here. My admittance to UCLA is singular. No other event or action has had a more positive impact on my life and the lives of people around me. Although, in light of the recent college admissions scandals, it appears I did it all wrong. I tried out for the crew team after I was admitted, and actually got my ass up at 5 a.m. six days a week so I could go move 1/8 of a shell through the water at speeds supercomputers can’t process, to nearly pass out, throw up from exhaustion, and (wait for it) keep rowing.

It’s easy to credit your character and hard work for your success, and the market for your failures. I have no such delusions. And, to be clear, I’m not modest … I believe I’m talented, maybe even in the top 1%. Yeah, BFD … that gets you entry into a room with 75 million other people (nearly the population of Germany). There are two reasons for my success: my mom’s irrational passion for my well-being and my being born in California.

PG-13 Socialism

The college admissions scandal is a small part of a revolution, in its early stages, as income inequality reaches a tipping point. Historically, when we see this type of wealth concentration, one of three correcting mechanisms takes place: war, famine, or revolution.

Parents paying ringers to take their kids’ SATs for them and coaches being bribed to claim an applicant is an athletic recruit isn’t just wrong, it’s criminal. Parents paying consultants to get their kids into college feels less bad, but it is a reflection of one of the greatest threats to our country. The middle class and capitalism are the gears that turned back Hitler and AIDS, and the lubricant for the middle class is education. We are now throwing sand in the gears of upward mobility.

For the first time, 30-year-olds are worse off than their parents were at 30. Kids aren’t getting into schools as prestigious as their parents’. For many families this is the first encounter with Technicolor inequality, where being in any cohort other than the top 1% means the leaves of opportunity are shedding prematurely from your family tree.

How many in our generation say, about the college we attended, “I couldn’t get in today”? From 2006 to 2018, the acceptance rate among the top 50 U.S. universities fell 36%, and it declined even more among the top 10 universities (60%). Stanford has an admissions rate of 4%; Harvard, 5%.

The fact that your gene pool is no longer bound for UCLA but Pepperdine feels like you’ve failed as a parent. The thrust on the fuselage for the first 10 years of a kid’s adult life is the school you did or didn’t get them into. And let’s be honest, any appraisal of a 17-year-old is an appraisal of their parents. Your son wearing your old Stanford shirt until he gets rejected and ends up at UNLV is the grist for a budding revolution where people give up on capitalism and turn to populism or PG-13 socialism.

Some numbers on admittance, cost, and the importance of college:

61% of high school graduates from families earning more than $100,000 a year attend a four-year university, compared to only 39% of students from families earning less than $30,000.

38 colleges, including five Ivies, have more students from the top 1% of the US income scale than from the bottom 60%.

— The cost to attend a four-year university has increased eight times faster than wages in the U.S.

— A master’s degree is worth an average of $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma.

Almost a third of married college grads from top schools met in college. This creates a multiplier effect for income and opportunity in that household.

Caste(ing)

What happened? How did the lubricant of our prosperity become the caste(ing) of our country? There are several macro factors, as pedestrian as population growth and the increase in the number of girls attending (70% of high school valedictorians are girls), that are raising demand. But the hard truth is that much of the sand in the gears comes from a seemingly more benign source.

I’m the Problem

Just as a frog can’t detect water getting incrementally warmer, academics and school administrators have missed just how far we’ve turned up the heat on our youth. There is now more student debt than credit card debt. Young people are buying houses, getting married, and starting businesses later or never, because we’ve raised the price of our goods faster than any sector except health care.

On Monday nights last spring, I taught 160 kids who range from Marines from Athens to IT consultants from Delhi. They are impressive, good kids … looking to better themselves and, increasingly, the world. We (NYU) charge each of them more than $7,000 to take Brand Strategy, where for 12 nights, for 2 hours and 40 minutes, they get me barking at slides, and at them, about differentiation, brand identity, and Big Tech platforms. In an effort to balance the scales, I give 100% of my comp back to NYU. But for the students, that’s still about $100,000 a night in tuition, most of it financed in debt that will be on their young shoulders for a decade or more.

Seriously, what is wrong with us? We’ve lost the script and begun believing we are luxury goods, not public servants. Faculties have become drunk with the notion of exclusivity. Leaders share their pride about how impossible it is to get into our institution. We beam describing the superhuman, if not just strange, attributes of the 18-year-olds blessed with entrance this year.

Guild, in a Bad Way

Tenure is a guild, only more inefficient and costly. However, the workmanship is worse. It’s meant to protect academics from the dangers of provocative, original thinking (e.g. Galileo). But in my field, marketing, it’s hard to imagine anybody needs protection, as nobody is really saying anything.

Tenure, in this age, is protecting the people who need it the least. And the cost is staggering. Many universities set aside several million dollars, a reserve against any future, and expected, unproductive years for any individual they grant tenure to. Meeting someone who was recently awarded tenure is to meet them at the top of a mountain, having achieved great things to get there, and about to begin their descent.

What needs to happen:

— The U.S. needs a Marshall Plan to partner with states to dramatically increase the number of seats at state schools while decreasing the cost of four-year universities and junior colleges.

— Endowments over $1 billion should be taxed if the university doesn’t expand freshman seats at 1.5 times the rate of population growth. Harvard, MIT, and Yale have combined endowments (approximately $85 billion) greater than the GDP of many Latin American nations. If an organization is growing cash at a faster rate than the value they’re providing, they aren’t a nonprofit, but a private enterprise.

— A dean of a top-10 school needs to be a class traitor and cease new tenure grants. This would require greater comp in the short run to attract world-class academics, but productivity would skyrocket, as academics would find that the market, while a harsh arbiter, often brings out great things in people, such as competition.

— We need companies (e.g. Apple) to seize the greatest business opportunity in decades and open tuition-free universities that leverage their brand and tech expertise to create certification programs. (Apple — arts, Google — programming, and Facebook — crisis management.) The business model is to flip the model and charge businesses to recruit (shifting costs from students to firms), bypassing the cartel that is university accreditation. Apple training, certification, testing, and reporting would lead to bidding wars among their graduates — the secret sauce for any university. Higher education is a $2 trillion industry sticking its chin out to be disrupted.

In Bed

I’m home after traveling, and I’ve put my sons to bed. My oldest puts in his Invisalign, lies down next to me, and drifts off in my arms. I can’t help but stare at this thing that sort of looks, smells, and feels like me, but so much newer and better. Suddenly he stirs and begins to smile. He opens his eyes and tells me he and his buddies did an improv play at school and it was “hilarious.” He drifts back to sleep. He is warm, safe, loved, and next to a dad who wonders if he (like his dad) is unremarkable, but might still (like his dad) have remarkable opportunities.

In August 1982, I took a job installing shelving for $18/hour, as I’d been rejected by UCLA and had no other options for college. UCLA admission would have meant I could live at home. On September 19, 1982, I got a call from an empathetic admissions director at UCLA, nine days before classes started. She said they had reviewed my appeal, and despite my mediocre grades and SAT scores, they were letting me in, as I was “a son of a single mother and the great state of California” (no joke, her exact words).

My mom told me that as the first person from either side of the family to be admitted to college, I could now “do anything.” The upward mobility and economic security afforded me by education has resulted in a meaningful return for the state and the union (jobs created, tens of millions in taxes paid, etc.). It has also resulted in the profound: the resources to help my mom die at home (her wish) and to create a loving and secure environment for my kids.

Seats at world-class universities are a zero-sum game, full stop. When rich, uber-UN-impressive kids are admitted via fraud and bribery, a middle-class kid ends up at a lesser (or no) university, and the American Dream becomes just that, a dream. Bob Dylan said, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” When millionaire actors and partners in private equity firms commit fraud to take a seat from someone more deserving, it’s the rich showing the middle class their middle finger.

State-sponsored education is who I am, and how I got here.

Life is so rich,

P.S. I founded Section4 to make sure everyone could get a great business education. If you’re serious about growing in your career, education at this price is a sound investment.

We’re running a rare discount this January: 25% off for new members. Set up a free account (or, if you already have one, log back in) to get the code.

37 comments

  1. Avel Ilei says:

    Thanks Scott. another topic is to consider writing is about recruiting new graduates.
    Being a father of young graduated man, who studied Computer Science and Mathematics, at a top rated university, that struggles to penetrate the into the High-tech.
    Despite the difficulties facing the high-tech industry, leading companies have a duty and obligation to continue hiring and recruiting new graduates from universities. This is not only important for the companies themselves, but also for the industry as a whole.
    There are several countries that provide economic incentives to companies that are committed to hiring and recruiting new graduates from universities. These incentives are intended to encourage companies to invest in the future workforce and support economic growth.
    this topic should be well further discussed.

  2. Ian Hawkins says:

    All good points – the model for eduction is and will continue to change from chalk and talk (or slides and talk in your case) to something more like Kahn Academy with online material + 1:1 tutorials and online alternatives like Section4 will grow as they’re way cheaper. Hiring managers will give more weight to corporate qualifications like google certifications compared to academic qualifications. One small point – you can’t compare capital (endowment size) to income (GDP). Keep up the good work.

  3. Steven Chang says:

    I think college education is over rated especially undergrad. It is definitely not the way to lower the income gap. The best investment for low income families is help educate the parents and early childhood support. It is not worth the stress we put on teenager that their future depends on an Ivy education. In our economy today the best paying jobs are chefs, athletes and entertainers. None of these requires a good academic record.

  4. Frances says:

    Always enjoy your newsletter even if it is rereading an old one.🇨🇦🇲🇶

  5. Iain Anderson says:

    Thanks for this.

    Though the cost issue hits differently in different parts of the world, universities themselves have a lot to answer for. They’re trying to satisfy many goals: research, teaching knowledge, and teaching what industry wants. But these goals are mutually incompatible; there’s no guarantee that a great researcher is a great teacher, and often business wants graduates to do more of the same, not more of what they’ll need in 5, 10 or 20 years.

    Universities should probably teach students (more) how to think, while technical colleges should probably teach students (more) how to do. Still, university students often want a job rather than theory, and so some universities become more like technical colleges.

    Mix in the changing nature of learning (just Google it!) and the entire education system is ripe for an overhaul. Certainly it’s not right to saddle students with six figures of debt.

    This is becoming a very thorny problem, and I suspect solutions are going to be hard to find.

  6. Dave G Cunningham says:

    Well written and enlightening. Thank you. Retired now but for many years a dean of Workforce Training in a community and technical college. Agree, the community college is a unique and important local resource – a life saver for many. Federal Education policy under Biden was to make the ‘engine of the middle class,’ the local community college – free. What blocked that from happening? I wonder. Message is – it matters a lot which political party is elected. Take note.

  7. Mark Peel says:

    Scott, you overstate, I think, the dangers of tenure. The escalating cost of a college education is not fundamentally the result of teacher salaries but of the vast administrative structure that has grown up in the last 50 years. If there’s one thing a college should be spending money on, it’s on paying its teachers; but administrative salaries now approach 50% of university salary spending. What for-profit corporation would tolerate a G&A that exceeded its direct costs of production.

    In fact, tenure is in real trouble, as more universities and colleges employ at-will adjuncts who are paid per class taught, with no health or retirement benefits, and no protection against attacks on academic freedoms, as evidenced by the experience of an adjunct art instructor at Hamline College who was summarily dismissed, without a formal hearing, for including a painting of the Profit Muhammad—“a masterpiece of Persian manuscript painting”—in the slide deck during a lecture. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/08/us/hamline-university-islam-prophet-muhammad.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20230108

    You are surely correct about the unjustifiable escalation of the cost of a college education but you’re absolutely wrong to pin it on the cost of teaching.

  8. Memphis Vivian says:

    I’m confused by your chart that shows percentage of college students from households with income above $100,000 (61%) and percentage from households with income below $30,000 (39%). What about households with income between 30 and 100K? Where have they gone?

  9. David Zawatson says:

    As a UCB grad in the late 80s, your reference to the being a “son of California” evoked some degree of emotion in me. While the campus experience then could be frustratingly egalitarian, and our surroundings a bit austere (compared to now), I do recall how often staff and faculty reminded us that we were “sons of California” being trained and lead towards a future where we would provide for others as was being provided to us. I guess that system of belief was overwhelmed by the larger culture of individuality and greed, sad to say. Keep up the advocacy. As I moved slowly towards retirement I look to your writings, on public education in particular, to provide me with some insights and motivation for the next phase of my life in which I hope to focus more outside of my own success.

    • Susan says:

      Same emotion. UCLA late 80’s grad, daughter of a single mother who lived out of state. My father lived in CA so I was automatically a CA resident for tuition. Everything about his post I have lived. We were so fortunate and while my children have been fortunate to be a part of the same system I am so sad for their future. I feel like us Gen Xers didn’t think the path was going to move so off course so we let our guard down. I really hope some of what Prof G writes comes to fruition…

  10. AL Patrick says:

    Really insightful post and as a Brit much of this is news to me. Isn’t there an inherent issue around ranking (or perhaps positioning) of Universities i.e. Ivy League vs ‘Lesser’ universities – we have the same here in the UK to a point in ‘Oxbridge’. Of course there will always be good vs. not-so-good universities, but the way you describe it in this post it feels like its Ivy league or nothing. Shouldn’t there be a rebalancing of ranking of universities? It often feels like the brand of Oxford / Cambridge carries as much as the academic quality, particularly having worked with students from both of these universities.

  11. Zoran says:

    [1/2]
    I was also shaped by my education and it was the single most important thing in my life. In the early years I was looking up at America and my dream was to be a space explorer. I’ve read that America landed on the Moon in ’69, so by the time i’d be 20-some and over with my education, I was sure that we would be exploring the whole Solar System. The most important thing I learned from my education was to take a broad look at things, find those loose threads and pull on them wherever they may lead. These led to many things in my life and unfortunately it also burst my bubble about the American dream. Reality sucks, but hey, it’s what persists even if one closes the eyes (some people close their minds too)… and sooner or later you either deal with Reality or Reality deals with you.

    My take on the cost of US education is this : after the implementation of reaganism in the US, over the last decades some prices have plummeted and some have soared. The products that are made in the US have soared (mostly services, because reaganism culled production) and people say that the American Way works best. Prices for all things made in Asia (mostly China) have plummeted, and people say that their system is corrupt and inefficient and so on.

    In reality it shows (like many other smaller countries have shown before, and thus winning a visit by the US Armed Forces) that the Emperror is naked, so that’s the real reason why the US WILL attack China again at some point.

  12. Neil says:

    I can only applaud these posts. I too come from a modest background and in my case it was school that accelerated my progression. A scholarship to an excellent school started that journey followed by University which also enhanced my future (sorry about the different words but I am a Brit). So when I see the exclusion of potential talent due to high tuition costs, I lament. For me University tuition was free – that may seem unbelievable now but it is true. The state, whether that be US, UK or Thailand, where I now live, needs to step up so that all have the same opportunities.

  13. Beca says:

    After turning down a full scholarship at the local Suntan U to find a broader experience, I attended the most radical and possibly the tiniest private college in the US in the 60s (founded by two patriotic, visionary, and progressive New Englanders). Unique people of several generations seemed to gravitate there; it became the singular model for the accredited, ungraded open university concept.

    I periodically exchanged nods with a young man who with his wife later became some of those wealthy actor types whose teen was admitted to an allegedly prestigious university by bribe; they wound up being famously exposed in the scandal.

    The college continues to struggle to survive. It is tragically woke now; freethinking eclectic people would not do well there. Most of us are glad to have lived in its chaotic creative environment that forced independent thinking and educational self-design to its limits. Some of its earlier attributes, including the tuition sliding scale system under which I attended, might provide a model for the reformation, overhaul and healing of the corporate-beneficial corrupt system long failing our citizens of all ages.

    Scott’s suggestions are a strong beginning that might be used in all kinds of settings in which true education, the drawing out of the highest qualities in any human into the personal and collective consciousness, might flourish.

    • Margaret Talbot says:

      Beautiful articulation here: “…true education, the drawing out of the highest qualities in any human into the personal and collective consciousness….” Thank you for these words!

  14. Anthony Callini says:

    This is spot on. So much resonates. As the father of two college age daughters, I’ve seen the caste-igation of the education system, reinforcing the chasm between the 10% and everyone else. One realization I’ve had is how powerful and important the community college system is. Instead of research professors who don’t care much for teaching, you get real educators. Instead of paying for a state of the art weight room and gourmet poke bowls in the cafeteria, your tuition is focused on the education. And here in my home state of Massachusetts, associate degrees from a community college are guaranteed admission into any of the UMass or Mass state schools. If you want to look at college from and ROI perspective, community college is a no brainer. I just wish we didn’t have the stigma around it and the need to justify our own worth as parents with the name brand of school our kids go to.

  15. bartb says:

    Great post. Universities do need to put more skin in the game. But, sadly, this will not happen in my lifetime or yours.

  16. Rob Quartel says:

    I love these columns but have to say that the data on admittance, cost, and the importance of college are REALLY old and hoary, decades old if I read it correctly. I put in my school, Rice University, which has long been one of the most economically and demographically diverse schools in the country (and they spend a lot of time and money getting there) and I just don’t think the numbers represent reality 20 years later. That and the “mobility” number are hugely misleading. Rice has an almost 80 percent “success” rate moving the lower 40 up to the upper 40 in these tables — but because they only start with about 9 percent at that level (20 percent in the lowest 60 and 10 in the top 1 percent so a better overall distribution) — they get ranked at #1890 for mobility (a multiple of the two numbers). Sorry, this just doesn’t square.

  17. Andrew says:

    One startling omission in this summary is that over 60% of entering students are now female. In my university (I am a tenured prof myself), last year’s entering class was 75% female. This gender disparity must hold many clues to the problems in higher education, and yet few even acknowledge it, much less try to understand it. Shouldn’t this be part and parcel of your concerns?

  18. Phillip Frandler says:

    I just can’t tell you how much I love and respect every word Scott writes. I’d let him rule the world in a nano second.

  19. Lisa says:

    The tenure part of this is critical. I am both a parent of a college student and a return to school Graduate student myself.
    The tuition being paid to a school who offloaded both health insurance (which my daughter needed for long covid damage) and housing for anyone not a freshman it is creating a balloon of debt that never needed to be created. I have teachers who barely teach in the UC system because they have tenure. Let alone mentor or support student projects/opportunities for skill building.

    We are nation needing thousands of teachers, nurses and doctors. Needing major infrastructure and modernization and the expertise to build it. Yet, we believe that our 18 year olds should sign for $200,000 in debt to provide our country what is needed for growth?!

    We have lost the script.

    • Sussan says:

      The offloading of health insurance from tuition is just bonkers. I paid $352 my first quarter in 1984 and it was INCLUDED. My son’s UCLA tuition basically 10x that number does not include.

  20. Bob says:

    I was able to attend a 2nd tier state school at very low cost in the late 80’s. Managed to have a successful career on Wall St.– with enormous effort, as I had to fight the pedigreed my entire career. (Ironically, at least a half dozen of my college friends were the children of famous CEOs and wealthy families) I have known many fellow 2nd tier state school friends, who in work, and adult life are clearly more capable/engaged than others I’ve known with combined Stanford, Harvard, MIT etc… degrees. In other words, there are ambitious, very smart people at “okay” schools, and lazy, NOT-so-smart people at the top schools. BUT, as we all know, it’s not about what “extra” knowledge the pedigreed child gained at the Ivy– it’s about the friends and contacts. It occurred to me, imagine taking the “best”, most decorated professors from the greatest schools, and building a Noah’s Ark of a new college with these prized professors in place, able to cover a decently full curriculum– Every teacher a Nobel or Pulitzer recipient…offer it on-line, at low cost, to as many students as is reasonably possible, and manage a way to adequately test, etc. My guess is that the diploma earned still would never carry the caché of the mediocre legacy from the ivy. PS. my experience as a Wall St employer with many tenured professors at Ivies was like a glimpse into the gates of hell: “Hrrrrumph. Any patents?”, Where are YOU published?”

  21. Wista Johnson says:

    As a writer, I am struck by the simplicity and down-to-earth way you write about complicated ideas, trends, etc. Really loved this one. I got my BA when the City University of New York was tuition-free in the 1960s. Will share this with others who care.

  22. Sean says:

    “The middle class and capitalism are the gears that turned back Hitler and AIDS, and the lubricant for the middle class is education. We are now throwing sand in the gears of upward mobility.”

    Brilliant.

    This is why I moved to Canada! 🙂 🙂

  23. Peter Coates says:

    Hear, hear. The idea of taxing university endowments above some level unless they are being used to expand the number of seats is brilliant. Universities freely switch-hit at their own convenience between their roles as public institutions and private for-profit enterprises. Their greed is taxing a generation into serfdom. My undergraduate tuition cost less than I spent on subway tokens. The traditional engine of society is the rich elders giving/lending money to the young to start businesses or otherwise rebuild society. Today, it’s reversed. An overgrown demographic of elders exploits a rapidly shrinking demographic of the young. BTW, SG is a national treasure.

  24. Brian says:

    Higher education is like the zoning restrictions in my expensive suburb. We let costs rise because it makes those of us who made it over the expensive moat feel like we’re preserving something that we deserve.

    I have a similar no money, dedicated single parent, first kid ever to college backstory, but it was the generous financial aid of the elite private school I went to that gave me the boost. Those rich endowments could indeed open up more seats but the perceived premium for the scarcity of the degrees has Ivys and the like treating them like Rolexes or LV handbags. The education is great, but I can login to MitX and take the same grad school classes I paid a lot for, but what about the network, and the “college experience.” Build some more dorms and online education platforms and share the wealth.

    The example with your kids makes me realize that the multiplier effect of your education and wealth will have with their generations. Why wouldn’t we do everything possible to open up more spots for that to happen? So many kids today could thrive in colleges where there just aren’t enough spots.

    Anyway Scott, you’re as usual spot on. Please run for office or do more where these ideas can take root.

  25. Margaret Biner says:

    My dad died in 1960. He was 50. I was 8. Mom went back to teaching when it was considered “a good job for a girl”earning $3K per year and no benefits. In 7th grade she sat me down and explained unless I was very smart, I was not going to college. Fortunately I was very smart. I was also very lucky. In 1970 a local college decided to go co-ed at the absolute last minute. I was 1 of 20 young women entering along with over 200 young men in our cohort. College was a free ride for me as I was a woman and smart. My junior year they sent me abroad to study.
    I majored in Economics and graduated with honors.
    Within a year after graduating I was in a Master’s program. Upon graduating most of my job prospects came with technology centric firms. Finally I got an offer from the company I wanted. It came in this manner; the hiring manager called me and told me that there was a man they had interviewed and really liked, but HR told him that he had to make the first offer to “a girl”. Then he asked if I wanted the job. I said yes and he said, “Oh shit”. As a “diversity requirement student” and an “affirmative action hire” I never looked back. The system worked for me. I have had numerous advantages. It’s not the same system anymore.
    Thank you for speaking out regularly on the state of higher education.

  26. Penelope says:

    I agree with your assessment. I hope some of your suggestions are considered for those who ca make changes.

  27. Barbara Young says:

    I had a similar experience with state funded education in Oregon-. Federal $ provided fellowships with the goal to increase the number of teachers in Special Education – internships to draw graduates into the classroom and funding the arts as an integral part of all areas. Looking back- it was a life changing experience.

  28. JC Wandemberg says:

    As an USAID scholarship recipient, I was offered a seat at Yale, Cornell, and NMSU. I chose NMSU just because of the weather, I was raised in the Andes mountains in Ecuador with the best weather in the world, so I could not stand the humidity of the East Coast. My daughters grew up in NM and so did my four grandchildren. Praise be to God!

  29. Matt says:

    I started college in 1993. At the time I believe the school (regional engineering school) was 58% funded by the state.

    Cost since then is 5x. State funding is under 30% I believe.

  30. M Sreenivasan says:

    I’ve sat in tony SV restaurants making similar claims to multiple successful Sand Hill partners prefaced with the statement “Not a communist” arguing the same points.

    It is wonderful to see it written so clearly.

    So now, how do we “become the change we want to see” in removing the sand from the gears we benefited from in our youth?

    • ST Kand says:

      Scott – I always enjoy reading your blog and this article is mostly spot on. I’m a professor of higher ed in CA and I shared your original post with my grad students in 2020. I worked my ass off to go from poverty, through the community college system and eventually onto a UCLA PHD. I never had time to enjoy UCLA as you did because I continued working my ass off FT to survive. I would argue strongly that “Tenure” is not the problem. Plus you really don’t have the experience to know as you are not, to my knowledge, a tenured prof. The problem is an unbelievably bloated admin class that is part of the monetization and commodification of higher ed. Side note: NYU is actually in the real estate business, “higher ed” is just it’s cover. Is the situation fixable? Nope – not when the unstoppable ethos of the culture is profit and power over people. Keep being you as I appreciate so much of what you do and write about.

  31. John Coulthard says:

    The same is true in the UK, the stats different of course but access to our best universities is through expensive private education. Young people are turning away from mediocre universities to study and qualify as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and builders. I hope they all find that they have a better future with the approach than a 3rd class degree costing £70,000 in TV Studies! Are their signs in the US that young people are building their own futures on practical skills and qualifications?

    • Matt Shobe says:

      @John US trade schools aren’t dead – in some locations they’re flourishing, especially as a ‘finishing school’ for US armed services veterans transitioning back to private life. In my last job I talked to Western Technical College admins in El Paso, Texas, and their enrollment was booming in this sector.

      Here in Seattle, I’ve talked to auto shop owners, plumbing/HVAC, and construction trade foremen, and the theme continues: “I can’t hire good people fast enough”. In some cases the answer is simple: they should pay more and maybe not be asshole bosses (not a blanket statement, but they’re out there). But in many others it’s a lack of new ambitious talent coming from vocational pipelines that’s ready to commit to an apprentice-to-master path.

      I’d like to think the vocational route would be such a strong alternative to the broken 4 year college-as-luxury-good model, but I’m not sure it is – at least not nationwide.

    • Dean Troyer says:

      Completely agree re cost and exclusivity of higher ed. Clueless how to fix the exclusivity. A glimmer here and there. U of Austin, Hillsdale, Purdue U. Stanford and other top tier schools will remain the place where admin outnumbers students multiple x to 1. Stanford not alone. Grandson of a longtime friend accepted into Columbia this year. I thought, how sad. Not kidding. In spite of the prestige – that son is matriculating into a fevered environment.