Friday, July 9, 2010

Sub-Prime Goes To College

That title comes from Steve Eisman, a hotshot investor in THE BIG SHORT, the excellent Michael Lewis bestseller about our financial collapse that triggered the Great Recession.

Steve Eisman was one of the few people who saw the meltdown coming. Now he says trouble's brewing in another area:

"Until recently, I thought that there would never again be an opportunity to be involved with an industry as socially destructive as the subprime mortgage industry. I was wrong. The For-Profit Education Industry has proven equal to the task."

Oh my!

If you enjoyed THE BIG SHORT, you'll love Eisman's testimony to Congress about the mess many for-profit, subprime-like colleges are creating. It's really good stuff and worth a read.

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite storytellers. But, yikes, I hope and pray there's not another book in him detailing a new-new cluster; this one being about how America hosed up higher-ed; where for-profits pumped out bogus degrees; where traditional campuses crowed about how many student applicants they reject each year; where students and families are crushed by debt.

How is it possible that you can walk into to a world-class brand like Target and get fashionable back-to-school duds for less than a hundred bucks?

And then buy a world-class device like Apple's slick iPad that puts the world in your fingertips for a few hundred bucks?

And then settle in to study with a comforting beverage on nearly any city block in America from a world-class place like Starbucks for a few dollars?

And yet, the smartest people in our smartest institutions haven't invented affordable, accessible and open learning for all, acquired from any of the college and university platforms one might desire.

Why do we accept a system that breeds exclusiveness or inaccessibility or high-cost or crushing debt or all-of-the-above as normal?

Imagine what it'll be like when our kids and their kids who want to learn at a high level can walk into a quality school just like you can walk into Target, Apple Store and Starbucks. And then walk away without onerous debt. Imagine the top-spin that will put onto our economy.

Isn't this the knowledge age? A moment when we need all well-educated hands on-deck? A time to steer clear of subprime results with our most precious natural resource, our future generations of talent?

How great for America if our higher-ed leaders took notes from wise people at places like Target, Apple and Starbucks, and imagined completely new ways to mint really smart people openly, affordably and excellently.

Could there be a better way to spend summer vacation?

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  1. University of Phoenix seems to be moving in the correct direction with the distribution model, i.e., what you want, where you want, when you what classes, but they still need to reduce the costs.