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US colleges struggling with low enrollment are closing at increasing rate (2019) (cgtn.com)
172 points by oska 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 282 comments

As much as I'd love to pursue higher education and to get a degree, I simply can't afford thousands of dollars every semester. I'm not 17 anymore so it's harder to convince me to get into that much debt. If I ended up owing 150k and could afford to pay back 1k a month, It would take me 12.5 years. I'm sorry but it's just not worth it. I can't think of many sober people that would disagree. If an organization like Khan Academy wanted to charge ~$1200 a year for a 4-year program that I could receive an accredited degree from, I'd sign up immediately.

Just FYI state schools have generally have good resident tuition rates. You can get a 4 year EE or CS degree for less than $40k (cost of a nice car these days). Those degrees count just as much and they might fill in some gaps you don't know you have.

Even better deal is to go to community college for 2 years before transferring to a 4 year college. You can get a great education and come out with the exact same credentials for much cheaper.

Downside is that transferring into competitive top ranked programs is very difficult. And if you have anything shy of a 4.0, you're unlikely to get in.

Ask me how I know. :(

So, if you have good chances of getting in after high school to such programs, do it. There's no reason to risk your future on community college. Professors at all colleges are a gamble and even a slight misstep can ruin your chances of getting into a good program. (which then leads to better chances of getting good jobs - if you care) That said, if you don't get into the programs after high school then community college could be fine.

> Downside is that transferring into competitive top ranked programs is very difficult.

What type of “top ranked” program are we talking about here? If parent is trying to get into MIT after a long educational hiatus, then, ok, maybe it’d be a bit difficult. But if they’re hoping to obtain an EE or CS degree (for example), these programs—in the states—are usually accredited and if their engineering program is not accredited, you shouldn’t even entertain the idea of entering that program.

There seems to be this constant myth that comes up when talking about higher education and that is a top ranking = better. Don’t get me wrong, a social science education from Yale or Brown will differ greatly then one at a state school but that is a given. Same goes for the select engineering programs or CS—think Cal, Georgia, MIT, etc.—but something like engineering is a program that has to follow strict course requirements so your end goal is practically the same no matter what your alma mater is.

Public schools are what I'm talking about - the ones people would actually transfer to. (UCB, UCLA, UW (where I went), UT Austin - all top ranked CS program schools) Private is much worse. You'll probably never get into a top private school unless you're transferring from another top tier institution - most people I saw transferring into such schools were already from other top tier schools. Stanford, for instance, accepted 27 transfer students last year. 27 - that's it. Same story for many other prestigious colleges.

The point of going to a top program isn't that it's a better program academically (maybe it is - maybe it isn't). It's about the resume and other things the university offers. Some of the schools help place you in co-op programs, have catered career fairs, and much more. They can set you far apart from other "lower tier" schools and make you stand out in the overwhelming crowd of new grads. It's mostly about signalling more than anything.

Stanford's undergraduate enrollment is 7,087. Very very few if any of those 27 transfers were from JCs. Berkeley's undergraduate enrollment is 30,853. About 4,617 JC transfer students were offered admission.

For California in specific, there are special legal privileges for transfer applications from community colleges to the UC system. That's what you're supposed to do as a community college student, so e.g. it's easier to transfer into a UC from a community college than from a CSU, even though the CSU students are, by design, superior to the community college students.

I'm curious where you get your statistics from? Do they break down the transfer students' details, ie, how many of them are US students and how many are from China? The competition against rich Chinese students for getting accepted into Cal has gotten more and more fierce the past 20 years.

The UC system schools publish these statistics yearly.

Transfers don't include foreign students as they generally aren't eligible for transfers.

Undergraduate international students are limited at Berkeley:

  Freshman 869 (admit)
  Transfer 379
  Graduate 1,786

UW being University of Washington? I transferred into UW CSE from N Seattle Community College as did many others! We had maybe 3.7+ GPAs in community college and intro courses overall.

Private like ivy leagues didn’t make sense for me then because tuition assistance was so poor. Unless you’re super highly ranked and can get a ton of merit based scholarships that was a bad idea anyway.

However, it’s perfectly reasonable to work hard in undergrad as a researcher and student then make your way into the top tier. James Mickens is a great example of this path. This is obviously not for everyone but neither are private world acclaimed universities.

> Private like ivy leagues didn’t make sense for me then because tuition assistance was so poor. Unless you’re super highly ranked and can get a ton of merit based scholarships that was a bad idea anyway.

Another option (depending on the school) is low to no tuition if coming from a lower income family. I want to say it’s Stanford but i may be wrong, that offers free tuition to eligible students whose family income was less than something like $50,000/yr. So there are ways for poor students to get a great ivy league education but like you said, you must also have extremely high rankings in your class to attempt that route.

Depends on the year. I mean, they take like over 5x the students now than they did when I was there. For the time I was going, they weren't accepting transfer students like myself with anything shy of a 3.9. I think that was the lowest I saw for accepted on the stats website.

I had a 4.0 before I moved up to Seattle. I thought it was going to be a done deal but then I got some bad professors and it screwed me over. Quite unfortunate.

I don't think people need to get into top private schools. It's just a matter of how hard you want to work after college because you won't have had the same footing as those other folks.

Sometimes I wonder if signaliing is the real 'value' they offer that people seem to want to work for, the problem isn't as much the education as it is.. everything else.

knowledge is knowledge, no matter where you obtained it. However, the connections you make during college is sometimes quite important, as they are the windows of opportunity that aren't available to the non-connected. E.g., if you have a friend in the same class, then they are more likely to refer you to their company if you are in need of a job (later in life). Or if they are already rich and are investors, you are more likely to be considered to be confounders or business partners.

Shouldn't you learn economics instead of CS if you want to run business?

If you want to run an already very large business your best bet is to go in to management consulting. In that case what you study is less important than getting top grades at a top school and interviewing like a champ.

If you want to run a business that isn't but has the potential to maybe be very large then easiest way to do that is to build your own and CS has a very low bar for entrepreneurial activity.

If you just want to run any business then no degree necessary. Just work in food service and treat it like a career. Maybe do a bookkeeping course. You'll get to manage a restaurant eventually.

Sure, one can run business incompetently, but is it desirable?

Steve Jobs studied English. Ran multiple companies.

Consider many people here, who regularly complain about incompetent management.

You should check out the book The Case Against Education if you want to pull on that thread a little more with signaling. It's a compelling book for me.

Well, yes, of course it is. If someone graduated from Oxford or Harvard then the reputation will follow them for the rest of their lives. It’s bizarre really but it’s also so normal that no one ever stops to question it. Same with some companies, e.g Google, they are 100,000 people now, very far from an elite, but work there even for a few months and you will be an ex-Googler for the rest of your life.

Is it like that for other FANG companies? Which ones constitute being an “elite”?

Maybe Netflix? The others are just on a level with IBM or HP or MS or whoever now. Big tech companies staffed with average engineers. They are coasting on reputations earned when they were just a few hundred of the best engineers.

Google Facebook Netflix.

Why isn’t there an A represented here?

Doesn't carry the same weight IMO.


Don't know. But you can get better opportunities everywhere with G on your resume over Amazon. Amazon also pays way less and has worse perks in everyway. Google was known to be a great place to work. That legend carries on amongst non tech people.

Are you saying amazonians are inferior or something? Sounds out of touch and insulting to me.

> and if their engineering program is not accredited, you shouldn’t even entertain the idea of entering that program

Did you know that, for example, Stanford’s CS program is not accredited?

Do you think people shouldn’t entertain the idea of going to Stanford for CS?!

> something like engineering is a program that has to follow strict course requirements

From what I know accreditation sets a super low bar because it’s all above that bar. What colleges teach varies massively. You definitely can go to a lower ranked but still accredited college and come out with massive gaps in your knowledge compared to an unaccredited program like Stanford that would push you much more.

> this constant myth that comes up when talking about higher education and that is a top ranking = better

I don’t think that any of us think that, but there are people doing the hiring that do think that. There are jobs you can get if you graduated from MIT that you can’t get if you graduated from Idaho State. Mr. Idaho State will find a job, and it will be a good job, but Mr. MIT will find a better one.

You can be perfectly successful without a degree from a top school.

Sure - I'm not disagreeing. In the same way that you don't have to start rich to end up being rich. I'm just saying you will likely have a more difficult time getting to the destination.

If someone spent as much time going to a university as teaching themselves how to program and contributing to an open source project they’d be able to apply to most places.

I’d actually argue there is more value in being a well known open source contributor than where you went to school in our industry.

There are way more candidates that went to X great university than have contributed to X great open source project.

I tend to agree, though our industry is much less pedigree obsessed than most. A degree from a top CS program will get you an interview at a FANG, but a degree from a top law school (I'm talking really top, like top 5) will largely get you a job at a big firm. Similar situation for top MBA programs.

I wish I had a cite, but I remember reading a while back a study that concluded it doesn't matter where you go to college - provided you major in STEM. I suppose the corollary is that it does matter quite a bit if you don't major in STEM.

This, as an aside, might explain why the most elite students in the US (unlike internationally) still eschew engineering and hard science in favor of economics, humanities, law, and other non-STEM fields. If you're at Harvard, why not study the thing where the Harvard pedigree actually gets you ahead? A CS degree from Harvard may land you that google interview, but if you're applying for an SWE position, you still need to be able to write snappy tight code a the whiteboard to find all matching subtrees in a binary tree. Law school interviews seem to be more general and conversational (this is anecdotal, but based on quite a few close friends who went this route) - law firms don't subject their candidates to a detailed re-hash of their 1L civil procedure exam.

That said, our industry is so obsessed with technical interview exams that I'd say neither degree nor open source projects is especially important, beyond what it takes to get you into the door. After that, you really do need very sharp whiteboard coding skills, and if you have them, it doesn't really matter if you went to SJSU or MIT.

I don't love interview coding exams, but I actually do like the fact that high tech is less obsessed with where you got your degree (or whether it was a math, CS, other related fields), provided it was from a program that teaches the proper curriculum. And I am genuinely relieved that we haven't empowered some NGO to decide what degree is required and where it can be earned, the sort of thing that allows law schools to put a $150,000 degree between smart people and the practice of law (backed with the force of criminal and civil sanctions). That last bit about SJSU wasn't meant as any sort of dig art all, there are lots of very talented people at that school, the curriculum is proper and rigorous, and their tech graduates have a much better crack at joining top tech companies than a 3rd tier law school grad would have at a big firm job (whether a big law job is any sort of prize to covet is a different matter, of course!)

The problem is that bias is introduced heavily in the technical interview process still. It's still very flawed.

A classic example of this is that people read the resume before they enter the room to interview someone. They see the person went to their alma-matter (let's say MIT/Stanford). They will have a bias - whatever way it swings. (I've seen it go both ways - people hating on their alma and some loving it) It will completely color the way they give hints, the way they evaluate the candidate, and much more. If they went to a less competitive school, they might nitpick every thing the candidate does to confirm their belief that less competitive school candidates are garbage. Whereas if the candidate went to a very competitive school, they might overlook the candidates mistakes by saying, "oh, it happens - but they're clearly very smart, they went to that competitive school."

Whether you like it or not, I've seen top 10 schools overrepresented within the bay area wildly. One could say that it's because those who went to those competitive schools are more likely to be competitive and strive to work at the most prestigious companies but that alone cannot explain just how wide this division is.

That’s a good thesis. I have no idea if it was true for me, and if course one data point isn’t terribly useful. My impression during my interview at google and amazon was that the interviewers were indifferent to what school I’d gone to, and my guess is that if I’d stopped in the middle of my whiteboard session and asked them where I’d gone to college, they wouldn’t have been able to answer (Berkeley in my case).

I also think you have overestimated the probability that interviewers read the resume. My interviewers at most jobs were at best faintly aware of the projects, degrees, and jobs I’d held. They tend to come in with their own agenda. I’ve mentioned things in it during interviews and it seems pretty clear they are trying to feign awareness if the contents of the resume or cover letter.

In spite of that anecdote, I think there’s a good chance your thesis has some merit. I certainly don’t want to defend the technical interview as it is currently practiced.

> If someone spent as much time going to a university as teaching themselves how to program and contributing to an open source project they’d be able to apply to most places

That's irresponsibly false. Just because you want something to be true, don't repeat it as if it were a fact.

I actually agree with it. For all of the criticisms tech receives for being elite and sexist--they are actually quite open to diversity of background.

Forget about top schools for a second--there are plenty of people at top companies who did not even attend university at all. Compare that to the management consultant industry where one's school is practically the beginning and end of their resume.

Of course the reason most students don't contribute to FOSS is that it's hard. Very few just-out-of-high-schoolers could really make inroads to contributing. Colleges and universities are helping hands that guide them to where they need to go.

Most top CEOs didn't go to IVY league schools at least for their BS


Are you saying I have less value because I didn’t get into a top school? I went to a mid ranked state school and transferred credits from CC.

Based on how this thread is going, you seem to be projecting a lot of insecurity of what school you went to? Literally the words were "you will likely have a more difficult time being successful if you did not get a degree from a top school". Those words do not intrinsically say that someone who did not get a degree from a top school has less value.

It does not say that someone who did not go to a top school performs more poorly. It does not say that those who did not graduate from a top school are not good enough. All it says is that from a relative starting point, if you graduate from e.g. Harvard, you are more likely to be successful than if you did not.

My nitpicks with this premise are: is success defined in financial terms? Is it in position (CEO vs engineer)? What is the empirical evidence that graduating from a top school confers greater success (I think that there is such data, but citing it would be nice). There's enough stuff here to talk about that I am somewhat flabbergasted that you took this as a personal affront and misconstrue what's actually being talked about.

> It does not say that those who did not graduate from a top school are not good enough. All it says is that from a relative starting point, if you graduate from e.g. Harvard, you are more likely to be successful than if you did not.

These seem like they’re saying the same thing. If people like me were considered “good enough” OP wouldn’t have said that to begin with and CC to state school would have been fine

Nope. Saying you're likely to have a more difficult time getting to prestigious places than someone who graduated from Stanford/(insert top school).

That’s.. saying the same thing.

How are you even defining prestigious? Am I incapable of doing so? Please explain.

Prestigious would be - FAANG/Uber-adjacent/whatever-competitive-admission-company.

You might work at Amazon - that's fine - congrats. I'm saying that it's /more difficult/ to get there on average than if you had gone to Stanford. You're more likely to get overlooked for another candidate who has all the same credentials you do but went to Stanford instead of generic school.

Just because you did it does not mean that it's a completely level playing field.

You will have a harder time because half the value in a degree is the easy HR filtering. HR isn't willing to spend a lot of time to find the needle in the haystack. They are always on the lookout for heuristics that have no false positives and a degree from a top school is a pretty good heuristic.

He may not be saying so, but the recruiters at Google are.

I work at Amazon. Is OP implying that is not good enough or something?

It's not elite. Doesn't carry same weight. Tech is also less "pedigree" driven. You would definitely have a hard time in Business tacks without elite schools.

In what sense does it not carry the same weight?

Also no one had NCSU as their "Dream" school when they apply to college. That's reserved for an elite few. This perpetuates into a brand when people graduate. There is a certain bar of candidates that companies expect from these schools. Not to say someone at other schools can't meet the bar. But it's easier for HR to just start with the top 10

> Also no one had NCSU as their "Dream" school when they apply to college.

Are you sure? Where exactly did you go?

Try get into I-Banking (Big 4) without a big school.

There are (or were, it was a while ago) rare exceptions. The community college I went to had a deal with CalTech that if a student aced all 4 semester of physics at the CC they did not have to take some of the entrance exams. So it was actually easier to get in.

> Downside is that transferring into competitive top ranked programs is very difficult. And if you have anything shy of a 4.0, you're unlikely to get in.

That...depends. There are a number of very highly ranked public universities with transfer agreements with same-state community colleges, in which case it's not all that difficult.

UCLA and UCB do not have those agreements. I don't know if UT Austin has the agreement anymore (they had some agreement about being in the top 10% of your high school or something). UW has no such agreement either.

Most of the high ranked public schools afaik have gotten rid of such things because they are impacted heavily on all their programs.

It does seem to be a trend that state universities are ending transfer agreements to 4 year universities. George Mason University ended their transfer agreement with NVCC 5-ish years ago.

I went to a CC during high school and only got into my two state schools - NC State and UNC Chapel Hill. Are you saying I ruined my chances of something? Because if not you should probably rephrase.

OP was specifically discussing transfer students, not high-schoolers in accelerated CC programs.

Ultimately the net effect is identical, since I did get a CC degree out of it.

None of those are elite schools.

Don't forget CLEP - cost $80-$100 for 3 credits but it only works for intro classes/undergrad type classes. Boggles my mind that people complain about college being expensive but fail to use opportunities to save like with CLEP.

That's a lot better than some tuition-totals I've seen but at the end of the day, my biggest problem with this system is that it's not accessible to the poor/working-class without loans. I attended a state school for around a month or two. I don't think I knew one person that wasn't paying for it with a loan. I think lower cost is a step in the right direction but I also think there's plenty more to do.

I don't disagree that we could do more. Stanford is free for the poor / working class if their grades and test scores get them admitted.

What I'm saying is that while the student loan crisis is real, and higher education costs at "big name" schools are ridiculous. That narrative has some unnecessary hype in it.

Specifically, you don't need to go to a "big name" school to get the jobs, state schools are just as good. And state schools (or even better the combination of community college + state school) are affordable for a lot of people.

The $40K number isn't an outrageous amount of money to get on a loan (especially when it is in 8 $5K chunks) If you were going to start a gardening business you could put that down on a used pickup truck and some lawn care equipment.

My concern is people who read "College costs $150K? No way could I ever pay that off!" and never look deeper. That narrative makes for a click baity story but it isn't the whole truth.

Fine. I'd be comfortable paying $2400 a year for a 4 year degree. That's my final offer. I won't go over that. If that's not possible then I don't think I'm the target audience! Which is a shame, because I'd really love the legitimacy that a degree would give. To be very honest, I've always dreamed about going further than that and getting a PhD, then contributing to a scientific field. It's honestly been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. But it's stayed a dream. Real life is harder than your $40k sales-pitch. I absolutely think that's it's possible to pay it off and it's a lot more reasonable than some tuition rates. I'm just saying that if I can't get it for less than $2400 a year, I'm not interested.

You are right that you aren’t the target market, $2400/year isn’t anywhere near the cost to provide the education- most states spend more than $10k/year on elementary school students.

The cheapest working professional option I know of is Western Governors University (WGU). They do “competency based education” which I guess means letting you test out of a bunch of stuff and cost roughly $6700/year. Since you a presumably a practitioner already, you’d finish the program in 2-3 years, getting closer to that $2400/year target.

> $2400/year isn’t anywhere near the cost to provide the education- most states spend more than $10k/year on elementary school students.

That's not evidence. States spend that much, but not because that's what it costs.

Once you add up the cost of the staff, building (and maintaining it), utilities for a huge building, insurance (I don't even want to imagine), supplies like books, and the extra-curricular (band, sports, etc) that the locals clamor for and make a big fuss about if there's ever any cuts - I think you'd be very hard-pressed to provide reasonable quality of education for less than 10k/yr.

Keep in mind that in many school districts the parents themselves are an enemy of education. In the district I grew up in there was a tremendous push to spend tons of money on sports. While we weren't struggling much academically there was definitely better uses of funds that were overlooked due to the pressure.

I've often wondered how that could be improved, but in reality, it's likely that improving the education system will cost more money, not less. I truly hope that it improves and that I'm proven wrong about the costs though.

*Just a side-note. Online education can be cheaper, but I've seen zero evidence it provides any significant improvement in quality of education. Every person I know that was 'homeschooled,' typically through some form of cyber-charter school, had massive gaps in their education. Most notably in math and science.

The core of your argument here seems to be that paying for things that explicitly aren't necessary for an education (like sports) are simultaneously a necessity for education. I don't see how you'd get that past a logician.

$2.5k/year is very low but it is within the realm of the possible. An above commentor pointed out that elementary school students cost ~$10k/year and they require constant supervision and more contact hours than a university student.

The instructor is also much cheaper at an elementary school than for collage classes especially programming classes.

An average 100,000$/year including benefits professor works out to a ~75k/year salary. Teaching 16 credits per semester to an average class size of 25 starts at 4,000$ per year per student. That does not cover building, supplies, administrative or technical support, advertising etc.

But the instructor only needs to be part time and class sizes can be raised to something like 50 without compromising the quality much vs 25. A detailed technical education can be achieved with 13 hours a week in contact hours so you can divide the salary by ~3 compared to 40 hour work week.

> That does not cover building, supplies, administrative or technical support, advertising etc.

A building is mandatory I'll grant you that; but maybe skip the advertising, downplay the admin and go light on the supplies. They invented calculus without anything much more impressive than pen and paper; there is a limit to how many toys are needed. Everyone can bring their own laptop.

People won't be bragging about it to their millionaire friends but it would be cheap and they'd learn enough to do hard jobs. It wouldn't be feasible to do Real Science where lab-work is required, but it'd work a treat for maths, engineering, arts and social sciences which are more about reading papers, talking to people and in extreme cases doing maths.

The 'teaching' is overrated, the value of university is in the controlled assessment environment. That can be replicated for a few thousand each with a few tens of students.

That would make the teacher completely unavailable for grading assignments, answering student questions outside of class, or much of anything beyond simply speaking to students. Someone needs to read all those history essay questions on the test, and then change something when most students get something wrong.

A 50+ person class would similarly limit students from asking questions. At which point you might as well just show videos. Some introductory classes are taught in huge auditorium’s but they still require additional TA’s and don’t work for upper level classes.

Don’t get me wrong, you could simply have an online system with canned videos, multiple choice question tests, and zero ability to ask questions. But, that’s not a collage education.

The core of my argument is that local populations demand those things. High schools didn't start building football stadiums for fun, it was because of local pressures. If you fight that group on this topic, you'll find they will reference a million and one articles showing that sports and music improve student outcomes. Most of those studies and articles have the academic rigor you'd expect of a layperson, but they're convincing enough that they make the case 'think of the children!'

They definitely are not necessary for a quality education outcome. They are, basically, a product of democracy working against the best interest of the people.

*Still, the primary cost drivers are all the other things I referenced. Sports and extra-curricular activities are just one item on the list. The dynamic at the university level is very different. I was only describing the cost of education up to that level, as it demonstrates the cost of actually getting a student to university.

> If you want an advanced degree in a science field, it’s common for your tuition to be paid for in full, and receive a yearly stipend on top of that that’ll cover room & board.

Tell me how and I'll sign up tonight.

1. Receive a bachelors degree while doing the same sort of things you would need to do to get a good job at the end - reasonable GPA, internships and/or research.

2. Apply to PhD programs.

For engineering advanced degrees, and I believe for the sciences as well, usually the professor you are working with will have grant money to pay for grad students which will go towards your tuition and stipend.

If you aren’t working with a professor doing research, you may have the option of being a TA, which would cover your tuition and stipend.

I never went to grad school, so others may be able to provide more detail.

This is correct, there are a lot more funded PhD places in engineering and science than there are in the arts and social sciences.

Of course, an economist would point to the 'opportunity cost' [1] - if you leave a job paying £30,000 after tax to take a PhD with a tax-free stipend of £15,009 the 'opportunity cost' of doing a PhD is £14,991 a year.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opportunity_cost [2] https://www.ukri.org/skills/funding-for-research-training/

For my MSEE, my RA position paid (not a lot, but enough for food and rent), and gave in-state tuition. I also TA’d one class which gave me free tuition. So essentially I was paid to go to grad school.

There are several ways to pay $0 for a 4 year degree, including grants, loans and scholarships. Campus jobs like being a TA or undergrad research assistant can help too.

If you want an advanced degree in a science field, it’s common for your tuition to be paid for in full, and receive a yearly stipend on top of that that’ll cover room & board.

If you get a loan, you are not paying $0.

Of course, you’re obviously right. But you’re also not paying anything up front. I took loans for my schooling, and I paid $0 out of pocket.

You get to defer your payment until later when you aren’t in school and do have an income, presumably. Getting a loan and paying $2400 a year is not at all the same thing as having a part time job and paying $2400 a year.

You can, but not in the USA.

Of course you can. An unfunded PhD program in any technical field is a soft rejection.

$2400 is a lower tuition than a catholic elementary school...

If you are in state and get a scholarship, you can go for cheap or nearly free though. Work part time and you can cover Your rent and food

What's wrong with taking out loans in this situation? This is exactly what loans should be for - making a wise investment in your future. This is especially true if you want to get a CS or related degree.

There is a lot of consternation regarding student loans because many students are deluded into getting way in over their heads for degrees that won't end up enabling well-paying careers. That's just not the case with a CS/EE degree at a state school.

I think a lot of the problems stem from issues tangential to this, e.g. Numerous young people are terrible at managing money, delaying gratification and long term planning, committing to a path (often dealing with choice overload).

My local community college is HCC which costs $3,500 a year, and U of H the local university costs $9,500 a year. So $27,000 to get a degree, which is not a lot of money compared to 4 years of time and effort. Assuming you're waiting tables that would be $120,000 in lost wages.

Outside of the potential social or philosophical benefits to going to college, a degree can be looked at like an investment. In the case of Houston, UH has good programs hooked into the petrochemical and banking sector in the city. The Bauer College of Business is well regarded and commodities traders start off at around $100k/year in salary and go far higher:


The internship program at the university help facilitate a pathway into these kinds of jobs:


Alternatively, the chemical and petrochemical engineering departments are also well regarded. The local paper is only listing the average staring salary salary nationwide, but I recall new local engineering hires making somewhere between $75-$100k:


Most seasoned engineers that I know of in the field make in excess of $200k/year and they retire as low millionaires.

The point is that $120k in lost wages pales in comparison to the financial security a degree can provide assuming that one has the appetite and ability for that kind of work. UH and HCC get a lot of grief, but it's a reasonable school that produces good people.

I think in software we have been spoiled. For the most part, degrees are really optional. This is mostly luck as it's possible to do software dev at home (try doing petroleum engineering at home).

Most professions require a degree either by legal mandate, or by essence.

You can easily work part time even with a full course load, and ramp up to full time or more during summers. It’s what I did.

Public loans all qualify for income based repayment. At a state school with in state tuition a CS or engineering degree is almost definitely worth the loans if you're looking for a career change.

If you're actually poor/working-class:

Degrees at SUNY and CUNY are free for residents of New York, and it doesn't take much to count as a resident.

But he said $1200 a year for 4 years as an example of something he would sign up for immediately. $40K is 10x that number.

Somewhere between immediately@5k and never@150k is room for maybe@40k. Is it worth $330/mo for ten years? Depends on the career, but quite likely!

> Is it worth $330/mo for ten years? Depends on the career, but quite likely!

That depends A LOT on the person though. Some people are really better off learning on their own, and to them that's $330/mo for a piece of paper that says they're cool, while others may actually need that in order to learn effectively.

> Those degrees count just as much

Well, there is some snobbery floating around out there. In my experience those degrees (like the one I have) don’t count just as much, but maybe 80% as much.

even better if its a school that has bought an online college such as Purdue where the degree is 40k because half the time is spent online at av3ery reduced amount of tuition

For what it’s worth, the St. Louis Fed published a report recently on the income and wealth “premium” that people with degrees get. There was a long thread here on HN. The income premium is how much money people with degrees make per year, versus people without degrees. The wealth premium is how much money people with degrees save by the time they retire, versus people without degrees.

The reports says the adjusted wealth premium is going to zero. However, note that people who have degrees actually save (a lot) more money on average, the report is controlling for several variables trying to answer a hypothetical question about the true “value” of college education.

The report also show the income premium is, on average, about a factor of 2 for 4-year degrees, and a factor of 3 for advanced degrees. Meaning that, on average, people with degrees earn twice as much as people without. Several different studies have concluded that this income premium is not entirely based on skills learned at college, but is partly cultural and preferential behavior to people with degrees. That’s not a good thing, but it should factor into your calculations of whether a degree is “worth it”.

> If I ended up owing 150k and could afford to pay back 1k a month, It would take me 12.5 years. I’m sorry but it’s just not worth it. I can’t think of many sober people that would disagree.

Just curious, why would you end up owing 150k? That’s a lot, and you can get an education for a fraction of that at some very excellent state and private schools. The article said literally that students were paying 1/3rd of suggested retail for tuition. And also why would 12.5 years payback make it not worth it, if your salary was double for the rest of your life?

I think the statistics sound nice and I think that earning a degree for much less than 150k is great! I'm just trying to figure out how much I'd have to be earning monthly for me to be okay spending 1k/mo paying something back for a dozen years. I think that I'd have to be earning 6k and live in a place where rent is super cheap. In those 12.5 years, I'd much rather be saving as much as I could, investing in property, stocks, business, anything...but that 1k a month is a lot and a degree doesn't guarentee that I'm going to be able to find a job that makes it comfortable for me to pay that sort of debt off.

I’d recommend forgetting your ballpark estimates, they’re pretty far away from what’s possible, they’re much closer to worst case than best. It’s probably not going to take 12 years. I’d also recommend going to college only if you want to, not purely for money, because it’ll help you get into work you aspire toward, or because you’re curious and love to learn. Talk to the school you’re interested in; if your income is low they offer all kinds of assistance, not just loans.

FWIW, I took student loans to pay my 4 year degree. I too thought it was going to take forever to pay off. Turns out it didn’t, I had them paid off in less than 4 years, after deferring them for a couple of years to do a masters.

I do have a wish list for our country to make education better and more accessible and less scary to people like you who want to go but worry about the finances. In the mean time, I hope you find a way.

I might just do that and see what they have to offer. I am curious and I love to learn. I have a strong desire to pursue higher education. I just end up doing that in my spare time, these days. Which is great! But I don't get the degree from it.

At some point, it seems the cost of a degree pales to any loss in income--unless you plan to work fulltime while attending school.

When I was 19, quitting my pizza delivery job to attend school may have made financial sense. But who would leave at 24, or 29 to do the same?

>And also why would 12.5 years payback make it not worth it, if your salary was double for the rest of your life?

You're forced to work for 12.5 years.

My gut reaction is it’s a choice. Nobody’s forcing you to do anything. That seems like a self-pitying victim framing, but I might be over-reacting too. If you want the option to not work, then yes accruing debt might be a bad idea. Going to college at all might seem strange if you don’t want to work at all, or you want to retire at 20. In that case, you’re consciously choosing to opt-out of a high salary, which is a fine choice, it just doesn’t actually equate to being forced either way.

I prefer thinking of it as my active choice that gives me a better option to achieve my goals. My plan (like most people, I think) was to work for 45-50 years before I retire, so 12.5 years is a small fraction. Having gone to college, I am enjoying a larger salary than I would have had otherwise for 45-50 years, and in my case my loans were paid off in 4 years.

That's not factoring in time to get the degree and any risk. What if you get hurt and can't work for a year early in your career? The interest on the loan is going to add a ton of time to the lifetime of the loan while you're not working

Yes you can concoct contrived scenarios that make it seem like a bad idea to borrow, this is true for any borrowing, not just college loans. There are always such risks in life, yes you could get injured or go broke or get sued. A cost-benefit analysis does not (and should not) include low-probability events or contrived worst case scenarios. You can do a separate risk analysis, get insurance, plan for contingencies, etc., but that is not part of the expected cost or expected benefit calculation.

Getting seriously injured is not an average case scenario, but there are loan deferments for such scenarios anyway. The interest on student loans is quite low, it does not add a “ton” of time to your payback period unless you borrow a ton and pay as slowly as possible.

> If I ended up owing 150k and could afford to pay back 1k a month, It would take me 12.5 years

Actually, it would take a _lot_ longer, almost twice as long. The average student loan rate is around ~6%, which means that a $1k payment a month would work out to 23 years (I compounded monthly for simplicity, so subtract a year for a fudge factor if you'd like).

> I'm sorry but it's just not worth it. I can't think of many sober people that would disagree.

I've hired developers for the last 10 years and never looked at education, just skills. I think you're making a smart move and helping to hopefully boost these new forms of education that don't require sitting in a classroom for 4 years.

The last 10 years have been hardly typical years for the job market, at least in software. I can't predict the future, but education is (or at least was) supposed to be a long term investment, and it might be a fallacy to assume the next 30-40 years will be like the previous 10.

In a 20+ year career in software engineering I've never once been told I didn't get a job because I didn't have a college degree.

Have there been any times you applied and didn't get a job?

I ask because it is very unlikely an employer will straight up tell you that this was the reason.

Amazon engineering staff told me they wanted to hire me but could not because of some college degree policy they used to have. I dodged a bullet really, now I know better than to work for a company like Amazon.

While there certainly are a lot of companies that don't care about your degree, there are at least as many companies that won't even look at your resume without one. It literally gets auto-filtered. (Especially with less than 5 years of experience.) And as much as I'd like to say that you don't want to work for those kinds of people anyway, in my experience it is at best loosely connected to how your day to day work life actually looks like.

> there are at least as many companies that won't even look at your resume without one

And it’s about to get worse. You could get a job without a degree or any relevant experience in the 90’s because there were so many to be had and so few degrees to be found. Once you were in, you could stay in by virtue of your experience. This isn’t the case any more; it’s about to be impossible to get an entry level development job without a relevant degree. I think sometimes HN commenters forget that there’s a whole generation of kids in high school today who didn’t work for .com startups throughout the 90’s…

Oddly, I find the most prestigious companies are the ones who care the least. Probably because they have the skills to assess candidates properly, whereas LOCAL STATE BANK manager doesn't know why she needs someone with Spring Boot experience, and has to rely on the much noisier degrees and years of exp.

I think the biggest problem our industry has is tying internships to 'enroled in college or university'. Eliminate that requirement, and now people have a path in. Software development is a somewhere between a trade and an amateur mathematics program.

>Oddly, I find the most prestigious companies are the ones who care the least.

Hmm, I wonder about that actually. From what I've heard (hearsay, really), for a normal application Google and Microsoft won't look at it without a degree. But maybe they don't really look at it anyway. The only big company that I've heard doesn't really care is Nvidia, so props to them I suppose, but again, I heard that from one guy who's working there who might not have been entirely honest about prior contact with them, so I really can't say for sure. It would definitely be interesting though.

After a certain amount of experienced it isn't asked about anymore. Perhaps because a lot of what you would have learned would be outdated anyway or you would have picked it up on the job. When starting out tho at some you can get by by shown competencies, software you made or contributed to, tests, etc but it can matter at a lot of places

Well it is certainly possible that the labor market becomes even more saturated in software and education falls back into being an easy go-to natural filtration system.

We are seeing the big tech companies more than ever use algorithmic puzzle questions, and startups using "culture fit" as easy go-to filtration systems.

But, I imagine education might be an even simpler filter if labor supply keeps growing. It certainly makes for easy automated filtering if a person doesn't have a top-20 school listed on their resume.

> Well it is certainly possible that the labor market becomes even more saturated in software and education falls back into being an easy go-to natural filtration system.

Education is a shitty filtration system. Work-examples and/or skill-demonstration based interviews like the ones used for programmers are much better. The only reason that so many other industries rely on education is that they don't have as good ways of testing the actual skills of job applicants (and/or because testing doesn't scale that well - e.g. you can give a coding test to every programmer, but can't give a "surgery test" to every doctor).

> It certainly makes for easy automated filtering if a person doesn't have a top-20 school listed on their resume.

That seems like a very weak hiring strategy.

I'd imagine the top 10% of CS majors at a mid-tier school might be better than the bottom 10% at a top-tier school.

Also, college rankings can include all sorts of factors like endowments that might only be weakly correlated with the quality of the education, which itself is probably very difficult to measure.

Plus you're going to have a hiring bias against self-learners or those that can't afford a top 20 school.

A quick quiz or sample of prior work is a much better filter than a college name.

If there’s a real downturn we’ll see the big boys cut jobs—maybe a lot. Or even just some regulatory changes (especially reigning in spying and fruits-of-spying monetization) without a broader downturn. Wages downmarket would suffer a ton with all those top-comp folks with (by definition) above-average résumés and work history suddenly looking for a job. Probably upward mobility (into lead/senior/et c.) will suffer a lot. Doesn’t take more supply, lower demand is something we will see again.

Hopefully there are more people like you and less HR depts looking at colleges first or asking random and irrelevant CS questions

This makes me extremely happy to hear and it seems others are following the same path! Good on you. For me, it just seems like the logical way to go. Progress comes for us all, no matter how many years we've carried a tradition. If the colleges are struggling with low enrollment, it must be time to go back to the drawing board.

I work with a number of people who are fixated and super judged about brand-name school when hiring, especially Stanford. Single anecdotal example though.

Exactly. I'm a 34, I've been told over and over by employer to get a 4-year degree if I want to advance beyond entry level. I have 13 and a half years of experience at my job, competing companies will not even interview for the equivalent of my current position without a 4-year degree (they'd rather have someone with 6 months experience ad a 4-year degree than someone with 13 and a half years of experience and no degree). I am not CS.

So I can spend 4-6 years getting a 4-year degree and taking on 40-60k$ (my state's median household income is 54k!) of debt at 4.53% interest and probably around age 40 be able to compete for jobs with those that are 20-22 (as some kids are now simultaneously graduating high school and receiving associates degrees). At my current employer, moving up one position means a 7% increase in pay... so cool, I'd have 40-60k$ of debt, at 4.53% interest, and my 34k a year would bump up a to 36.4k a year...

Yeah, NO.

Even internally, training for job-related stuff is only given to those in higher positions... so their degree creates an immediate gap via advantage and then the training they are allowed access creates a further divide, as do awards that are only available at certain levels (get an award for doing X but only people in certain positions are allowed to even do X, someone with an award for X will get preferential treatment over someone without the experience of doing X and without an award for X).

So at 34 I could try to go back to school, after 16 years of being removed from an educational setting, and try to learn how to study/write papers/etc and probably waste a couple of grand before I can get back into the groove and walk into my 40's with 1/3 of the cost of a house in debt for a piece of paper that says I toed the line and temporarily memorized random bits of material and finally have that de facto dues card employers require.

By the time I pay that debt off I'm probably in my mid to late 50s (while having net less than I was without the degree for at least some of those years) and only have a 4-year degree, while I've spent a decade competing against people with Master's so I'm probably not netting much more per year than I would have been without the degree and will now heavily be fighting ageism and have 5-10 years of work left in me wishing I hadn't spent all of my free time in my mid 30's working on a degree.


If you don’t have a Bachelor’s and you have multiple years work experience you can get into a legitimate UK distance education Master’s as follows.

Do a MicroMaster’s from EdX in anything, or show some other proof of being able to do the work.

Apply somewhere that will let you take individual Master’s modules as standalone qualifications. I did the Centre for Financial and Management Studies [1]. There are others available through the University of London [2] though you’ll have to search through the linked list to find the Master’s level ones yourself as they only do BOTH not AND. If you want an MBA and have three years managerial experience look here [3]. If you have a lot of software engineering professional experience the Oxford M.Sc. in Software Engineering will accept “extensive experience in place of formal qualifications.“

CeFIMS Master’s cost ~£10K. I really doubt any of the above options cost over £20K.

If you want to get a Bachelor’s fast, for cheap go to Degree Forum[5]. Very US centric. You can definitely get a degree for under $5K.

[1] https://www.cefims.ac.uk/programmes/ipa/

[2] https://london.ac.uk/courses/international_type_of_study/18

[3] https://london.ac.uk/courses/global-mba#entry-requirements-9...

[4] https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/msc-softwar...

[5] http://degreeforum.net/mybb/

In the UK, initiatives like the open university can offer you that, proper math degrees at a reasonable price.

The problem is that in the marketplace, a degree is still more about prestige than actual knowledge.

Open University used to be cheap before the uni fee hike in 2012. Now each course costs £1500, putting the cost of a degree at more than £18000. Cheap only compared to the US, but not if the alternative is an Oxford/Cambridge branded degree for £27,500.

I was unaware of the hike, that's a shame tbh, as it lessens their value.

Thanks for the correction.

Yeah, but if it boosts your income by $50k, you’ll pay it back in 3. If you’re 37 now, and it’s paid off by 40, you’ll then have 25 or more years of $50k more a year. Let’s say you put that in a mattress, and so have an extra 1.25 million at retirement. You can then withdraw it at 4% a year for the 30 years after that. It’s an income boost of $50k/year through retirement.

Now, of course, you can put it somewhere better than a mattress—but also of course, you don’t expect a $50k/year raise from a college education. Which educations might give that? Top tech schools. Pharmacy. Not much else.

7 years to pay it off, 44 years old by the time they are done, you have to account for the 4 years in college.

Also, 150k is almost certainly an underestimate unless that's only tuition. If we assume 150k tuition (over 4 years) and that they currently make 50k per year that's 350k their out for getting educated. So 4 years education + 7 years earning it back would be 11 years, they're now 48 by the time they broke even, before considering interest.

That math still sort of works out, but it's far from a slam dunk. They're accepting a fair bit of risk. What if they study x and by the time they are out the job market has changed and their is no demand for x? What if they run into financial issues while in school and need to drop out? Etc.

$150k seems high, especially if you’re making any effort to choose your school based on price. Where I went it currently costs in the $10-15k/year range for tuition, lab fees, books, etc for state residents. You could further drive the price down by doing some of it at a community college and utilizing financial aid. The opportunity cost of leaving a $50k/year job far outweighs the price of tuition.

That's a BIG "if". The thought of paying $50k a year for three years sounds like a really efficient way to do it! In my experience, that's just not how life works. It's a happy thought, however.

I need your tax accountant!

It doesn’t have to be thousands and thousands of dollars per semester. You would have to attend some of the most expensive schools in the country and take out loans for tuition, room, and board to get to $150k in debt.

Find a community college with a credit transfer agreement. Take your undergrad courses and then transfer. I used to live in Dallas and DCCCD charges $59 per credit hour in 2020. You can then finish the remaining 60 hours at a school such as UNT for a total of $24,000. Total spend of around $27,500.

And Dallas is on the expensive side as far as cities in Texas.

Room and board can be $80K/4yrs before you even look at tuition.

Expensive schools are over $150k/4yrs in tuition alone.

So don't take a loan for room and board? This is obviously from the perspective of someone who is actively working and presumably not homeless.

This is obvious self-promo, but with that out of the way I'm genuinely curious what you think about something like Lambda School - https://lambdaschool.com/isa

Its massively expensive @ $30k for 9 months. A year at a reasonably good California State University is <$8000 (http://www.sjsu.edu/faso/docs/1920_COA_ugrd.pdf), or <$32k for 4 years (that price doesn't include housing or other living expenses, but neither does lambda school).

Yes, you wont pay $30k if you don't get a decent paying job - you'll just waste your time.


> Its massively expensive @ $30k for 9 months. A year at a reasonably good California State University is <$8000 (http://www.sjsu.edu/faso/docs/1920_COA_ugrd.pdf), or <$32k for 4 years

The time is a cost, not a benefit. If you're choosing between spending $30k and nine months to get an education, or $32k and four years, the first one is obviously and vastly superior to the second.

You may be thinking that the education you get at the CSU is better than what you get at Lambda School, but "higher price, better product" is the opposite of the argument you actually made.

That relies on the faulty assumption that you will learn just as much in 9 months as in four years. If that were true, saving time would be great. It isn't.

>> You may be thinking that the education you get at the CSU is better than what you get at Lambda School, but "higher price, better product" is the opposite of the argument you actually made.

Saving time may be great anyway. You have a high-cost product and an ultra-high-cost product. The fact that one of them is more valuable isn't enough to decide which one is a better purchase.

Well apples to apples would be one year studying CS at Lambda School then three years on the job vs four years of university.

Financially you’re wildly better off attending Lambda School, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to make an argument that the four years of university provide a vastly superior education to a year of Lambda School and three years working as a software engineer.

> Well apples to apples would be

I don't think so. This is again making the big assumption that you get the same outcome and the same jobs coming out of Lambda School. Might be, might not be, but so far you just claimed grandiose properties without any argument behind them (and changing from comment to comment).

Or 1 year at college and then drop out having learned as much as Lambda teaches you.

If you can do that, sure!

The payoff of 1 year at a reasonably good California State university is $0. You have to attend for 4 years and spend $32k in order to get a degree / payoff. Lambda school is saving you $2k and 3 years of time. (and btw I have no affiliation to lambda school)

Some college produces better outcomes than no college. I bet most people here that have "no degree" do have "some college" under their belt.

A year of college is enough to get an internship, and an internship is enough to get a job in many cases.

If you're enough of a go-getter to turn 1 year of first year gen-eds into a high paying job you probably don't need school.

I have an extreme amount of respect for Lambda School. One of their funds helped me get out of a bad place. I just haven't written the follow-up article. As far as their model, I absolutely love it. It's at the very least, in my opinion, a great step in the right direction.

Oh my goodness you’re that Jesse!

Hope the car helped - from your LinkedIn it looks like you were able to get back on your feet.

It was a literal life-saver. There was still quite a journey to go from where I was, to where I am now, but without help from you guys I would still be knee-deep in the struggle. I've been able to find stability, this past year. I hope that I can pay it back, one day. I owe LS and this community a great deal.

Look into Western Governors' University.

That's also with 0% interest.

Personally, besides a lot of this being self-inflicted, can we just mention how predatory colleges are?

You're a young 17 year old. You can sign on to owe up to over a hundred thousand dollars, if you choose to go to a private college, even though you can't smoke or drink until you're 21 (and, if you live in Mississippi, you aren't legally at the age of majority until you are 21!). Not only that, but it's a really hard debt to get out of and they will strongly pressure your family to cosign, which (should you fail) is a great way to wreck a relationship.

In fact, the 21 thing is pretty dumb anyway. You can get married, enter a lottery, take out over $100K in debt, or join the army and get killed, or gamble away your life savings, or buy gun ammunition, or sue people or get sued, but heaven forbid you buy a beer.

Next, schoolbooks. Ludicrously overpriced, to try to convince you to "sell back" your books at the end of the semester for a pittance. Colleges claim to love diversity - if so, you might consider not price gouging books to oblivion and making it harder for lower classes to afford college, perhaps?

I grew up in Mississippi, and I had never heard of this! I can say that practically it doesn’t make much of a difference: once eighteen, you can still enter into binding contracts, execute estates, sue people, and buy cigarettes[0]. It seems to still mostly apply to drinking, but you’re right. Technically you’re a minor until you’re 21!

[0]: https://minors.uslegal.com/age-of-majority/mississippi-age-o...

Textbooks now just equate to software for homework that happens to include a basically worthless 'ebook'.

When I was getting my bachelors I had a history professor REQUIRE 6 textbooks 5 of which he was author or co-author. I read a lot as it is but reading 5/6 books for 1 class in 1 semester is crazy.

Stop thinking so much. They just want you to pay them. They want your money. Even if you figure it out somehow before you sign in blood, society damn near forces the median human being to go to college as a pre-requisite to survival :)

Actual parasites.

Diversity is mostly a corporate "ideology"

No, corporate adopted it because it’s profitable right now.

Just curious about this: What makes diversity profitable?

Because the lens of American society has moved beyond the acceptance of overt discriminatory practices in many areas, and business moves with societal expectations to capture money.

Now, go tell a realtor you want a house in a low crime, quiet neighborhood with highly rated schools and they'll know exactly what you are looking for. Or tell the hiring manager that the candidate you interviewed may not "fit well with the team" and that they should keep looking - they'll get it too.

You seem to point to hidden racism, but that doesn't answer the question. I see no discussion of profitability in your examples.

Take the contraposition: being overtly racist or segregationist is not profitable.

How many whites only lunch counters exist today?

I get your point, but I feel that’s a bit off topic. You can definitely lose money by being overtly discriminatory, that doesn’t imply that diversity is a lucrative thing. Not being discriminatory doesn’t imply that you’re promoting/focusing on diversity.

When I worked at a Fortune 500 company, their position was that you can't adequately understand and serve your market if you don't hire a variety of people. If everyone at your company is the same culture, ethnicity, etc, there will be quite large gaps in their knowledge for potential market segments.

They had a saying along the lines of "We hire everyone because we sell to everyone."

If everyone at your company is the same culture, ethnicity, etc, there will be quite large gaps in their knowledge for potential market segments.

That is true but it is also true that if everyone is 20-something graduate of the same handful of colleges then a group that looks very diverse isn’t diverse at all in any meaningful sense. This should be called “the Google paradox”.

If they sell products to high school dropouts, do they also hire high school dropouts?

* It resonates with the current socio-political zietgiest, aka the company sounds hip and in-tune with the times. This improves the brand image, and allows the brand to connect more directly with those who share similar views.

* To further the above point, it allows you to position yourself and your brand on the correct side of moral issues. This allows your company to look like it's doing something positive when most companies exist, in a Milton Friedman sense, as soulless money making machines with little regard for anything else. This also allows employees to feel as though they're good/smug/working for a positive organization.

* Floating sensitive soicio-political topics leads to great clickbate, and gets lots of eyes on articles and ads.

* It allows you to sell to larger demographic. This makes you more money via sales.

* It allows you to recruit from larger pools of labor, or at least attempt to appeal to larger numbers of applicants. This allows you to keep labor costs down and/or to find solid candidates from alternative sources.

* There is no serious rebuttal to pushing that agenda. If you push back you're a fascist/ageist/racist/ableist/misogynist etc., and this makes the individual, and/or the brand, look bad.

As a soulless capitalist I'd be hammering those concepts CONSTANTLY in order to expand the bottom line. Actual adoption, like many boilerplate talks about workplace safety, compliance, and sexual harassment, would be as pro forma as possible, so long as the perceptions were met.

This is a little sad but probably inevitable. I went to one of these rural small liberal arts school decades ago (good faculty but no national reputation). Even then it felt anachronistic with a bunch of privileged young people studying like English and philosophy and history but in a giant beautiful isolated summer camp. There was no real connection to industry or jobs (or the outside world) and not much STEM so if you didn’t have connections you kinda got screwed. Makes me want to reread The Secret History though, it perfectly captured the weird cozy but suffocating vibe of being trapped in an isolated bubble with the same people for years on end.

Yet that environment is probably much closer to the original purpose of a university than most others. Philosophy students at a small liberal arts school are much closer in spirit to Renaissance-era Oxford, Sorbonne, or Bologna. At least compared to STEM majors at an urban campus in a work-study program.

The point of a university pretty much is to hole yourself away from the broader world and engross yourself in the life of the mind squirrels away from practical concerns about the real world. It's kind of weird that we shoehorned this whole idea of career preparation for mass populations into an institution that's uniquely unsuited for that specific purpose.

Then we get pissed off because when those same universities don't do a good job preparing students for the job market. But that's like complaining that a winter coat is uncomfortable to wear to the beach.

> It's kind of weird that we shoehorned this whole idea of career preparation for mass populations into an institution that's uniquely unsuited for that specific purpose.

it's because of the GI bill https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G.I._Bill , which setup a generation of people who got cheap/free college. Then they, obviously being educated, did well, and it flowed out on to the rest of society.

University was originally only for those who have the privilege of paying for it. And if you could afford it, you wouldn't need to worry about jobs or having to pay bills. But the recent college education dogma for jobs has transformed it to a utility, an "investment", and thus loans.

There is a place for loans to college education, but not as high as i see right now.

Hmm, I too agree. Essentially we are looking for something between a trade school and the ivory-tower of a university.

Bootcamps are close, but I think they are over-promising in their speed (only 12 weeks!) and have some reputational issues now.

A lot of universities have adapted and are offering separate but closely related programs for software dev and CS.

...and also closer to the "original" fact that only the very few children of the privileged class could afford to attend and study nothing but Philosophy.

How many philosophers do we need?

Fucking all of them!

I would much prefer every person on Earth be a philosopher than no-one. I think a lot of bad things exist today not because someone saw a good option and a bad option and chose the bad, but because someone saw two options and, being unable to tell which was which, chose arbitrarily.

> Makes me want to reread The Secret History though, it perfectly captured the weird cozy but suffocating vibe of being trapped in an isolated bubble with the same people for years on end.

The cozy vibe of murder?

Jokes aside, my impression of the school in that book was that it was closer to one of the fancy east coast SLACs that do have somewhat of a reputation, but it's been a while

Well, well, well... if it isn't the consequences of your own actions.

1.) Colleges jack up their tuition to the point of being un-affordable (multiple years of salary), forcing students to take on massive amounts of debt at the start of their careers

2.) Prospective students are unwilling to become servitude to student loan debt at no-name small colleges and realize that college is hardly the only means for employment

3.) Small colleges close due to low enrollment

4.) Regardless of how you feel about it, college faculty and courses generally urged students to postpone marriage and childbearing, ironically resulting in less children to grow up and take college in the next generation.

5) Those students, now parents, not only have fewer children, but having seen their older friends delay retirement to fund their kids education, and are now discouraging their own children from overspending on private schools.

5) When they do finally start having children, consider what it costs to send a child to college, so have fewer children because they can't afford more.

1.5 --> students with massive amounts of debt delay childbearing, making next generation smaller...

the photo and the first frame of the youtube video are from columbia (in ny). kind of ironic since elite schools probably aren't facing these issues.

>According to Moody’s, in the next few years the closure rate for non-profit, U.S. private colleges will climb to around 15 a year—triple what it was in 2014.

you know what kind of editorializing of titles i'd like? one that puts the lede front and center. there are 1687[1] private nonprofit unis in the US. so this is a rate of less than 1% a year. is that really alarming?

[1] https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2019...

Elite research universities are definitely seeing constraints. Or, alternately speaking, theoretical physical and life sciences experiments are getting extremely expensive ;)

I think the college of the future looks a lot like USC Film School. It's virtually identical to a production quality film or television studio. But tuition, room and board plus stipend will all be provided in part via corporate sponsorship or government funding. Product development exists symbiotically with research as "pure" funding is priced out, even by the wealthiest of donors

Dominate the Fight: The Army's Synthetic Training Environment (USC-ICT)


Ah, I've been wondering where all these slow training videos with atrocious, uncanny-valley NPCs in uniform come from.

Happy to get pushback on this article submission. I did take note of the source (China Global Television Network) but the thesis presented of demographic change and increased wariness about taking on debt seemed plausible.

It's still an odd statistic if the demand for college-as-credential is holding strong or rising.

Likely explanation: demographic dip. The demand for a credential is still high (perhaps even rising), but the number of college age students is either in a local dip or downward trend. And the value of a small college has always been marginal, so that's where the leading edge of the trend hits. Enrollment falls, tuition receipts with it, public funding is strained, the institution closes.

For those who aren't aware: CGTN is the Chinese version of Russia Today.


Here's an article on Green Mountain from Inside Higher Ed. It contains a little more detail.


The comments here are divorced from reality and the article.

The average student loan debt for students who took out a loan is around $30,000. Some have more, as averages work, but most have less. How? About 30% of students graduate with no debt.

Furthermore, the number of schools closing is absolutely trivial and if you read the article you would see that the real issue seems to be plummeting birth rates in the northeast US. The school in the article was charging $12,000 per year in tuition on average. A far cry from what the comments here would have you believe. “$150k in debt.”

Someone on HN reading the article? HAH

> While annual tuition was around $36,000, no one paid that. “We were actually discounting that about 67%. So the average student was really only paying about $12,000 for tuition,” said Allen.

The opaque cost of college is one of the problems. If it cost $12k to go there they should advertise a $12k tuition and maybe wouldn’t be closing.

This seems very reasonable, but I've read enough to know it's more complex than you think. College admission officers are juggling a lot of complex math to figure out their student body. But the reason they don't charge 12k is for a couple of reasons. Some kids will pay the 36k(Usually screw ups with rich parents) and to attract top tier students that raise their rankings(which they need high to attract students) they need to give them large discounts and scholarships.

Most people would prefer to go a 50k school with 38k in scholarships than a 12k school.

> Most people would prefer to go a 50k school with 38k in scholarships than a 12k school.

Sure. The psychology is completely different. "I went to an average place at an average cost" doesn't have the sizzle of "I went to an elite place, and I got a massive discount!"

Meanwhile college is 500€ a year in France...

Meanwhile the tax wedge in France is 50%, versus 30% in the United States: https://images.app.goo.gl/w7bDooKFRoRewLYn8. On a $50,000 income, it’ll take only 4 years for the tax savings to offset the benefit of “free college” (assuming average public school tuition). If you include the average cost of employer-provided health insurance in the tax wedge, you come out ahead in the US in 7 years (assuming 5% rate of return).

Of course, then there is the fact that Americans earn more. To use teachers as an example of a college required job: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/gov_glance-2017-35-e.... Average salary of $27,000 (adjusted for purchasing power) in France versus $40,000 in the US. Before employer taxes is about $36,000 in France. Before employer taxes and health insurance it’s about $49,000 in the US. Applying the tax wedge again, the US teacher is making more than $10,000 per year more to start, and will offset the difference in free college in a bit over 4 years. After 15 years experience, the US teacher will be earning $75,000 before employer side taxes and health insurance, while the French teacher will be at $51,000.

This discounts all the other benefits the French are getting for their taxes beyond it paying for higher education and healthcare; eg much better public transit. You will still probably do better in the USA, especially at higher incomes, but the French aren’t very unhappy with their life quality.

Public transit can be considered a liability, not a benefit: https://www.thelocal.fr/20160418/parisians-spend-23-days-a-y...

> 92 minutes. That’s the amount of time on average that people in the Paris area spend on public transport each day of their lives.

> And if the figure is only applied to those who work then it rises to 113 minutes each day.

> So basically that’s over an hour and half sitting, or more likely standing, on the Metro, RER trains or buses according to a new study by France’s Urban Development institute.

A typical Houstonian, where the average commute is under an hour, isn’t pining for higher taxes and public transit.

Pretty sure I would be happier living in Paris than Houston, but to each their own. Alain just to be clear, are commutes cumulatively measured both ways in Houston as well, so you mean they spend less than 60 minutes each day commuting? Or do you mean less than 120 minutes (to go and get back)?

60 minutes round trip.

That’s pretty good then. My one way commute in Lausanne was 10 minutes by bike (15 on return since...up hill), but I intentionally lived near where I worked and the city. Paris offers similar options, but you don’t get a big place as you would get in the outer districts.

Meanwhile you know little about tax system in Europe and you just blindly apply a ratio to an average taken from a picture. In France, raising a family or marry someone who earns less than you will reduce your income tax, unlike Germany for example.

About teacher's pay, if you look into the details, you will find that the french state motto is "Do as I say, not as I do". All the annoying employment law do not apply when the french state is the employer. As such, the brutto/netto salary ratio for teachers is bigger than other employee. But the main perk is not salary, it is the 2 month summer holidays and job for life, and of course free healthcare and pension plan.

Teacher pensions in France don’t seem particularly generous: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/12/10/last-straw-tea....

> One teacher’s union put it this way. A retiree with a 40 year career in teaching might have finally attained a salary of 3,200 euros a month. Right now, they would retire with 2,281 euros a month, but after the reforms, that would decrease to 1,803 euros.

Here in Anne Arundel county Maryland (which is kind of a middling state in terms of tax and public employee benefits), teachers with a bachelors degree earn $45,000 to start going up to $65,000. Pension benefits from the Maryland state employee retirement system after a 40-year career (to match the calculation above), would be $32,000. But Maryland teachers are also eligible for Social Security. At that salary range, that’s be an additional $25,000 per year.

People have this idea that lower salaries in Europe are made up by the better benefits. That might be true for low income earners, but it's mathematically impossible for that to be true for above-median earners. Europe has more benefits and a flatter income distribution, but one of the costs of that is significantly less economic production.

Even factoring out corporate profits and the income of the top 1%, the U.S. economy amounts to about $47,400 per person. For France, its about $33,600.[1] Given that French taxes rest mainly on the bottom 99%, and provide a more generous safety net for the poor, it's literally impossible for an above-median person like a teacher to be anywhere near as well off, even accounting for benefits, in France as compared to the US.[2]

[1] This is based on looking at the current accounts for the various countries. I estimate $2 trillion in top 1% income and $1.9 trillion in corporate profits for the U.S., and $188 billion in corporate profits and $139 billion in top 1% income in France. The latter calculation relies on the reported figure that the top 1% earns 10% of all income in France and 20% in the U.S., but assumes that personal income as a share of GDP is similar in the two countries.

[2] Note that the $5,000 extra that Americans pay for healthcare compared to the French will reduce that gap somewhat for the average worker. But since we excluded corporate profits and top 1% incomes from the calculation, most of that extra money is going to be redistributed to incomes of bottom-99% healthcare workers.

> But the main perk is not salary, it is the 2 month summer holidays and job for life, and of course free healthcare and pension plan.

Those are not meaningfully different in the US. Public service unions are great everywhere.

That's true but the cost per student is much higher than that. I know that for example a student at a grande école back when I was in an engineering school early 2000 cost 35k euros per year to the state. It's probably even more now...

What happens to the campus when a liberal arts college shuts down? In Green Mountain College's case it seems like they're looking for a buyer to the tune of $20 million or so. [0] I think it'd be pretty rad if old college campuses turned into hubs for remote workers; who's working on that?

[0] https://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/as-green-mountain-colleg...

Once there is a place I’m supposed to go to work remotely, am I still working remotely?

Complete Side note- I think there must be a market selling RVs to remote workers that work well as home offices. I converted a shed to a home office, but I spent almost as much as a similarly sized RV even after doing a lot of the work myself. The RV has the advantage of being easy to deliver, avoids building code restrictions, can come well wired for power and internet, and you get to have an RV.

When they're self-driving, at least on highways, I'm never going to work from anything else ever again.

There's something perverse about a liberal arts college campus being repurposed for co-working.

This sounds fantastically interesting, and I could see it being successful. Basically — go live in a (literally) college like setting, but you have a source of income. I would do it. Hit me up if you want to chat about this idea.

The school probably already has a fat internet pipe, too. Maybe this is the kind of thing a town would want to finance for a short period of time. Maybe you set it up as a co-op with the town? What a fun idea, lol.

Tinder theme park?

Isn’t that what they are now?

Did US Colleges struggling with low enrollment not close before? What kind of chicanery was going on to keep them open? Is the increasing rate a coincidence? The converse of this statement sounds borderline hilarious: US Colleges Not Struggling with Low Enrollment are Not closing at an increasing rate. Intuition tells me the larger colleges, especially those with sports pedigree are growing substantially, as consumers are now increasingly more aware of costs associated with degrees, and are opting in for more affordable options. The NCES projects an increase of 2% overall increase in enrollment in 4 year programs and a 3% increase in 3 year programs over the next 10 years, so these kids are going somewhere.

> Did US Colleges struggling with low enrollment not close before? What kind of chicanery was going on to keep them open?

The rising tide of population growth lifted all boats. High school graduations peaked in 2013. That's total, not rate. Presumably the rate peaked even sooner. There's no more American-born students to victimize. And with the current administration's immigration policies, the US higher education market has had an "opportunity to explore a limited growth marketplace".

> Part of the problem is demographics.

> The number of high school seniors is dropping – dramatically in some parts of the country

Are we headed for inverted pyramid like Japan?

The other problem is ballooning administration and the associated costs. The administration can run it into the ground and be unwilling to trim their unnecessary colleagues/selves, preferring to no longer exist or allow their hired professors to provide a valuable service

This isn't true.

The main driver of the growth of public education costs is legislative funding cuts. As government has stopped paying for higher education, this cost has been shifted to families, making what once was affordable, increasingly unaffordable. This crisis is is the result of choices we've made.




And a lot has been shifted to debt, which masks the problem, for a while. This makes the causes less visible.

This is definitely true for public universities. Where I've worked, we've tried hard to keep tuition down, but it's literally the only dial left that can be moved with any degree of reliability.

Gov does not pay for private colleges.

I went to Duke University from 1987 to 1991. Because I was a North Carolina Resident not using a public university, but staying in state, North Carolina paid Duke $1000 out of the $8000 tuition for me. Not sure what it is now, or if it still exists.

Private colleges do receive federal funding, and can even receive more public funding than public schools. A few colleges like Hillsdale are notable (or notorious) for refusing it.

It indirectly does via loan guarantees

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. The government pays for private universities in a number of ways:

1. Private non-profit universities are typically exempt from paying property tax. While this may seem like a reasonable idea, do note that many of these universities also own and operate commercial and retail centers, which complicates the tax exempt benefits. The ability to not pay tax is a direct subsidy from the local government to the university. One common and long standing story that illustrates this is the relationship between Yale and New Haven:


Yale does pay some property tax, but really not as much as they should. They do actually make voluntary payments and New Haven is vastly better off that they're there, but they're still subsidized by the city and state.

2. The R&D departments at both public and private universities are heavily funded by the federal government. Note, only a fraction of the business that a university conducts relates to teaching students. One of its primary, central duties also involves research. The federal government funds both public and private universities and many private universities receive hundreds of millions dollars in such grants:


3. Pell grants, the GI Bill, and federal students are allowed to be given to private universities. In fact, for profit universities are supposed to limit their total income to only 90% of federal grants and most push right up against this limit. Without these government funds, they could not exist:


More generally, I'm not sure why the grandparent comment is getting as much grief as they are for laying blame on state legislators. The linked article from CBPP is pretty telling and damning. Candidly, the issue is complicated, but the state legislatures consistently decreasing funding the universities has made tuition raises inevitable. If anyone is interested, Pew has a recent article that has a lot of information that details the source of university funding:


There's a lot in there, but one of things they document is a shift from funding universities primarily through state funds to funding them through federal. Federal dollars are not just transferred to the university in the same way that state funds are. The law requires these funds be transferred through things like the GI bill, or Pell grants, or student loans, or some other vessel. Universities get access to these dollars by raising tuition. So, yes, federal student loans are a problem, but turning off that spigot doesn't magically mean the universities will have the money they need to operate. State legislatures should be held accountable for the problem that they helped facilitate.

Hahahaha good one.

Yeah, take a look at University Affiliated Research Centers if you think Stanford and MIT do not receive federal dollars. They compete with McKinsey for highest hourly rate.

Yes. All developed countries are. Most of Africa is holding the fertility rate above replacement rate, but as they develop, education and birth control is wildly available, you'll see the fertility rate decline there as well.



Disclaimer: Our World In Data is in non-profit YC19 batch.

I love imagining birth control being “wildly” available

Depending on where your waste water is dumped, it is.

I'm going to let my typo stand! There should be no shame in any type of consensual sexual activity.

A wonderful typo, I meant no snark or admonishment

None assumed!

Hopefully. The world could do with a few less people and infinite-growth economics was never a truly reasonable proposition anyway.

It's likely, but not for certain. The demographics will change depending on death rates, birth rates, and immigration, all three of which could change depending on a multitude of factors. At the current rate, we already have somewhat of an inverted pyramid -- the boomers are a massive generation and their loss will heavily influence American society.

>Allen is spending his remaining days wrapping things up. The coffee machines are going away and he’s now giving tours of the campus to prospective buyers, including Chinese buyers.

This reminds me talks of China buying up land and properties in US. I wonder why they are doing this.

Occam's razor / base rates.

China is like 20% of the world's entire population. It's close to as much of the global economy as the US, or the EU. It's way bigger than Japan.

There's a ton of wealth there, and a ton of rich businesses and people.

As things stand right now, China should account for about 15% of all asset purchases globally. It's not surprising if a lot of land and schools and houses and business in the US are being bought by China. There's similar amounts being bought by the EU and Japan.

A conspiracy theorist would tell you it's because a lot of people inside and outside of China think the RMB is over valued (by as much as 50%). There's probably truth to this, but compared to the above mentioned base rates -- the affects are likely negligible.

I would expect rates of land purchases in a country to be heavily biased towards its citizens, not be near their share of global GDP...

The USA is an open market compared to other locales. It’s why the Japanese bought up a lot of real estate during the 80s, and why the Chinese are doing it now.

I know, I just mean that people are generally going to spend much more of their wealth on local land than abroad, so there's no way the land purchase breakdown is going to be anything like the global GDP breakdown.

True, but they already do. China is basically just exporting some of the property bubble they already have back home (just like the Japanese did in the 80s).

Probably for the same reasons they buy US dollars.

Because trade surpluses leave you with a large amount of foreign money. You can spend them on more imports or on acquiring foreign capital. By definition exports exceed imports when you have a trade surplus so the only option left is capital acquisition.

As others here have pointed out, if you have absolute top scores, and GPA, and have done awesome projects, then you can get a full ride somewhere. Just got to find that ride.

If not, then wait until over 25 so that your parent's income isn't considered, assuming they make say more than $50k or so combined family income. (Ie more than the federal poverty line.)

Top standardized test scores are necessary for financial aid and admittance to a top program. Plus a high GPA. The GPA requirement sucks since it's completely arbitrary. Maybe your GPA is low because you are super high IQ and teachers hated your guts. That happens often.

Here’s a recent article from NPR discussing the problems smaller colleges face when enrollment decreases [1].

Many of the issues (faculty cuts, etc.) have been discussed here, but something I find interesting is that, in order to stay afloat, they’re changing the demographics they target. Namely, first-gen students (this has been an existing target for sometime) and returning adults:

“ The challenge is that returning adult students are a lot harder to recruit. For high school students, Orians says, "we know where those people are. High schoolers are a captive audience." But when it comes to adults, she says, "they are everywhere. They are working. They are parents. They are engaged with their community." “

That said, they recognize recruitment isn’t always enough. They also plan to explore industry partnerships, further teacher training, and, most importantly, student retention:

“ Last week, new numbers on graduation rates revealed that 60% of students who start college get their degree in six years. That's the highest its been in nearly a decade. “

1. https://www.npr.org/2019/12/16/787909495/fewer-students-are-...

My 15-year-old will be dealing with the college rat race pretty soon. Some of her friends have been taking community college or online college courses in their later high school years. Some have graduated high school and are working, taking some remote courses at night, methodically working toward career goals while not going into debt.

The old monolithic approach to college, really an extension of the K-12 system, seems increasingly impractical and irrelevant for today's needs. I agree with others here who argue for taking courses on an ad hoc basis, focusing more on growing a career starting from age 18, rather than immersing oneself in higher ed for four years, hoping and assuming there's a nice job waiting at the other end.

Look, if you have $200K or $300K lying around, great, go to a nice liberal arts school and enjoy yourself for a few years. There are few things in life more fun than being a college student, stuffing your mind with knowledge during the day and getting soused at night.

But in the real world... these little liberal arts schools are a luxury our society no longer can afford, nor do they really serve much of a purpose anymore. The only shame is that we potentially will lose some writers, poets, and artists.

Paying tuition to the tune of $200k-300k is not a prerequisite to becoming a writer, poet, nor artist.

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