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Scalzi on Higher Learning

by C. Ross Jam on April 9, 2013

I swear I was just about to compose a reader request to Jon Scalzi regarding his thoughts on being from an “elite of the elite” university and advice he’d give to his daughter in these days of MOOCs etc. From my thoughts to Scalzi’s keyboard, although I would have been more entertaining than Steve, throwing in lots of Ivy class bonhomie and all that and dropping in a “where fun goes to die” or two:

Presuming my kid has the chops to get in where she wants to go — which I find a reasonable presumption, all things concerned — what I am likely to tell her is this: I’m willing to pay for an elite private institution (think generally but not exclusively the top 25 colleges and the top 25 universities in the US) because their reputations/networks are worth the additional expense in long run. But outside of those schools, why would I pay $40,000+ for a private school when I can pay $10,000 for Ohio State or Ohio University, or only slightly more for Miami University? The value add — the reputation/network — isn’t there in almost all those cases.

I strongly agree with this assessment and keep in mind I’ve been at just about every stage of the pipe: undergrad, grad, faculty, washed up faculty. Haven’t been an educational administrator at any level but I’m not sure I’d wish that on anyone 😉 (Ha! Ha! Only serious)

And we both believe that college can still have a lot of value for a lot of people in this age. I bring this up because there seems to be this virulent dismissive current in the tech and business communities that “higher learning is completely busted, worthless, and mega-disruptive entrepreneurialism is gonna save the day”. I get that there’s a lot of overpriced product out there, but if I see one more link about how a PhD is meaningless, I’m gonna barf. Even if it’s in Critical Literature, just because you can’t reap some huge financial windfall doesn’t mean the result has no value. If there’s a true research oriented dissertation, than at least the ball of humanity’s knowledge has been pushed forward the tiniest bit.

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