Over Selling Higher Education…

While sitting in the lobby of the hotel last night (see below), an interesting conversation started up among my travel partners. This group, for the most part, is made up of small businessmen on the trip on search of new customers. They started talking about people having too much education. That people with MBA’s were coming to them, with increasing frequency, in search of jobs that require nothing more than a high school education and a good work ethic. The representative of the higher education regulatory body that is part of our group was telling them they were wrong to think that way. That education, particularly higher education, is important for the nation. It’s important for the people, etc.

I kept my mouth shut. I think education is very important. My opinion is that education, well particularly the education business, is no longer interested in the welfare of the students. I thought the principal complainant was correct. That having too many people with MBA’s, particularly bad MBA’s, sets up a lot of people for failure. The students have been told all their lives that the MBA will lead to a wonderful career. Just go take a look at your favorite school’s web site. The actual result in far too many cases is too much time and money invested in a degree that will not enhance a career. It likely damages careers. People with second and third tier MBA’s will likely be disappointed in their actual earnings. It is hard to justify any kind of return on the investment in time and money for many MBA programs. My few readers would be shocked to learn what an MBA from a second tier institution can expect to earn upon graduation in India. It’s not a lot better on the island.

There is a great need for training. Most of my students certainly could use quite a bit of training. They particularly need to be taught how to learn things on their own. They all need “charm” school (Yes, I am the person recommending charm school, for those of you who know how charming I am). What they don’t need is all the trappings of the MBA degree; especially all the marketing BS. You can learn most of what’s important to know as an MBA fromĀ Khan Academy. Watch all the math, finance and economics videos on that web site. Go read more advanced treatments of the material. Learn the basics of accounting. Become extra proficient at Microsoft Office (learn visual basic programming to write high level macros). If you have trouble speaking before a group, join Toastmasters. There, you’re an MBA.

Schools, as part of their accreditation process, as part of internal and external quality control reviews, as part of outside ranking (such as US News) are rated on graduation rates. There is too much hand holding for MBA students to ensure they graduate. This puts pressure on the academic quality of the program.

Let’s not forget that for many schools the MBA programs are a profit center. Which puts pressure on enrollments. Which puts pressure on exceptions to the admissions standards. This in turns creates more hand holding.

The spiral increases in speed.

Changes to the higher education model are needed. Badly needed.

Yes, all of the above makes me an apostate.

 

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