What is the Right Assessment for the Fair Value of an Education These Days? - by Lance Winslow

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It seems these days that we are watching the government regulators crack down on Wall Street with the new Financial Reform Law, and their theory is that they will now have the power to enforce regulations and prevent another global economic meltdown or disintegration of the US economy plunging us into a near depression rather than our "shallowed-out" business-cycle recessions. Is that possible? No, and let me tell you why.

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Consider if you will after the big S and L Crash many years back, junk bond challenges, Enron fiasco, or the mortgage crisis. If you will recall each time more regulations were put into place, did they stop the next round of nonsense? NO. After Enron we watched one of the largest Accounting Firms crash and burn, remember Arthur Anderson, and then we ended up with new accounting standards and Sarbanes-Oxley, but did that stop the next crisis? NO.

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Now we have a new Financial Regulatory Reform Bill, after the mortgage meltdown, which crashed Wall Street and the Global Economy. And with fire in their veins we have regulators and the Department of Justice looking for heads to roll, why? To show they are doing something of course, and bring back consumer and investor, small business, and foreign institutional investment confidence. Will it work? Yes, it might bring back confidence at first, but the law of unintended consequences will make it worse.

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Now then, let's switch gears and talk a little about regulation in our great nation, let's talk about the truth, the façade, and the incestuous relationship between law-makers, corporations, banks, and those who perhaps really do need regulation but are essentially assured of not get any. Only their competitors will be regulated in the future, as those bigger culprits and their lobbyists did most of the work on forging these new regulations and making things best for them and their way of doing business, while creating barriers to entry for the rest of the industry.

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Not long ago, I talked to a self-proclaimed expert in "Fair Value Accounting" which is his profession, and then we got to talking about education and costs, and the recent regulatory attacks on Private Corporation Style Colleges such as; Kaplan, Apollo Group, Corinthian Colleges, University of Phoenix, DeVry, Capella Education, and Career Education, as per a Wall Street Journal article on August 17, 2010 entitled "For Profit Schools Fret Over Repayment Test – Department of Education Report Gives Bad Grades to Some Institutions and Its Proposed Regulations Could Crimp Their Aid – and Profits," which was written by Melissa Korn.

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My acquaintance actually had an MBA from a Private for-profit college, and this has helped his career, but it wasn't cheap, and he'll be paying that off for a while he indicated. He believes that the governments attacks on for-profit company colleges and learning institutions is justified and I believe it's not. And do not believe that the US regulators are being fair, otherwise they'd shut down half of the colleges and Universities in our nation.

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Are some for-profit private company colleges underperforming, perhaps, but it certainly couldn't be any worse than our overall education system; K-12 and colleges and so, some, I agree, but not all, and the Universities do it too as they promise all their students; "We place 90% of our graduating class with the top fortune 500 companies!" and then the students go into hock on the student loans etc, but when the economy took a hit, all bets were off, regardless of where the kids went to school, maybe with the exception of Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Wharton, etc. they may have had a better chance, but there are plenty of horror stories there too, law students unable to get work, with an Ivy League law degree? The success ticked of a lifetime, or so it's been said.

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There was a great article recently in the news on this topic, I recommend you look it up and read it; "What they Are Doing After Harvard," which was an interview with Wendy Kopp by Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal. And that very same day was another article in the "Economic Times of India," entitled; "Harvard is a Waste of Money!" Apparently, to attack the for-profit education sector is a little insincere of our regulators, and so, that I guess is another side of the argument, and the cost Holy Toledo, that could take a while to pay off.

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And with public or private colleges and Universities there is that big issue of competition, so we know they don't like competition, they like monopolies such as the text book scheme they got going where you pay $250 for a text book that you need for the class. I recommend that you read; "Textbooks Up Their Game," an article by Jeffrey A. Trachenberg which also appeared in the WSJ. Maybe the Universities should also stop complaining about the eBook reader textbooks cramping their style, while they reconsider their dismal performance before encouraging the regulators to attack for-profit corporations who are picking up their slack in the marketplace?

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You see, the attacking of for-profit college companies is inexcusable and pathetic, it's just regulators attempting to show they are doing something, but are they really going to make colleges guarantee jobs for those who graduate in the market place, or come up with some baloney fair-value assessment of what a college education is worth? I mean we still have Universities claiming that those who graduate will earn over 1.5 million dollars more in their lifetime, and yet, those studies have never been peer-reviewed to the point the regulators are asking private company colleges to do now.

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And how many of those colleges can claim that 90% of their graduates in 2008, 2009, 2010, or 2011 went to work for the top 500 companies in America or that those students will make 1.5 million more over their lifetime earnings? And if someone is smart enough to jump through all those hurdles, hell, they'd have been successful in whatever they did anyway, they hardly needed college to make them successful in life. It's a big façade, and the truth is Universities will become less relevant as time goes on, if they don't radically change the way they do things. So, why is the justice department protecting an old dinosaur?

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It's all about Politics my friends!

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What Say You about All This?

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What is the true fair-value of an education, and what is the market-to-market value on that, quick, quick give us the answer, we command you?!?

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References:

  1. Wall Street Journal, "Packing for College 2010 Style; Hidden Financial Traps are Snaring Even the Best and Brightest on Campus – and their parents. Here is How You Don't Flunk Money 101," by Karen Blumenthal.
  2. Wall Street Journal, "Taking Schools Into Their Own Hands," by Joy Resmovits.
  3. WSJ, "For-Profit Schools Put in Detention," Rolfe Winkler.
  4. WSJ, "Needs Improvement: "Where Teacher Report Cards Fall Short," by Carl Bialik.
  5. "Higher Education – How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It," Published by Times Books, New York, NY, pp 271, 2010, ISBN: 978-080508-734-5.
  6. "American Can Compete," by James Gooch, Michael L. George, Douglas Montgomery, published by the Institute of Business Technology, Dallas TX, 1987, pp 182, Library of Congress Number; 86-083329.
  7. "Creativity in Higher Education," Edited by Albert B. Friedman, by Claremont Graduate School Printing, Claremont, CA, 1964, pp.55.
  8. "Using Quality to Redesign School Systems – The Cutting Edge of Common Sense," by Peggy Siegel and Sandra Byrne, Jossey-Bass Publishing San Francisco, CA and ASQC Quality Press, Milwaukee, WI, 1994, pp. 168, ISBN: 1-55542-649-2.

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Note: the author of this quick article has read over 400 research papers, and 50 books on education over the last 5-years alone, and has also obviously experienced the public school system k-12 and college, as well as for-profit education.

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By Lance Winslow

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Views: 60

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Comment by tom abeles on September 4, 2010 at 7:15am
Many years ago I found an advertisement in a newspaper. It read, approximately: Don't envy the banker, you can own the house next door. It was an advertisement for a school which trained heavy equipment operator. Shortly thereafter i met a person who operated a bull dozer. He worked from late spring to early fall and then spent the winter in Florida.

Basically, if your aim for an education is to make money, there are far more lucrative routes than through a college education. On the other hand, if you have other goals such as becoming involved in the life of the community, serving as an employee or on many influential committees, then more than vocational talents may be extremely useful.

Look at the history of the universities in the united states and you will find that they were founded for more than providing skills for gainful employment. And it was not anticipated that every individual would get a post secondary education. In fact the debates on the structure of the United States between Madison and Jefferson was in part over who should make decisions, everyone or certain folks who had the resources and time to become educated and to "worry" about the country's future. The compromise was a "republic" rather than a pure democracy. Even Greece excluded certain individuals from their "democracy".

In many ways, the pursuit of an education has become a variance on the cargo cults which arose during WWII in the Pacific. People see graduates from universities go to Wall Street, etc and therefore expect that following that path will also lead to a "silk stocking" law firm or an investment bank. The market has pointed out that college grads earn more on the average. Note the term "average".

A one dimensional argument about the "value" of a college degree", implying monetary measures not only misses the point of a college degree but perpetuates and amplifies that singular measure

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