We have heard a lot about the scams perpetrated by for-profit colleges that led students to believe that their careers would take off with a degree they could provide. For having over-hyped the expected payoff from earning a degree, those schools were declared fraudulent and the debts that students had accumulated were wiped out by our kindly Uncle Sam.
But are educational scams limited to the remaining for-profit colleges and institutes?
In this Minding the Campus article, Hans Bader shows us that they are not. In particular, he focuses on a recent Wall Street Journal article about Columbia University’s master’s degree in film. It costs a ton and students are lured in with expectations that they will become famous filmmakers after learning from the brilliant faculty. The truth, however, is far different.
The WSJ article quotes James Stoteraux, a student in Columbia’s program: “There were 55 students in my incoming class at Columbia’s MFA Film program. Only 4 of us ever managed to make a career out of it. And of those 4, one guy dropped out the first semester. Funny enough he’s the most successful one having co-directed Avengers Endgame.”
And what about the faculty? Stoteraux again: “During my 2nd year I suspected that the school wasn’t providing a launching pad to a career — most of the instructors were struggling to establish a career themselves & many weren’t even much more experienced than their students. A 4th yr student taught our cinematography class.”
Bader points out that programs like this one can flourish only because of easy federal loans and the likelihood that some or all of the debt that students run up will eventually be dumped on the taxpayers through “generous” political-repayment rules.
The partial solution to this problem is to make the colleges and universities responsible for repaying student debts if they default. The pull-it-out-by-the-roots solution is to get the federal government out of the business of college lending. All such financing should be done by people or institutions that stand to lose their own money from bad decisions.
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