USA Today is reporting on a study published in a book titled Academically Adrift.  The study that included twenty nine unnamed universities found that students showed little or no learning for their freshman and sophomore years.  Those who graduated did only slightly better.

With parents shelling out between #30,000 and $35,000 a year to send their little darlings off to an elite private university you would think that the institution could deliver value close to the cost.

As a hopelessly left brained engineer I insist that things make sense.  Let’s assume that the average class size in college was 20 students and the tuition was $5,000 a semester ($10,000 a year).  That would mean that the university would get $200,000 per classroom. It is difficult to calculate exact costs at the university level.  Research Professors only teach one or two classes.  Many classes are taught by graduate students (almost slave labor wages for what they do).

I would love to see a performance audit on some top public universities.  The results would be very revealing. With many professors only teaching one or two classes, they are only in the classroom for three to six hours a week and they are paid for forty hours.  It would be more reasonable if they spent twelve to fifteen hours in the classroom each week.  If they did this, and used graduate students for grading assignments where reasonable, etc. the cost of a university education would tumble quite quickly.

The study indicated that many students don’t even have twenty pages of writing assigned to them in a semester.  That is less than one page a day. More traditional majors, such as math, chemistry, biology, engineering, etc. are producing much better results.  Nontraditional fields of study (women studies, Latino studies, etc.) appear to have about as much academic value as they have in the job market.

It would seem that even our university system is in dire straights at this time.

Conclusion:  Choose your child’s university carefully.

By Paul R. Stone