College age population crashing


It’s all in the reflexes
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New Hampshire

I'm 52 and went to a community college in California for an associate degree that I got little use out of, so I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of academia :D. This was very interesting to me; I didn't realize it was coming.


Watching March roll out real winter
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Catskill Mountains

I'm 52 and went to a community college in California for an associate degree that I got little use out of, so I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of academia :D. This was very interesting to me; I didn't realize it was coming.

I'm not sure we can measure what we get out of education really. Our brains accept what passes in there and sticks for whatever reason, even if we're not especially aware of having acquired new skills, ones that the brain later hauls out only in its own interest, which is always economy of effort. My music teachers went on and on about practicing until one acquires a state of "effortless effort." It works for more than just playing a fiddle or the piano. It's about practice of any skill finally making things simpler, opening up a world gone past mechanics to choicefulness and creativity.

Of course ability to apply "effortless effort" doesn't have to be taught in a college. One can begin learning how to do that in grade school or before then in a barn milking cows, what the hell. It's not that hard to learn to keep from getting kicked in the head once you see a cow try it on someone else...

Still, the stuff we practice in college is almost always an expansion of life skills from the ones we practiced in high school. The more stuff our brains manage to help us transfer into a state of reliable retrieval -- and categorization: what is wise, what is oy, foolish!-- well then the more time we have to get on with our life in choiceful fashion. It's why we don't start out every morning wondering how the hell to tie our shoelaces. We know how to do that almost unerringly, and so we have gained a chance to learn more new stuff on more mornings.

My own feeling on the "coming crunch for colleges" situation is that in the longer run it may well improve the overall education of Americans. We could end up with better educated teachers in public high schools, and so better educated students too... assuming voters ever realize that cutting school budgets is like cutting off the head and hands of their kid.

Teaching is reaching students, finding that one kid with a spark of curiosity that a teacher can underwrite and help convert into a launchpad for a lifetime of learning that goes on after all formal schooling has ended. You can teach in a one room schoolhouse and find that spark of desire to learn in a student in that venue, but someone has to be paying that teacher enough to put food on the table.​
Today we say yeah but why pay a teacher to teach art or music or for that matter history or literature, because you can't make a buck knowing any of that. And so today we're falling behind other countries because... what the hell ARE we teaching? Don't say gay? Don't let's have these particular books in the library?​

But there are always people who end up drawn to teaching, no matter the challenges from parents and boards of education. If in near future there are not so many opportunities to teach at a two- or four-year college, then prep schools and public high schools may come into sharper focus as opportunities.​

Anyway with respect to the crunch on colleges, and some of it's well deserved: the private universities are already having to wise up in order to compete with publicly funded or state university systems, and move away from exorbitant annual costs that (even after grants or scholarships) can often leave students on the hook for huge debts. There is still interest in liberal arts schools but it's daunting to start a working lifetime owing north of $200k, so there's pressure to aim for a highly paid job. We're not all meant to land in fintech or surgical specialties, any more than we're all meant to be carpenters or jewelry makers or forest rangers, and the world does still need historians and artists and musicians to remain even half-civilized.

Hartwick College is a private liberal arts university in Oneonta, NY (heh, and one of their notable alumni happens to be the Jack Smith who was just named Special Counsel to wrap up the investigations of Donald Trump). Hartwick is now under pressure to compete with three state universities in the region that will be offering in-state residents greatly lowered tution costs under a program developed by the state's previous governor.

So Hartwick just announced a new tuition arrangement for residents of eight rural counties in the adjoining area of NYS. Students admitted under the program will pay just $8,775 for tuition and fees, versus the usual (and pricey for the region and state) $47,370 tag for those items before financial aid. Before now there had been no difference at Hartwick for in-state or out of state residents regarding tuition and fees.

Of course usual financial aid packages and grants do bring that $47k figure down a lot, probably into the mid-20k or so, but starting from $9k instead makes the net cost much more manageable for students from these eight counties. The effect is expected to raise the educational level of the region and likely make the area more attractive to high tech and light industry employers... and so stop the brain drain from these counties that are long on scenic beauty and consolidated farming or forestry operations, but short on other kinds of work past retail, construction, transportation.

Lots of rural high schools do land their students in expensive private colleges in other states, and help them get financial aid. The problem there is that those kids --like their suburban or urban classmates-- then go on to graduate schools, then land in Wall Street, Washington DC or urban hubs near their universities. Their home county only ever sees them again on holidays.

I'm kind of hoping that other private colleges in the exurban stretches of some of our red states will start thinking of similar ways to expand admission of local or regional students from in state, and so have a better chance of retaining an educated populace than how it tends to work now.
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