Marty Nemko on the Bachelor’s Degree as America’s ‘Most Overrated Product’

Dr. Marty Nemko joins Andy Nash for the inaugural episode of Inside Academia. Dr. Nemko, adviser, career counselor, talk radio show host, and prolific blogger, talks about his controversial article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “America’s Most Overrated Product: The Bachelor’s Degree.”

Key Take-Aways

  • 0:35 – Why college is not a good idea for everyone (2 mins)
  • 3:14 – Why tuition skyrockets (2 mins)
  • 5:10 – Liberal arts (made relevant) as central to a life well-lived (1 min)
  • 8:27 – Who is best suited to teach a college student? (3 mins)
  • 11:35 -  Toward “college report cards” and mandated transparency (2 mins)
  • 13:23 – Tuition increases due to lack of public support? “It’s a lie.” (1 min)

Andy’s Show Notes

“They Lie” was Marty Nemko’s response when we asked him in our recent interview about Universities citing lack of sufficient public support as the cause for raising tuition. Among the most powerful lobbies in America, he explained they’ve managed to lobby for great increases in federal aid. And every time they are successful in lobbying for more financial aid, students are then able to get more money which allows the institutions to raise tuition.

“They are a business, higher ed must be a viewed as a business. Like any other business, what they are all about is making more money to do what they want to do, which in the case of Universities primarily is to expand their bureaucracies and/or to do more research – 99% of which is of very very little value. And most times universities know up front–and the funders know–it’s going to be of very little value,” said Marty.

If you ask most people, it may initially seem counter-intuitive to expect that increased public sector support fuels tuition increases rather than keeps them in check. But that assumes that the universities are judiciously and wisely spending their finite resources on the education and needs of the tuition-paying undergraduates –education of a quality presumably commensurate with the costs.

Tuition, going into universities’ General Funds budgets, partly covers everything from administrative overhead on research, mortgages on building expansions (often for research facilities), to the maintenance, upkeep and new hires for such facilities. And as Marty explained, much of that research is arcane and abstruse.

College tuition has been going up in the last several decades far above the rate of inflation. The government has ensured and expanded financial aid, partly in the form of loans, to allow more students to attend; and colleges have successfully lobbied to make student loans non-dischargeable in courts of bankruptcy. However, the value of the education that students are paying for, and for what many are going into considerable debt for, Marty argues is a “bad deal for everbody in terms of value received for the money and time involved”.

Listen to Marty explain how and why today’s University education and research have lost their value,
how they are of little meaningful use to students, and why research, and an oversupply of students thanks to public support, water down education while simultaneously driving up its cost.