I profoundly disagree with this:
“There’s a lot of higher education that won’t get you a job – arts, philosophy, and do so forth. Unless an institution is engaged in fraud, there’s little reason to pick specifically on for-profit institutions. We should really be asking tough questions about higher education finances in general. Maybe we should have rules barring financial aid for degrees that have horrible job prospects (see here). My goal isn’t to discourage able and committed people from college. Instead, I would like to see some sort of cost-benefit analysis added to the way that we charge people for education.”
Education is not job training. If one agrees with the idea that it is, then, we only need vocational programs and the heck with general education. Let’s have students who leave college with technical skills in various fields, but no education.
There is value in programs with “horrible job prospects”. There is value in philosophy, the arts, general science for people not considering science careers. Sure, if “value” only means values = job, then, ok, these programs have very limited value. If, on the other hand, one considers value = education for citizenry, one recognizes that programs with horrible job prospects matter.
And by the way, at least where I work, there would be no college if it weren’t for the general education programs. Vocational programs often have capped enrollment, high maintenance costs and are more capital intensive. They are not financially self-sustaining. So, who makes up for their deficits? We, general education core (the ones with “horrible job prospects”) do. We teach larger number of high enrollment sections with low capital costs (give me a computer, a projector and Internet access and I’m good to go). It is these programs that turn out the surplus that sustains vocational programs (the one with supposedly “good” job prospects).
But because many administrators tend to see things the same way as the quote above, they tend to treat general education programs as cash cows for vocational programs, rather than valuable areas in their own right.
Outside of the for-profit sector, the read financial issues in higher education have had a lot more to do with state funding than cost-benefit issues with individual programs.
Or should general education, liberal arts (and that might include social sciences) be available only to those who can pay for them? Personally, I think we could use more philosophy (as in teaching how to examine ideas thoroughly), social scientific reasoning / critical thinking, arts understanding, gender / race / class studies because how many of us have had to “deprogram” students from the BS they get from the media. If higher education does not educate (because it’s not cost-effective, cost being defined as only $$), who will? Reality TV? I’m sure it’s cost efficient.