Here's a close-up view:
At least it's better-conceived, and probably better-constructed, than the Titanic was.
Speaking of which...By now, you've probably heard that Sunday (the 15th) will be the 100th anniversary of its sinking. Jeffrey Harrison, a University of Florida law professor and the author of the blog Class Bias In Higher Education, took the occasion to make comparisons between that disaster/tragedy and the law school debacle. Of the capsizing of the "unsinkable" ship, he tells us, "If you cut through the details, it was about hubris, greed, disorganization, carelessness and uncertainty." In his post, he proceeds to list the "warning signs" that you are in a "law-school Titanic."
If you've read some of my previous posts, you know that much of what professors Harrison and Campos, as well as bloggers like Nando, say about law school can just as easily be applied to almost any graduate program besides medical school and to much of undergraduate education. Entire states have been deforested, and digital programs rendered obsolete, over the number of words that have been used to describe the "crisis" in higher education. What those who write about the "crisis" fail to tell you is that, more often than not, they themselves are complicit in at least part of it.
For too long, schools with graduate programs have pressured departments and professors to get as many students as possible into graduate school. In a previous post, I described some of the reasons for this. Actually, most professors don't have to be pressured too much: They'd rather work with graduate students, if they have to work with students at all. And, in their tenured positions, most are oblivious--some willfully so--of the horrendous market for professors, which are what most graduate students want to become. If, during the course of a program, a student expresses any sort of anxiety about the market, he or she is likely to hear something like, "The good ones always get jobs." A few years later, when that student finishes a PhD and can't get an academic position, he or she is told--by the very same professor, "Well, academia isn't for everybody."
In fairness, though, I must say that the carelessness, greed and hubris of such a professor pales in comparison to the degree to which academic administrators and education loan providers exhibit those same traits. They exploit the market and the hopes and dreams of young (and, sometimes, not-so-young) people to maximize, not only the amount of revenue that comes to the school in tuitions and state subsidies, but also the funds that come in the way of grants. Administrators build campus housing that has more in common with condos in the better parts of most cities than it does with the dorms of my undergraduate years, gymnasiums that are more like the kinds of health clubs that are found in said condo buildings, laboratory facilities that are used by a handful, if any, people, and other monuments to their egos. When Donald Trump builds things that are so unnecessary and hideous, he is rightly lambasted; the administrators in question get away with such practices only because they do it on a smaller scale and because they can hid behind the sacrosanct status of their educational institutions.
What most of them don't know--or ignore--is that the economic system can't sustain their relentless building. Unless a sudden tide of jobs with six-figure salaries washes over the employment landscape, more and more graduates are going to founder on the desiccated landscape of the job market. That means more of them will default on their loans, and, at some point, nobody will want to lend students money.
There are already signs that the system is coming apart. Minneapolis-based US Bank, which has about 3000 branches, got out of the student loan business at the end of March. As of 1 July, JP Morgan Chase--the nation's largest bank--will no longer offer student loans to anyone who is not already a customer of the bank. That means that if you don't have a savings or checking account, credit card--or student loan--with JP Morgan Chase, you won't be able to borrow money for school from them. If other banks follow suit, will the Federal government increase its lending to students? And, if it does, how long will it be able to sustain high levels of student lending--and defaults, if the market for graduates doesn't improve?
To extend Professor Harrison's Titanic analogy, as the ship of higher education and the job market for its graduates is taking on water, the band continues to play on.