The North Carolina academic scandal has put the spotlight on the way athletes are handled by money grubbing colleges. Two decades of systematic grade enhancement is about as bad as it gets. You can’t pretend it is a rogue employee or an unscrupulous coach when the problem spans generations. Like the Penn State scandal, it can only happen when there is a culture that tolerates, maybe even encourages, the behavior in question. It is systemic, not isolated corruption.
The evil right-wing extremists are having fun with the fact the center of the corruption was the Afro’d American Studies Department. As some tried to point out, schools have a range of fake majors where they can stash jocks. A great one is probably the Fashion major at Virginia Tech. One of the classes for that major involves attending a fashion show in New York. The person behind that has a sense of humor.
The point being missed by all of this is it is not much of a sports story. If you look at a school like North Carolina, you will find that the “jocks” do better than the regular students in the class room. They get better grades and graduate on time. Like all state colleges, close to half the entering freshmen fail to graduate. Some lose interest, while others realize it is just a racket and get on with their lives.
The schools take in kids that have no business on a college campus just to get their government loan money. There’s also federal dollars and state dollars. The colleges know these kids have little to no chance of graduating, even with a nonsense degree like sociology or African-American studies. Athletes, of course, are not all that interested in school, so these fake majors serve a purpose.
The scam basically involves dumbing down the 100 and 200 level courses. The “core” studies are also dumbed down so kids can make it through freshmen year taking remedial math and English. NC State, for example offers Algebra and Pre-calculus. In the old days, you had to finish calculus to graduate high school. Colleges fill up the first year with coursework that should be covered in middle-school. The second year they start taking some real college course and that’s when the attrition begins. By the third year these kids are overwhelmed and drop out.
The problem is much worse as the dilution of college cannot be checked once it starts. It is simply too profitable. Browsing the NC State catalog, I see they have a major in Landscape Architecture. At the risk of sounding like a meanie, there’s no reason for the gardener to have a college degree. When I was a kid I did “landscape architecture” for school money in the summers. An old black guy taught me “Site Planning” and “Landscape Construction Materials.” He had different names for them and they were pass/fail, but the results were the same. I admit that designing a golf course takes skill, but these guys are going to be running lawn mower gangs at the municipal golf course.
As is always the case, there is a natural limit to the corruption. There’s only so much money to steal. Seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. From 2008 to 2012, debt at graduation (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of six percent each year. That’s according to these people. According to the Fed, 11.5% of the $1.2 trillion in school debt is delinquent. By way of comparison, the peak of the mortgage crisis saw a 9% delinquency rate on roughly one trillion in loans. Those loans were backed by an asset of some value. Student loans are backed by nothing.
But, it should work out just fine. Just keep pumping out landscaping majors and Afro’s America Studies graduates. What could go wrong?