The Cost of “Hire” Education

January 31, 2013

Pat McCrory

 

Our new governor, Pat McCrory is in hot water.  He made the unpardonable statement that higher public education funded by the government should be primarily offering academic pursuits that lead to jobs. Gasp!  The remarks came during a ten minute interview with Bill Bennett, on his national radio show.  McCrory was quoted as saying the “educational elite” had taken over colleges, and that certain areas such as gender studies were not necessarily the best course of study for future careers. McCrory said ,”If you want to take gender studies, that’s fine, go to a private school and take it.  But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

 

This has caused a huge brouhaha. Faculty members were quick to accuse McCrory of misunderstanding the purpose of higher education as well as being presumptuous in thinking he, rather than the university is better equipped to determine what kind of education best serves an uncertain and changing future society. While McCrory campaigned with a message of emphasizing vocational education that uses employable skills, his detractors felt the recent remarks went too far. An education leading to jobs! I mean, really, Gov. McCrory. You should be ashamed of yourself.

 

McCrory noted that in NC, with the 5th highest unemployment rate in the nation, there were skilled jobs going unfilled.  He said, “To me that means we have a major disconnect between the educational establishment and commerce.”  He wanted to steer curriculum towards business and commerce needs that might help graduates to find work, pay back debts, help the economy, and not have to sleep on their childhood twin bed in their parents’ home.

 

With the average NC public university four year program now costing over $80,000 for four years of tuition and board, perhaps the real question needs to be: what is the purpose of higher education?  Perhaps McCrory is doing us all a service in raising this question with the skyrocketing costs of a college degree, the significant and disturbing unemployment rate, and the increasing rate of adult children moving back into their parents’ homes unable to find work upon graduating. Should taxpayers be expected to subsidize courses of study that will not lead to employment…and then carry the tax burden of public assistance to the unemployed college grad?  Or does McCrory have a valid point and one that should not be so quickly and summarily dismissed?

 

I am an artist. I love the arts.  I graduated with a Fine Arts degree. I went to an inexpensive state college, lived at home, and graduated with no debt.  Nonetheless, I threw my mortar board cap in the air, and said, “Now what?”  I ended up going on to graduate school in a curriculum that I was able to graduate from and be gainfully employed.  I don’t know what I would have done had I finished four years with $80,000 debt, and a Fine Arts degree.  That’s a lot of money for a starving artist to repay.

 

“What are we teaching these courses for if they are not going to help get a job?” McCrory asked.  For this question, he is vilified.  As he presides over the state with the 5th highest unemployment rate, 9.2%, in an economy that is floundering, it seems to me that is exactly what he should be asking.

 

By: Vicky Kaseorg

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