college bubble

Elin Nordegren, the ex-wife of Tiger Woods–the woman who famously chased the golfer down the street wielding a deadly golf club after learning about his long list of hooker and porn start mistresses–had a moment of media attention this week for something other than her tabloid-ridden marital disaster. According to Fox News, Ms. Nordegren graduated at the top of her class this week at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL with a 3.96 GPA.

It must have been a sweet personal triumph for the former model turned golfer’s wife, turned mother of two, turned golfer’s ex-wife. At last, it was time to celebrate a chapter of her life defined by something other than the humiliating behavior of her famous ex-husband.

During her valedictory speech, Nordegren nevertheless chose not to shy away from her past, and even took a veiled swipe at her former husband. The dramatic breakup of her marriage occurred, she said, “right after I had taken [a class in] communication and the media.” She added, “I probably should have taken more notes in that class,” provoking laughs from the audience.

I couldn’t help thinking, when I read this story, how strange it is for a woman worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with two children whom she certainly adores, with–in other words–a very full life, to still seek out a college degree. It’s not like she was searching for financial security.

What was it that she hoped to gain from college? Nordgeren reportedly took 9 years to graduate amid all the responsibilities and chaos of her life. This was, almost certainly for her, a project aimed at achieving some sense of personal accomplishment and fulfillment.

In this sense, Nordegren’s reason for going to college is not unlike the reason many young people go, and many parents insist that their children go. College, even more than it has become a gateway to financial opportunity, has become a very extensive and time consuming source of self esteem for millions.

Sure, at it’s best, we’d like to think that college is about expanding ones mind, learning to sharpen critical thinking skills, etc. But the sad truth is that many college graduates today know less than a high school graduate ought to know. And earning a college degree has become not so much a notable intellectual achievement as it is a baseline requirement for gaining social acceptance in today’s American middle class.

Unfortunately, the cost of social acceptance may prove far more burdensome for most American youth than it will for the fabulously wealthy Ms. Nordegren. For her, a couple of hundred grand is a drop in the bucket–and probably well worth the sense of personal achievement she must have felt while standing before her class at the latest Rollins College commencement ceremony.

And, ironically, even the financial opportunity promised by a college degree has become less a guarantee over the past decade as rising tuition costs have increased student debt levels to all time highs, and high unemployment rates have lowered the earnings prospects of many graduates.

College, in other words, may be the perfect avenue for Ms. Nordegren to reclaim her identity after the humiliations she has suffered. But for far too many young indebted graduates, college has become only the beginning of the humiliations they will experience as their job prospects fail to live up to their expectations or their academic qualifications.

Let me close by offering a hearty congratulations to Ms. Nordegren. May your future be as well lived as it is well heeled.

And to the rest of you grads out there facing tough employment prospects and mountains of college debt, I offer my sincerest condolences.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden


Thomas Lindsay writes for Real Clear Policy:

[Gov. Rick] Perry challenged Texas’s public universities to craft four-year degrees costing no more than $10,000 in tuition, fees, and books, and to achieve the necessary cost reductions by teaching students online and awarding degrees based on competency.

The idea met with skepticism. Andy Brown, who was then chairman of the Travis County Democrats, labeled Perry’s “scheme to serve up $10,000 college degrees … preposterous,” adding that “nobody in higher education believes that is even possible.”

…One year after the governor’s challenge, Texas A&M-San Antonio became the first school to answer the call, announcing a bachelor’s degree in information technology costing students just under $10,000 in tuition and fees. Today, eleven other Texas schools have announced $10,000 degree initiatives…

Read the full story here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we present to you the Dumbest College Course in the History of the World!

The Daily Caller reports:

Skidmore College, ranked by CBS News as one of the nation’s most expensive private colleges in the country, is now officially offering a course on Miley Cyrus: “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus: Race, Class, Gender, and Media.”

If there’s any academic topic more idiotic than “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” we can’t think of what it is.

The last few years have seen unprecedented hard times for the nation’s free spending colleges and universities. Particularly during the worst of the recent recession, many institutions were left with little choice but to borrow money to stay afloat, and many resorted to layoffs and budget cuts as endowments shrunk.

Yet, even amid such frightening financial conditions, some universities just couldn’t stop spending and expanding. Columbia University and NYU notoriously made plans to to expand their campuses in one of the world’s most expensive cities at a total cost of about $6 billion. As I wrote at the time, it’s hard to justify these massive expansions of physical space in the internet age:

If universities truly want to bring affordable education to as many students as possible, they should be pouring every spare dollar into developing online education. Creating a premier, interactive, credentialed, online educational platform would be a far better investment for any university that wants to be a leader in the higher-ed landscape of the future. And it would cost a lot less than $6 billion.

This week, news emerged that the University of Chicago, another of our nation’s elite and highly debt-leveraged academic institutions, is set to borrow $400 million over the coming fiscal year.

Live Mint reports:

Robert Zimmer, hired as president of the University of Chicago in 2006, inherited an ambitious program to improve campus life while bolstering highly regarded academic programmes. The institution stuck to the plan even as it suffered a 21.5% loss on endowment investments in 2009. Its debt has grown in the past four years to $3.6 billion from $2.4 billion.

“We well understand that borrowing for some of these investments entails risk,” Zimmer, whose $3.36 million compensation made him the highest-paid private college president in 2011, said in a statement in August after local reporters obtained a copy of the proposed financing plan. “We cannot, however, scale back our academic and programmatic ambitions in a way that risks our future excellence as a university.”

You’ve heard of “too big to fail”–as applied to our nation’s major financial institutions. I think our nation’s big-spending universities have adopted similar motto, borrowed from the lyrics of hip-hop artist MC Hammer, whose hit song “Too legit to quit,” perfectly describes the spending habits of elite universities engaged in a never ending battle to spend themselves onto the top of the US News & World Report annual college rankings.

All to create dorms and student activity centers that resemble five-star resorts and high tech amusement parks.

These college leaders who never grow tired of spending could learn a lesson or two from the life of MC Hammer. After becoming a huge star, Hammer blew through a $33 million fortune and famously went bankrupt. Looks like the University of Chicago is well on its way to the same end.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

(Image: trustypics.flickr3)

Duke University student Miriam Weeks, who falsely claimed that she was forced into a porn career in order to pay the high tuition at Duke University, has a message for other students:

If you don’t want to be forced into a life of porn, you had better choose a less expensive school.

In a recent interview, Weeks said, “If I could give advice for any person who was choosing college, I would honestly advise them to go to a cheaper school,” she said.

Weeks claimed in early interviews that she had no way to pay for her college tuition, and she was motivated to began having sex on camera in order to get through college without doing “demeaning” work, such as waiting tables or doing other service work.

Weeks has said she hopes to become a women’s rights attorney after she finishes her porn career.

However, it appears that she has withdrawn from Duke University at this time, according to a report by Fox News. So it’s unclear how connected her porn career is to her educational costs at this point.

The self-described feminist and Women’s Studies major has boasted about having done 25-30 porn videos already, and has made the rounds on talk shows in an apparent attempt to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame, all the while casting herself as a champion of women’s empowerment.

The College Fix revealed recently that Weeks turned down a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University before deciding to attend Duke, casting doubts on her claim that she had no way to pay her tuition other than to turn to performing in porn.

Weeks’s father is an Army medical doctor. He recently returned home from serving the country in Afghanistan to learn that his highly-educated daughter had become a notorious young woman while he was away on deployment.

Here’s a bold prediction: Miriam Weeks will never become a licensed attorney in the United States of America, or in any other nation or galaxy.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

This guy got it about right:


(Via The Daily Caller)