Blessed Be The Sun Devils

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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62 Responses

  1. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    Having been touring universities, there are some big vs. small patterns that stand out. The big (Ten) universities spend a lot of time identifying the resources they use to “hold your hand” through college and while this might be somewhat of a sales pitch, they will often show you the student resource centers and staff that weren’t there 25 years ago.

    OTOH, small college tours always ask if there is a course of study that any student is interested in, which is not listed as a major. They offer to help them identify the program through which they could pursue an individualized study, though I’ve not seen anybody raise their hand.Report

  2. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    I was surprised that there were public universities at all involved. For one thing, I think they are more regulated than private universities. When the University of Illinois was caught admitting underwhelming students on behalf of powerful state legislators, there were questions about whether such non-standardized admissions practices violated civil rights laws. (And when I say “caught,” I think someone from admissions that was unhappy with the practice leaked it.)Report

  3. The time to consider colleges for my daughters is approaching rapidly. Inasmuch as I have a say in it, I will encourage them to regard the absence of a football program, or at least of a good one, as a strong positive. This factored into my own decision lo those many years ago, and I never regretted it.Report

    • There are some universities that I think have excelled with that model, either out of necessity or finding their niche. One of the better universities in Texas is the University of Texas at Dallas, which has no football team and a Division III sports program. and of course a lot of the UC’s in California and SUNYs conspicuously lack high-profile football programs. But as a consequence of that, they remain relatively inconspicuous relative to where you would think their academic profile would put them.Report

      • I am completely happy with “relatively inconspicuous” and far more concerned with “academic profile.” There are a handful of schools where getting an undergraduate degree there will help in certain careers. These are the schools we expect to see rich people bribing their kids into, and viewed pragmatically, this makes sense. But for the vast majority of jobs, having a Bachelor’s may matter, but where you got it from does not (perhaps stipulating an accredited school, but then again perhaps not).

        Once we take that tiny handful of schools out of the discussion, what matters? It depends on why you are going. If it is pure credentialism, then it is rational to make this decision based on some combination of lowest price, least effort required, and most fun. If your goal is to drink and fuck for four years before getting a job, then it is likely that a school that markets itself based on its football team will fit your needs.

        But what is you are interested in, you know, learning stuff? We know who we are. We are the ones who look at the school’s course catalog like it is the old Sears Christmas catalog, and regret all those fascinating courses we won’t have time to take. What sort of school fits that person? Big state schools can fit the bill, being equipped to serve a tiny fraction of students seeking an education. I did this informally. My niece went to OSU, which had a formal program for these kids: essentially a separate school on the same campus. But my point about schools without football is that they are more likely to be marketing themselves to this sort of student as their main strategy. Not always, of course. It is possible to be a party school even without a football team. But as a first approximation, your odds are better.

        I would be thrilled if my kid wanted to go this this place: https://www.sjc.edu/

        Edit: I should add that there is another large bloc of students, who are serious about their education, but the education they want is vo-tech, in a field that traditionally does this via universities. The science and engineering departments, and to a lesser extent business and econ, are filled with these kids. There is nothing wrong with this. I have great respect for vo-tech educations. But this is something different from what I was writing about.

        Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Small Liberal-Arts Colleges it is! Goucher or St. John’s are right in Maryland.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I think this scandal is really interesting for a couple of reasons. One is what this post highlights which is that they weren’t angling for the Ivy Leagues so much as other schools that met a certain criteria they had in mind.

    The second reason is larger in that it’s a commentary on a systematic breakdown. It reminds me somewhat of the Jussie Smollett case in that I don’t really care what some dumb actors did, but I do care that they saw a system they could manipulate and were successful at it for some length of time. We need to do better as a society.Report

    • Avatar Dark Matter says:

      Supposedly this “service” was started up in 2011 (although Singer’s company was registered in 2012). 33 parents have been charged (out of the 50 people).

      “Singer” (the service’s leader) claims he’s done more than 750 families… but I STRONGLY doubt that number. He’s a professional lying dirtbag and he’s strongly motivated to exaggerate his activities. Even ignoring that, we’ve got 10 coaches/admins at 8 different colleges and two really dirty guys running the show, there’s no way they have bandwidth for 100 families a year.

      So we have a bit player who got large and pushed things as far as he could until he got caught. I don’t think his business model scales.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    What is the purpose of a University Education?

    If it was to come away with knowledge about various things, we’ve got The Great Courses which, at first glance, strike me as kinda pricey. I mean, check this one out: Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad. Taught by Mark W. Muesse… PhD from Harvard, taught at Rhodes College… but it’s $375 for the DVD (“only” $320 for the digital download).

    So what’s going on at Rhodes College? Only around 2000 Freshpeople seem to be admitted every year (Google says 2,031 in 2015-2016). How much does Rhodes College cost? Well, let’s get on the google and HOLY GUACAMOLE! $47,000! FOR THE COMMUTER STUDENTS!!!! You wanna live in the dorms? It’s a hair under SIXTY.

    You know what? If I went to Rhodes, I would have fought tooth and claw to get into the Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad class. And, assuming 15 credits per semester, and assuming that this course is 3 credit hours, that course is one tenth of your yearly tuition. Wanna live at home and drive in? That course is $4,700.

    Getting it on DVD for $375? That’s a *BARGAIN*. (And the digital download for a mere $320? That’s a *STEAL*!!!)

    I ain’t gonna get it.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      What is the purpose of a University Education?

      If we really knew that, I don’t think we’d be in this mess.

      We don’t even know who the university is there to help. Ostensibly they’re there for students, but in a lot of ways students, at least traditionally aged ones applying to elite schools, have the least power and ability to make good decisions of anybody involved in the process.

      I picked the school I ended up going to based on which seemed to be the most desirable to people in my peer group. In retrospect it was a good decision for me, but I can’t shake the feeling that it was dumb luck that it was.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        We don’t even know who the university is there to help.

        My theory is now that the point of the university is to maintain an endowment. As for who it is there to help, it is there to help the people who will help it achieve its mission.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Yeah I mean it’s something close to that, but it does that by appealing to a number of different stakeholders, but without the sort of clarifying mechanisms a functioning market (or for that matter democratic accountability) would provide.

          And they depend on a lot of different sources for funding, which often have different priorities and desires, which roughly nobody wants to be transparent about for various reasons of self-interest and/or self-deception.

          (I also have a theory that a lot of the reason the Campus Culture Wars are so weird and attract so much attention is that they are actually an outgrowth of those various stakeholders jockeying for position.)Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw says:

      The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released a list of the most influential academic books of the last 20 years, and here is a summary of one of them:

      The book is an ethnographic account of the lives of first-year women college students living on a “party floor” at a selective public university they call Midwest U. Varied in their social-class backgrounds, the students have profoundly different pathways through college. Poor and working-class young women face formidable obstacles to completing their degrees, while the children of upper middle class professionals pursue meaningful majors and vocations. At the same time, the daughters of the wealthiest, socialite families join sororities, and party their way through easy majors, graduation, and, beyond that, socially connected jobs.

      Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth Armstrong & Laura HamiltonReport

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Man, the next paragraph really sold it to me:

        If this were a book about no more than individual-level educational inequalities, the story might end there. But this is not that book. Instead, the authors use a cultural and organizational lens to show how the university itself is complicit in shaping students’ academic pursuits, social lives, and job opportunities in socially patterned ways.

        The university itself is complicit.

        A million years ago, Kazzy posted a link to a really interesting document (sadly, the link doesn’t work anymore) that talked about various virtues of various classes and if you dug into the various virtues, you’d see that they’re all class-perpetuating. That is, if you embrace all of the lower-class virtues, you will be a valuable member of the lower class and you will not leave it. If you embrace all of the middle-class virtues, you will have a handful of habits and tools that will keep you solidly in the middle class. As for the upper class, I can only assume that that was true for it as well. (I can really only speak with any authority at all to the lower and middle class stuff.)

        The main thing that surprises me about universities helping poor and working-class women stay poor and working-class is how audacious it is.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Are you sure that wasn’t a response to Burt Likko’s “Three Classes” post?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            While that was, indeed, an excellent essay, that wasn’t the thing I was thinking of.

            It was a link to an external document that had three columns with the various virtues held by each class. (I found the comment a couple months back while looking for something else. The link, sadly, was dead. I wish I had saved it back then.)Report

        • Avatar PD Shaw says:

          It seems to be part of a larger picture in which elites / upper-middle class seem to be oblivious about how things they support can create different outcomes based upon class. How can different classes know more about each other?

          From a NY Times interview with an author:

          “Did you see roommates of different social classes forging friendships?

          We found that cross-class roommate relationships were extremely negative for the less privileged person. I’m not sure that any of these relationships survived the year. Not one of these duos became friends. In almost all cases, the more affluent roommate moved away from the less affluent roommate at the end of semester, if not earlier.”

          And the least affluent students that did best, left the university for a regional state university.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Can you link to the original post where I shared that (or the comment itself)? I may be able to find it from there.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      $10,000 for a Rhodes College education. $178,000 for a promise that on the off-chance somebody actually calls up Rhodes College and asks if you have a Rhodes College education, they’ll say yes.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’m honestly surprised that there aren’t more people caught lying about their credentials.

        I don’t know if that’s because so few lie about it or so few people bother to pick up the phone to check about it.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Or because most people don’t care to check, because the point is not whether you have the credentials, the point is that the person requesting them is the sort of person who requests that sort of credentials.

          “Look, we don’t hire just any asshole,” says the boss to the potential investor, “we get Rhodes Scholars up in this shit.”Report

    • Avatar Lab Rat says:

      As I transition from post-doc to professor, I think about this a lot. Many college degrees are now more signal than substance. In some ways, I think it’s a market failure. Colleges and Universities compete to offer what students and parents want; a degree (and all it signals). What students need, but don’t necessarily want, is an education.

      If they want an education, the collected knowledge of humanity is available on a machine that fits in my students’ pockets. There is probably also an enterprising podcaster more entertaining than I am who will teach the material for the cost of listing to a MeUndies ad.

      I have to do something more than traditional teaching to be worthy of my students time and money. The problem, as I’ve encountered it, is that students don’t really like flipped classrooms and minimally structured, experiential learning, despite their popularity with the professional pedagogists. I try to emphasize knowledge synthesis and critical thinking and at least in the STEM field every class has a hands-on lab component. STEM also insulates me from the pressure to inflate grades; no one wants the pre-nursing student who can’t tell the femur from the humerus, on their fourth try at Anatomy 101, to pass.

      Colleges and Universities are in for a reckoning in the next 15 years. They’re top-heavy, outdated, prohibitively expensive, and increasingly do not provide quality education. Meanwhile, an enterprising student can obtain an excellent education at minimal cost. Someone is going to disrupt this system.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The more I learn about the Lambda School, the more I think that that is what the future is.

        9 months of immersive training. You’ve heard “Learn to Code”? Well, this is the place that will teach you to code.

        Afterward, you owe them 17% of your income for two years. And *ONLY* if you make more than $50,000 a year. (Income share is capped at $30,000, so even if you land a $150,000 job, you won’t pay more than $30,000 back.)

        So go to Lambda for less than a year and get a new job coding. Your new job will have 17% skimmed off the top for two years and then, whammo, year two and one day, you get a raise.

        If you’re making minimum wage now, you won’t notice the garnish… you’ll just notice that you’re making more money.

        Compare to what a college degree does to you. And how long it will take you to pay it back.

        I wonder if the Lambda School model is on the cusp of something big. (It’s got *SOME* networking… but it still can’t compare to, say, the Greek system.)Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          I wonder if the Lambda School model is on the cusp of something big. (It’s got *SOME* networking… but it still can’t compare to, say, the Greek system.)

          Ironic, given the name.Report

        • Avatar Lab Rat says:

          That method seems perfectly suited for coding. It’s a “hard” skill, either your code works or it doesn’t. It’s simple for employers to assess competence in both hiring and promotion. Networking may be less of a concern. Coding is also in demand and lucrative enough for their payback scheme to work.

          I was thinking if we could pull this off for biology. First off, we eliminate all general education requirements and strip the education down to the essentials. I think we could get serious pre-health students through in 18-24 months (assuming no summer breaks). The payback scheme may be able to work there, too. I can envision similar programs for a few other in-demand majors like microbiology or environmental science.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @jaybird FWIW the great courses also go on sale all the time (I could buy that course for 50 bucks if I was willing to watch the sales) and you can subscribe to streaming for like 10 bucks a month or something.

      And of course most libraries carry a wide selection of Great Courses in a variety of formats.

      One of Mortimer Adler et al’s most lasting legacies, I think.

      Auto didact’s paradise.

      (I realize this wasn’t your point but I feel like people wanna know.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        It’s wonderful that this exists, it’s wonderful that it goes on sale, it’s wonderful that you can enjoy these for free from your local library.

        I imagine that they gather a great deal of dust.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Originally, they were to train clergy, lawyers, and doctors.

      Then they became places for the rich to send their progeny for some finishing along with training clergy, lawyers, and doctors.

      Then the land-grants were started to create better farmers and engineers along with training professionals.

      Etc.

      They are a lot of things. I like to think that the best colleges and universities can also act as respites from the idea that everyone needs to fully and forever involved with the worlds of business and commerce.Report

  6. Are we sure Harvard is taking only elite students? Isn’t there plenty of evidence that Harvard is accepting students who are either deeply connected to significant money or otherwise legacy-ed into the school? It is certain that Harvard wants everybody to believe that the only the best of the best are getting in but there is plenty of evidence that this isn’t actually true.Report

    • Well, there are *some* exceptions of various cloth, like Kushner and Hogg, but it’s becoming rarer and competition more stiff. There’s a lot of frustration among Harvard alums of the leg-up their kids don’t have. (I’m not sympathetic, mind you, but it’s there). With my distaste for Harvard I would actually kind of like to ding them for taking on a lot of unqualified students, but their admission stats are there for the world to see. Only the completely meritocratic schools (and Stanford) do better.

      Basically, it’s reached the point where to get in you really want stellar qualifications AND good connections AND an angle (athletics, special talent, legacy, regional representation, minority, whatever)Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        A lot of the issue is just caused by the fact that the number of slots available at the top tier schools have remained constant, while the number of prospective students has massively expanded, both due to population growth and the Millennial and then Gen Z (or whatever) baby boomlet.

        This also means a lot of schools that weren’t really so elite back in my day (like USC) are also way more selective than they used to be. USC admits something like 18% of applicants, which is about where schools like Columbia (i.e., Ivy but not YHP) were when I was applying to college.

        And a place like Harvard gets so many frigging applicants that they need to make virtually no compromises. When they do it’ll be for an 8 figure donation or a kid who’s become a nationally known political activist by age 18.

        Of course, being able to meet and network with guys like Hogg and Kushner is actually a nontrivial part of the advantage of attending Harvard. Kushner has a ton of money to hire people, invest, et c., and Hogg has a much better than average chance to go into politics and succeed, meaning he’ll be hiring staffers, aides, and interns.Report

        • Avatar CJColucci says:

          Having represented public universities in litigation for the last 25 years and attended both pretty-good public and elite private universities in my own education, I have been advising my grand-niece, who is in the middle of the application process.
          She is an African-American girl of middle-middle-class status who has gone through a dozen years at an elite private school — the name would be recognizable nation-wide — and managed not to become an entitled little shit. She is surrounded by entitled or driven classmates obsessed with getting into the brand-name places: the major Ivies, the comparable SLACs, and good schools that have become brands for reasons other than their undoubted quality, e.g., Duke.
          I get that Lowells are failures if they don’t end up in Harvard, Witherspoons are failures if they don’t get into Princeton, and if you’re one of those science geeks who belongs in Cal Tech or MIT, you’ll know.
          I have advised her not to get caught up in this. I can, off the top of my head, name well over 100 high-quality public and private colleges where you can get an excellent undergraduate education. I mean that both in an absolute sense and, to a lesser extent, in a positional good sense.Through some additional research, I found that the number is roughly twice what I can name.
          If you can get into a super-premium school, then, by all means, go for it. The regular undergraduate education at Princeton won’t be noticeably better than the education you’ll get at, say, Bowdoin or Gettysburg. (Why someone who can get in-state tuition rates would choose Duke over North Carolina unless money doesn’t matter is puzzling to me.) The real advantage of going to Harvard is that you’re surrounded by people who got into Harvard. Those connections can pay off, especially if you go into a line of work where connections are more important than objectively observable skills. But if you’re going into a career that requires graduate education — medicine, law, science, etc. — the admissions office at the grad school or law school or med school knows the quality of the roughly 200 competitive schools and if you do well at Stony Brook or Fordham, you will get into a good program and be judged on how well you did there as opposed to where you did your undergraduate work.
          I believe my grand-niece’s first choice is still a brand-name school, where, on the numbers, she might get in and might not, but she has already got a few good options in her back pocket, and I think I have reduced her stress levels about the whole process.Report

          • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

            I endorse this. When I got to grad school at Stanford, there were a lot of Harvard, MIT and other Ivy League people there. However, my education from U of W(ashington) held up quite fine and I was on an equal footing with them.

            One way I’m not on an equal footing is that Harvard undergrad alums network furiously, whereas I have pretty much no contact at all with people from my days at the UDub.

            Career-wise, the grad school at Stanford got me a lot, but I never felt held back by where I went to undergrad.

            Mind you, this is in a tech field.Report

            • Back in the day, again in a tech field, the conventional wisdom was that for a BS you were the important thing, for an MS the school was the important thing, and for a PhD your supervisor was the important thing.Report

            • Avatar KenB says:

              Not to argue against the signalling value of these schools, but there is some genuine tangible benefit from going to a top-tier university as an undergrad; but for most students it has less to do with the person standing in front of the whiteboard and more to do with who else is sitting in the desks. Academic hiring at that level is driven much more by research than teaching; however the same teacher will be able to cover more ground more quickly with smarter and more capable students. Also, there’s benefit in being around/among such students in one’s residential life.

              And if you’re the sort of student who is motivated enough to engage with professors and smart enough to have a chance to get involved with their research, you could end up getting tremendous net educational benefit from being at an Ivy over a less prestigious school.Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                That’s interesting.

                I never really thought of it that way. It probably didn’t help that I routinely skipped lectures.

                My learning style often clashes with sitting still for an hour listening to someone talk. I wish lectures had been routinely available on video back then, issues of economics aside.Report

              • Avatar KenB says:

                Many of my upper-division CS courses were taped (VHS) and then made available in the library, which of course led to my deciding that I didn’t need to go to class, I could just binge-watch the tapes in the days leading up to the midterm or final.

                Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, many of my classmates independently came up with the same plan, which led to low availability of said tapes in that timeframe. 🙁Report

              • Avatar pillsy says:

                You know I’d actually sort of forgotten that back in the day you actually needed a videotape to watch a video.Report

          • Avatar Lab Rat says:

            I work at a small, state university that serves a lot of first generation students. I don’t know about the other majors, but the education a biology major can receive here is comparable to the R1 where I got my Ph.D. If an undergraduate volunteers for to work in a PI’s lab freshman year and has four years research experience and a co-authored publication or two when they graduate, it doesn’t matter where the degree is from.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

            I question whether someone is really middle-middle class if they spent their entire pre-college career in private school unless they are there on a faculty-staff rate.Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

          My undergrad went from being relatively non-selective in the 1980s (something like 50-60 percent of students were admitted) to be much more selective and now has an admissions rate of just under 26 percent. When I applied in 1998, I was able to get in with all over the map grades, a good SAT score, and good extracurriculars and this was off the Wait List. If I applied 3-4 years later, I would have been rejected outright probably.Report

      • Legacy admissions at the Ivy’s is an, um…, legacy of Ye Olden Days. They transitioned after WWII from being finishing schools for the social elite to selling themselves as providing elite educations. This didn’t happen all at once, and the process is not yet complete.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      63 percent of Harvard went to public high schools based on a brief google. I think it is a population boom/economics. There are lots of upper-middle class professionals who are income wealthy but not pass it on to many generations wealthy. These parents know that there kids will need top credentials to continue as they did and push their kids hard. Having grown up with professional parents and in a suburb where it seems most parents were professionals, there were two parenting styles:

      1. “You are smart and capable. Do what you love and it will all work out”;

      2. “Do you see all this nice stuff? Do you know all the nice vacations we go on? We aren’t Rockefellers. Your future is not secure. You need to do well in school to go to HYPS and then get a good job,…..”

      As income inequality grows, there is just more fierce competition. LeeEsq has pointed out that someone at Harvard’s admissions office said that they could easily admit many more students and not lower the quality of the students accepted.Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    This story highlights how the network effects – who one would get to meet at whatever school and make a social connection with – vary highly from school to school, even if the academics do not.Report

  8. Tracy Downey Tracy Downey says:

    I don’t know if I’m well versed for this subject but I’m currently in limbo hoping to complete one last math class at my jr. College then transfer to UNLV to complete my double BA in film/screenwriting and English. UNLV is a wonderful university and it’s disappointing that two executives here in Las Vegas got tangled up and indicted in the scandal. I don’t know much about ASU but I think after the slight from Gianulli they’re going to receive an influx of admissions. At times, I feel like some of society is told to stay in their lane while another portion abuses the carpool lane.. I don’t expect things to change nor the attitudes of many longing to belong to a small elite status. It’s why social media “celebs” are cashing in I wonder how long Target will sell Gianulli’s clothing line after this.Report

    • I know that the other Nevada (Reno) is another case that has benefited from California overflow. Both of them have tailgating, at least and (at least in the case of Reno) a more traditional university experience. And UNLV, of course, offers Las Vegas.

      (Not sure if you know this, but we’ve been making a lot of trips out to Las Vegas over the last few years, visiting a specialist out there. We’re not “Las Vegas people” in the stereotypical sense, but we became very fond of the city itself. If we were looking to move to a city, it would be pretty high on our list.)Report

      • Tracy Downey Tracy Downey says:

        Yes, UNR got snared into the controversy too. And here I assumed UNLV was a better school because of location location. 🤷🏻‍♀️

        Hey! That’s terrific! Vegas gets a bad rap. I moved here in the early 80’s. That I suppose makes me old School because mob still ran our town until After the death of Tony Spilatro-and running out Lefty Rosenthal-inspiring the movie Casino
        re: UNLV Jerry Tarkanian scandal-Blue Chips movie-while the Running Rebels are celebrated here during the final four regardless, overall I feel Vegas is doing its best to welcome other states now that the Raiders will be here in 2020, the influx of tourism thanks to the Golden Knights, and overall, it’s just a nice place to live. No state tax.

        California has erased the Nevada Tahoe line. What used to be considered deep red is now tinging purple. Clark County because of Hispanic community, and LA AZ converts-leans blue.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Nitpick: Arizona and ASU joining made it the Pac-10.Report

  10. Avatar Phaedrus says:

    As with most public universities, the program makes all the difference.
    ASU has a highly-rated criminal justice program. It just doesn’t get any better than Scott H. Decker, or Dustin Pardini.

    I am enjoying the hilarity of ASU training the people to put the administrators from these other institutions behind bars.Report

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