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I'd guess around 90% of people (including me) who attended a 4 year degree program did so because "that's what you do after high school if you're a member of the broad middle class".

College should be for academically interested adults. It shouldn't be a rubber stamp that's required to hold a white-collar job. I think the culprits here are the colleges themselves. They're selling a bad product to people who don't need it at a very high price.

Colleges should be much smaller, shouldn't have sports, legacy admissions should be removed, diversity initiatives should be removed, and industry should open up to people without degrees.




Decoupling the certification elements from the education elements would probably help. Have a third party, possibly a government entity, allow anyone to be assessed for competency in a particular field and receive a certificate showing their skill level. If they think taking some college classes is a good way to improve their abilities they can do that, if they think self-study is the best way they can do that, if they think hiring a tutor is the best way they can do that. They shouldn't be forced into one particular expensive and time consuming path just to get the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities.


I would be wary of having a government agency decide the certification criteria for some subjects, especially for subjective areas like history. Who gets to decide which interpretation of history is correct?


Right now, professors.

If a government agency, then ... professors employed by government agencies.

It wouldn’t be much different except the government would be involved in a different capacity than they already are.


first of all, the idea of having a meaningful certificate in something like history is sort of ridiculous.

second, there are currently hundreds if not thousands of independent history departments in the US. to reduce this to one government agency would be quite a large change. or are you suggesting that we create hundreds of government history certification agencies?


>the idea of having a meaningful certificate in something like history is sort of ridiculous.

I totally agree. But tell that to the universities.

>or are you suggesting that we create hundreds of government history certification agencies?

I’m suggesting that this is what we already have, because universities are tax-exempt, so on a fundamental level all professors already do work for the government. We could just keep all the history professors employed, but in the service of a more meritocratic rubber-stamp than the current rubber-stamp game which is based on prestige and SAT scores and various other bullshit factors.


I think maybe you and I are just using "certificate" differently. to me, a certificate is very different from a degree. a certificate affirms that a person has a fairly specific set of skills that have been tested against some objective measure. I'm not exactly sure what a degree says about someone, maybe something like "has studied in this field for a while without pissing everyone off to the point where they refuse to work with or teach them".

I can be a certified building envelope inspector if I pass a test that shows I know how to perform an industry standard inspection using the standard tools. I'm not sure there's any meaningful way I could be certified as a software engineer (answering obscure c++ questions? being able to use git?). there's definitely no way I could be meaningfully certified as a historian. I'm sure no matter what I do, it would be controversial whether I was even studying history!

instead of making the study of history less of a special club, maybe we should ask whether it's appropriate for the government to support this endeavor at all?


>I think maybe you and I are just using "certificate" differently. to me, a certificate is very different from a degree.

I agree that we are using this word differently, because to me a degree is a certificate.

>there’s definitely no way I could be meaningfully certified as a historian

I agree: because of the nature of history, no meaningful certifications of this knowledge can occur. My point is that PEOPLE STILL ATTEMPT, every single day, to award meaningful certifications in this area, and since people are already attempting, it makes sense to just aid their efforts rather than throw out their efforts entirely on ideological grounds, no matter how correct those ideological grounds may be.

I agree that history is not a field that can have a meaningful certification in an abstract sense. My point is that these certifications STILL HAPPEN in a very real and practical sense; so why not optimize the process that already exists rather than wishfully hoping we could shut down the process entirely on ideological grounds.


> College should be for academically interested adults. It shouldn't be a rubber stamp that's required to hold a white-collar job. I think the culprits here are the colleges themselves. They're selling a bad product to people who don't need it at a very high price.

Don't think the colleges are the culprits. Their goal is to increase matriculation, get more students, more research grant money, etc. They are just trying to do more of what they have already done.

Arguably, the real culprits are the businesses that require college degrees, i.e., that require said "rubber stamp". A person who spends 1 year taking a $15k set of trade-courses will likely accept less pay than someone who spent 4 years and $150k. However, most businesses will choose the 4 year college grad every time.


Athletics matter, IMO. I care nothing for college football, but I wish I would have taken more athletics credits in school.


Depends how you define and implement "athletics" IMO. Club sports, informal martial arts, swimming lessons, that sort of thing are great. I was required to take four semesters of "physical education" credits of these sorts in order to graduate with my CS BS. These big sports sports that some colleges have going on, though... If a student wants to do that on their own time and dime then I of course have no objection, but the amount that even the not-really-good-at-sports schools are shelling out for facilities and equipment and coaches for the few students who participate is simply not justifiable in 99% of cases.


The athletics craze is an US-only thing as far as I can tell.

Other countries (at least Europe and Latin America) basically don´t have athletic scolarships and any athletic program is a strictly extracurricular activity.


I agree with most of your points, but there are some things about the post-WWII college system that required ever-greater numbers of people attending. In particular, professors want doctoral students, but in most majors the only reason to get a Ph.D. is if you intend to be a professor. Which worked kind of ok for several decades, as more and more state schools opened up, and a higher and higher percentage of the population went to college.

But, like any system designed for growth that persists for generations, it isn't designed well for leveling off, much less shrinking even a small amount. It's not clear how well many universities can even function without a lot of graduate students to teach many of the classes, but without more and more college professor positions for those graduate students to take once they get their doctorate, the current number of graduate students seems unsupportable.


I frequently hear this claim, but it is not what I observed during my PhD studies. All students, from the moment they got in, and most faculty under 50 years old were aware that more than half of the graduating class will not continue working in academia (rather they would do industry RnD or consultancy or something else). And plenty of efforts existed within my program itself, and in the university as a whole, to prepare students both for academic and non-academic jobs.


I don't think it'd be possible to remove sports from American colleges - it's the closest thing the NFL has to a developmental league. Also I believe it's where most Olympic athletes go to train and receive coaching.


Well all that, but more importantly, it makes a shit ton of money for the top schools. No way they'll agree to get rid of it.




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