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Paladin of Ice

The state of higher education in the United States

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Frequent edition changes are more the fault of publishers than authors.

However, it's also the case that in the sciences and social sciences, some students themselves complain if the copyright on the text is more than five years old. They want the books to include recent research in their field.

Well, sure. In some fields it's not necessary, though.

Students are a captive audience. Most of the time they have no choice but to bite the bullet and buy them in whatever format.

Or maybe I just went to school at a time when people paid cash and didn't get a lot of aid. Books ate up a big chunk of the budget.

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When I was in law school our textbooks for each class cost $200 - $250 per book. Most full time students take 5 classes a semester so figure at least $2,000 a year for textbooks if you buy them new.

And most of the time for 2 credit classes you get through 1/4 of the textbook. What a waste of money! This is why for the law classes I teach now I don't use a textbook. Through our law school library there is a series of law books available online that contain the same information the textbooks would that they can all download, save as PDF, print, etc. for free. And then they can download the assigned cases and statues for free as well.

It was rather bizarre going from having to pay thousands of dollars for textbooks as a student to getting showered with them by the publishers for free. Even though I don't assign a textbook, the publishers still send them to me every year...every single textbook for the subjects I teach every single year. It's like no wonder they charge the students so much for them, they have to cover the costs for all the comp copies they send out.

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Re: textbooks

I don't think every student needs every textbook in every class. In many cases the textbook is indeed non-essential and can be ignored.

However, I would think that for all students, there are a few key textbooks in their respective field of study that would be great books to keep around. I still use my cell biology, biochemistry, molecular genetics, and statistics textbooks from undergrad days once in a while.

Looking around at my colleagues, all of us are immensely aware of the burden of textbook fees on out students, and our school already offers textbook rental.

Also, as Ormind said, a very low percent of all professors write books, and fewer of those write textbooks, and fewer of those still write textbooks that are widely used. For my General Biology class, I have about 9 options to choose from. That's it. That's 9 sets of authors (so about 60 professors) writing books for use for introductory microbiology, which is pre-requisite for nursing, one of the popular majors. Most scholarly outputs are not intended for consumption for undergraduate level work so when professors do publish books, typically they are in highly specialized area of expertise and maybe the graduate level work will require it.

So while I understand the griping about textbook costs and the changes in editions, and I am sympathetic to it, I think that's probably less of a factor over all in influencing the quality of higher education.

As to doing some classes in community colleges, I think that's a good idea, but with this caveat: don't do a full 2 yrs there. Do 3 semesters and then transfer.

Here's why.

If you finish all your general education classes in community colleges, you will only have classes for majors left to do at the 4 year institution. This means that your first semester will be 2 to 3 classes in your major field of study in the 2000 to 3000 level. That is a very steep transition for many students.

Obviously a lot of factors go into determining the success of the transition, and many of our transfer students do extremely well. However, I also have plenty of students who attended community colleges that do not have high demands on their students and they struggle very hard to catch up to speed. Another problem is that for sciences, many community colleges do not offer a laboratory component to their classes and many transfer students are severely lacking in basic lab skills when they arrive. We end up making them take courses at the lower level to learn the appropriate lab skills.

I want to state that I do not think 4 year colleges are automatically more rigorous than 2 year community colleges. Many CCs have excellent standards that surpass many 4 year schools. But if the plan is to transfer from CC to a 4 yr institution, the student should really look into the catch up curve between the two and be prepared well for it when the time comes.

Finally, a second caveat is to work with the transfer counselor at both the CC and the intended 4yr (if you already know) to make sure you will receive full credits for the courses taken at the CC. In our department there are many courses that we do not accept transfer credits for when they differ from ours in terms of lacking a lab component, for instance.

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Hi awesome possum,

Just a few weeks ago a neighbor was telling me that you can now rent textbooks through Amazon or B&N. You can rent by the chapter and even by the page if you want.

Textbook writing is a big cash cow for professors. IMO there shouldn't even be paper textbooks these days.

I have a 17 year old senior and as much as she wants to go away to school, it's going to be much cheaper to live at home. I'm trying to talk her into community college for 2 years but she's resisting. There's athletic scholarship on the line, too. Even with that and financial aid, she's still looking at around $20K for 4 years. Without it we're talking $80K.

$20,000 for four years is worth it, that's only $5000 a year in loans which is very manageable. I don't see why you'd pick community college when the cost is that low. And if you ditch the scholarship and do two years of community college instead it sounds like the final two years would cost $40,000, so your plan would cost more money.

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Looking around at my colleagues, all of us are immensely aware of the burden of textbook fees on out students, and our school already offers textbook rental.

Rental is kind of a joke, or at least it has been for me. I mean, yeah, you save money, so that's good. But it's like $20 off a $150 book, and you don't get to keep it. And then they get to rent it out for another $130 next semester.

I've run into several "no electronic devices" policies that nix ebook options (legit or no), and the one class where I did go with the ebook, it only ran on this atrocious proprietary software that took about fifteen seconds to render a page.

As to doing some classes in community colleges, I think that's a good idea, but with this caveat: don't do a full 2 yrs there. Do 3 semesters and then transfer.

Here's why.

If you finish all your general education classes in community colleges, you will only have classes for majors left to do at the 4 year institution. This means that your first semester will be 2 to 3 classes in your major field of study in the 2000 to 3000 level. That is a very steep transition for many students.

Obviously a lot of factors go into determining the success of the transition, and many of our transfer students do extremely well. However, I also have plenty of students who attended community colleges that do not have high demands on their students and they struggle very hard to catch up to speed. Another problem is that for sciences, many community colleges do not offer a laboratory component to their classes and many transfer students are severely lacking in basic lab skills when they arrive. We end up making them take courses at the lower level to learn the appropriate lab skills.

I've just done this. A counterpoint: if you do the full two years, you get a degree. That won't matter after the baccalaureate degree is complete, but it could be helpful in the intervening time or if something goes wrong. Also, if getting into a desired school is an issue, in my state you can guarantee admission to a wide range of schools by finishing an associate's degree with a certain GPA (depending on school - William and Mary was a 3.6, iirc; the school I went to only required 2.0, because I'm a slacker and also location was important).

I'm definitely not able to jump directly into the upper level courses. My community college didn't even have a communication department other than 100-level public speaking, so I need to take a bunch of prerequisites in my field(s) at the 100 and 200 level and that's my first semester here. Should serve as a reasonable "catch up curve" though I'm not convinced that it's vastly more rigorous. Mostly there's just a bit more work than I was used to. The one 300-level course I'm in, though, is about as much work as my entire last semester. Suspect/hope it's an outlier. Five of those is not going to be a possibility.

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This is why I'm not going to college. Just to rack up debt that I won't be able to pay off for the rest of my life? Nope.

Its especially fucked seeing as in a lot of what we would call under developed countries you can get up to a masters for free.

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I've just done this. A counterpoint: if you do the full two years, you get a degree. That won't matter after the baccalaureate degree is complete, but it could be helpful in the intervening time or if something goes wrong. Also, if getting into a desired school is an issue, in my state you can guarantee admission to a wide range of schools by finishing an associate's degree with a certain GPA (depending on school - William and Mary was a 3.6, iirc; the school I went to only required 2.0, because I'm a slacker and also location was important).

These are good points. I think a similar thing applies in California, where you can guarantee admission into the UC system if you graduate community college with a certain GPA (I think 3.5).

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These are good points. I think a similar thing applies in California, where you can guarantee admission into the UC system if you graduate community college with a certain GPA (I think 3.5).

Indeed, the program is called IGETC. An excellant choice for people who want to save some money and are still figuring out which direction they would like to go with school.

This is why I'm not going to college. Just to rack up debt that I won't be able to pay off for the rest of my life? Nope.

Haven't crunched the numbers on that one I take it?

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$20,000 for four years is worth it, that's only $5000 a year in loans which is very manageable. I don't see why you'd pick community college when the cost is that low. And if you ditch the scholarship and do two years of community college instead it sounds like the final two years would cost $40,000, so your plan would cost more money.

Two years at our community college would cost a whopping $5,000. I can pay cash for that. And on the plus side, the community college and local universities have a transfer agreement. Kids already know which four year school they're going to transfer to and their courses are designed for that particular school...and they'll transfer with an associate's degree.

I'm really not seeing the downside. :) Our local community college is recognized by universities nationwide as being very, very good.

But she's going in as a business/accounting major, not a science major. And all this is predicated on athletics, which is worth about $10,000 a year. They don't call them scholarships--you just get more money in aid to play. If she doesn't get it, it will cost me $27,000 per year (without aid) and with aid it'll still run me about $17,000 per year.

So that's Plan A and Plan B. We won't know till January or so.

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This is why I'm not going to college. Just to rack up debt that I won't be able to pay off for the rest of my life? Nope.

Its especially fucked seeing as in a lot of what we would call under developed countries you can get up to a masters for free.

Even including my loan payments, I'm making much more than I did before school.

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I've had a fairly long road and ample amounts of debt, but I manage to live a fairly comfortable life on a residency salary. This year I can also moonlight, meaning that I can make $2,000 for a weekend.


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Ulthosian Stark: I'll be looking for you in the minimum wage threads to come. I think your mind will change when you need to start paying rent one day. Even trade jobs require higher education.


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Ulthosian Stark: I'll be looking for you in the minimum wage threads to come. I think your mind will change when you need to start paying rent one day. Even trade jobs require higher education.

Yep, trying to get my daughter's boyfriend to realize that. He's 20 and honestly thinks he's going to be a self made billionaire sitting at home doing nothing or very little.

I like him as a person--he treats my daughter very well and really is a nice kid--but he's not exactly a ball of fire.

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Ulthosian Stark: I'll be looking for you in the minimum wage threads to come. I think your mind will change when you need to start paying rent one day. Even trade jobs require higher education.

Ha I've never had a minimum wage job, I'm a cook/waiter that makes 10$ an hour plus tip so it comes out to be round 20 an hour on a busy day. I have my car nearly paid off, zero debt otherwise.

I also don't plan to live here much longer, I don't want to be stuck to some school for 4-8 years. What I've been doing is cultivating contacts in the aquarium industry, I have a part time job at a local custom aquarium company where I help put things together and advise on freshwater predator tanks (FW predators are my specialty), I've gotten in good with the importer and am going to Suriname in the dry season to collect stingrays and wolf fish.

Sting ray pups sell for at least 250-1000 depending on specie. With the knowledge I have I'm planning on starting up the first (as in not home project) stingray/arowana farm in NY.

I already have a marble motoro and leopoldi pair I'm trying to get a neat hybrid out of in a 600 ga indoor pond at my uncles. Those pups should be able to go for about 400 ea.

So yeah, keep on thinking anyone who skips college is gonna end up on minimum wage. Completely untrue. The happiest people I know didn't go, and advise against going. Happiness > Wealth for me anyway. I honestly hate money, and just want to do something I love.

Also please don't go "oh you should breed piranha instead!" I get this reaction a LOT. The fish I like and am keeping EAT piranhas. One of my wolf fishs local name translates to piranha-eater.

Oh and on top of it when my parents are done with it and move south like their plan has been I'm getting my house (paid off already) for free, and I also get the parking lots for bills games we own. We can park around 100 cars a game, multiply that by 20$ each spot (120$ for season pass and we have about 20 of them, all pay before the season starts), multiplied that again by the number of home games (around ten including preseason) and that's all me. It basically pays for nearly all the bills for half the year

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Ulthosian Stark: I'll be looking for you in the minimum wage threads to come. I think your mind will change when you need to start paying rent one day. Even trade jobs require higher education.

Some trade jobs do; plumbing,electrical, HVAC. But there are plenty that don't. Framing, masonry, carpentry, site work, concrete work, all can pay well without any education beyond highschool.

Eta: but even in those jobs you can get licensed just working your way up from a laborer/assistant position without any* classroom time.

*at least not comparable in cost to a bachelors or most associate degrees

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With that said, all of the top universities in the US except maybe two (Berkeley and Penn?) are private,

Penn's private, just like all the other Ivys. PennState's public and a completely separate institution. Various University of California branches (Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Davis), UVA, UM Ann Arbor, UNC Chapel Hill, and William and Mary are all decent public US universities. Basically, a kid's best bet is living in California or the south.

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