Saturday, February 26, 2005

4 out of 5 papers have no topics

This term of my MA degree in Economics is very different from last term. It's all paper-based this time around, whereas last term I think I had 20 assignments across my courses, plus mid-term exams.

I have to come up with a topic for my field classes in econ, and I'm open to suggestions. So far, I have to pick topics for papers in Transport, Public Expenditure, Competition Policy and Econometrics. Econometrics is a toughie, because the proposal is due this Tuesday.

I was thinking of delving into an overlapping generations model to illustrate how research universities cannibalize their own students in order to maximize revenues. They recruit the hell out of high school students to come to the U rather than a transfer college. They put them in classes of 200 or more and flunk them out after 1 or 2 years. 50% of students in their first year will not be around for their third year.

Why do they do this? The 1st and 2nd years are low-cost classes, but these kids still pay their 500 bucks per class - the same as the higher-cost 3rd, 4th and graduate year classes. Universities seem to have adopted a strategy of fleecing the government and university kids for their money, minimizing the cost of high-dropout classes, and flunking them out before they impose actual costs. It's sick.

The University gets all this money from the government - for every dollar in tuition, they get at least 2 from taxpayers. So each kid is using 1500 dollars in resources to attend a class. Suppose you have 1 prof getting paid 9,000 dollars to teach a multiple-choice/scantron course of 250 students. Suppose they teach 4 sections of the same course, for a total of 1,000 students. Well, 1000 x 1500 dollars is ..... 1.5 million dollars in revenues. Minus the costs of the Teacher plus the aides - probably a total of 100,000 dollars. That's a pretty good margin. Get the money and flunk 'em out by their 3rd year. Social filtration at work.

To complicate matters, I also have to wrap up my contribution to a book to be put out by the JIBS Media Center at Jonkoping University. It's pronounced "Yon-Show-Ping" they tell me. It will be tough, but I will have it done. I hope. The format has changed from what I have done.