Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The "College Crisis" As Represented In The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus And Blog Love Omega Glee

As August begins, summer begins to end.  You have probably already seen multiple back to school advertisements and articles.  What's different this year is that among the excitement is a greater than usual amount of worry and dread, particularly centering around those headed off to college.  We're told that we're on the edge of a student loan bubble, that students might be better off skipping college if all they're motivated by is money, and that, due to a variety of factors, the quality of a college education is not quite what it used to be.

While preparing ebooks of Blog Love Omega Glee and The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus recently, I was struck by how the two novels reflect these issues.  In Emus, the band is enrolled in college whereas in Blog Love Omega Glee, the main characters are college graduates who are underemployed (by the way, five thousand janitors in the USA have PhDs or an equivalent degree).

In fact, Emus might be set in the tail end of the Golden Age of College in the USA.  Even then though, one character drops out of school, deciding that college isn't worth it.  However, his bandmates still seem to be getting some learning out of college as well as having a good time.  Today, it appears that college students are so stressed by the high cost of college that they're working more to pay for college and, as a result, studying less and getting less out of the experience in terms of both learning and fun.  Documenting this phenomenon pretty well is Rebekah Nathan's book My Freshman Year: What A Professor Learned By Becoming A Student.

This situation certainly is a shame.  I had a wonderful college experience, and I hope those days aren't over for today's college students, but I suspect they probably are.  Colleges should hold down costs wherever they can to keep higher education affordable.  That might help.  By the way, it's not faculty salaries causing the costs to rise, as Joe Biden and some others like to claim.  I've taught full time at colleges for years, and I make substantially less than the average high school teacher in the school district I live in makes (and I'm not the only professor underachieving economically.  Many of my fellow PhD graduates are fine scholars and teachers, but are eking out sustenance level livings as adjunct instructors, are unemployed due to the glut of English PhDs, or are employed at marginal institutions on the edge of folding).

The growth in college costs mainly stems from the growth in administration (most of which is probably beneficial, just not necessary), rising healthcare and technology costs (colleges get socked with rising healthcare insurance costs just like every other business, and colleges in the 1960s didn't have computers in every office), declining government subsidies (aside from loans that one can't ever be free of), and having a slightly outdated and inefficient business model (lots of classrooms are empty even on Fridays, not to mention June, July, and August).

With all these academic worries, what would Funnybear do?

Probably just drink another beer.

Some things about college will never change.     

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