Higher Education Is Morally and Financially Bankrupt

A system that piles debt on students in exchange for a marginal or even zero-return on their investment is morally and financially bankrupt.

Every once in a while you run across an insider’s narrative of a corrupt, morally bankrupt sector that absolutely nails the sector’s terminal rot. Here is that nails-it narrative for higher education: Pass, Fail: An inside look at the retail scam known as the modern university.

Here are excerpts of the article, which was published in Canada but is equally applicable to higher education in the U.S.:

A university degree, after all, is a credential crucial for economic success. At least, that’s what we’re told. But as with all such credentials—those sought for the ends they promise rather than the knowledge they represent—the trick is to get them cheaply, quickly, and with as little effort as possible. My students’ disaffection is the real face of this ambition.

I teach mostly bored youth who find themselves doing something they neither value nor desire—and, in some cases, are simply not equipped for—in order to achieve an outcome they are repeatedly warned is essential to their survival. What a dreadful trap.

One in particular matches perfectly with the type of change I’ve observed on my watch: the eradication of content from the classroom.

All efforts to create the illusion of academic content are acceptable so long as they are entertaining, and successful participation requires no real effort and no real accountability.

Remove your professor hat for a moment and students will speak frankly. They will tell you that they don’t read because they don’t have to. They can get an A without ever opening a book.

But don’t worry—you won’t go bust because of this failure, not in the modern university. So long as your class is popular and fun, you’ll be favoured by the administration and probably receive a teaching award. This, even though your students will leave your class in worse condition than they entered it, because you will have pandered to their basest inclinations while leaving their real intellectual and moral needs unmet.

There is no clearer example of administrators’ contempt for faculty. But there is also no clearer example of their contempt for students.

As money is siphoned from academic programs through attrition, it is channelled into a host of middle-management positions.

From 1979 to 2014, central administration and staff ballooned by three and a half times, while the size of the faculty merely doubled.

Parents, students, and governments keep supplying them with capital, assuming there will be a genuine return on investment. But since the institution no longer produces anything, no such return is forthcoming.

Spending on the student services sector in Canadian universities increased an incredible six-fold between 1979 and 2014.

The student services cabal is no longer there to support faculty in their work of educating students “but to compete with them to define the student experience.”

Insiders are quiet after they read this, because they know it’s true.

The financial burden created by the higher education cartel is immense and expanding:

To mask the enormity of the sums squandered on “education” that has little measurable results, the federal government has purchased most of the debt:

No inflation here–just a 137% increase in 15 years:

A system that piles debt on students in exchange for a marginal or even zero-return on their investment is morally and financially bankrupt.

We can do better and must do better, which is the subject of my book The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy.

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  • You can certainly say that again, and everyone who thought slavery had ended. The reality is it is alive and well in government schooling across America today which matches the former head of education in D.C.’s comment’s.

    March 31st, 2016 War: The great unmentionable in the 2016 US elections

    The most striking feature of the 2016 US election campaign is the virtual absence of discussion of what is by far the most serious issue facing the people of the United States and the world, looming over everything else: the escalating military conflict that threatens to plunge the entire planet into a new world war.


  • Mar 10, 2014 Department of Education whistleblower Charlette Iserbyt about the deliberate dumbing down of America.

    The former US Department of Education Senior Policy Advisor suggests that the our educational system is not based upon children learning. Is the Carnegie foundation instrumental in developing a socialist-collectivist style educational system that is detrimental to our youth?


    This single chart demonstrates the ineffectiveness of federal education spending as measured by student test scores; that chart is available here:


  • diogenes

    Mr. Smith, I disagree with you a lot of the time but on this subject you are 100% right. Hired Education in America is not only morally and financially bankrupt, it is also intellectually bankrupt and socially bankrupt and ethically bankrupt. It is dominated by an Administrator class whose function is to pimp it out while fattening itself at the expense of students, faculty, education, and society. It coordinates is operations with senior faculty and with the professorial system which operates on the principle of the feedbag as muzzle. Wanna keep your position? Don’t rock the boat. Go along to get along. Toe the line. Accept and propagate doctrine as propounded by authority. It is governed by a pervasive betrayal of the fundamental values of science, scholarship, and learning — of its own supposed role in society and in the world of the intellect, of its teachers and teaching, its students and learning, of the society that supports it and the cultural heritage it sells out and poisons. And today it has evolved into a form of slave-dealer, selling students to Wall Street as life-long debt serfs.

  • kimyo

    a vote for sanders is a vote to keep pumping billions of dollars into this ‘morally and financially bankrupt’ system. it’s a vote for six-figure administrators and $250 textbooks.

    either he’s quite aware of this, or he’s mr. magoo. the same applies to the f-35 program, the single greatest waste of taxpayer dollars ever (it may start flying in 2019. or it may not.)

  • Fee-fi-fo-fum

    But them Jew professors and administrators are doing good. Is that really all that matters??

  • Leo News

    How Universities Betray Students & Society!

    –(supporting article)

  • animalogic

    If even 10% true, this article is horrifying.
    Does the “content less” course extend to STEM subjects ? I shudder to think….
    As to the vicious system of indebting students for a huge proportion of their most vital years (marriage-children – home purchase) with massive, unforgivable debt payments: It’s not only myopic and cruel it’s so unnecessary:(assuming the point of higher education is social and economic progress as opposed to the ever fattening of the parasitic financial class)
    In Australia, we have a thing called HECS – the “higher education contribution scheme”. The federal government pays for your university fees — you pay the loan back when your income goes over (approx) $ 50,000 per yr. You pay something like 2-3% of your pre-tax income.Under the set income threshold you pay nothing. The debt dies when you do (ie: neither parents nor estates pick up the debt)
    It’s a few years since I was at university…but I never personally experienced a dumbed-down, content-less course. Where we DO have exploitation and gross dumbing down is in the vocational training sphere. It’s a joke: Provider snouts in the trough, students’ expectations exploited and ridiculous time/money wasting “certificates” ( Certs’ in sweeping and mopping floors available). Coincidentally (?)when an unemployed person is “encouraged” into training they cease to be counted as officially unemployed…pure coincidence, I’m sure….

  • artguerrilla

    simply chilling how far we have fallen, with hardly a whimper of protest…
    as an aside, there are a number of factions of society who both don’t care we are stupidheads from stupidtown, but actively encourage it: it allows their lies/propaganda to go unchallenged, it reinforces an authoritarian regime (which FAR TOO MANY seem willing to accept if not court), and it keeps the 1% on top…
    aided and abetted by the religio nutjobs who ultimately ABSOLUTELY DEPEND upon the ignorance of the hoi polloi to keep them scared and in the flock of sheeple to be routinely sheared…
    idiocracy indeed…