Higher Education – You can’t beat it

New generation of young farmers increasingly college educated, but indebted

This is priceless, and emblematic of the social pathology that characterizes higher education today, as well as the media that write approvingly of such fail-to-launch adults. Last but not least, it also exemplifies many of the kids who are apparently not bright enough to realize that they’ve been sold a bill of goods.

“Studying agriculture in college was extremely helpful for me in becoming a successful farmer because I was able to study how to grow a plant from a seed or make a crop plan,” Davis-Cetina said.

Wait – don’t you need a Ph.D. in agriculture to know how to grow a plant from a seed? That planting a seed and watering stuff takes years of training to master.

“She said she still needs to work 15 hours a week at an off-farm job to pay her bills.”

She doesn’t sound like a very successful farmer to me.

Some are coming to the field with college degrees that have nothing to do with agriculture – like urban farmer Tyler Stowers. The 29-year-old picked up the farming bug while working at farm-to-table restaurants when he was pursuing a bachelor’s in philosophy at UC Berkeley.
“My college experience has proven very helpful to me as a farmer,” Stowers said. “A farmer is required to wear many hats on a daily basis, and my years in school exposed me to world problems and potential solutions that I otherwise would have probably never experienced.”

Like Davis-Cetina, Stowers also took on college loans. The loan payments and the high price of farmland in the Sacramento region forced Stowers to take an unconventional path to farming. In lieu of a land purchase, Stowers turned 1,200 square feet of his parents’ backyard in suburban Roseville into verdant rows of lettuce, basil and other vegetables.

Glad to see that philosophy degree paying off. All that exposure to world problems must be invaluable when you’re digging your parents’ backyard. And as for potential solutions that you haven’t yet experienced, you could try … I dunno … getting a job. A real job, not glorified gardening.

1,200 square feet? Seriously? “Mom, Dad, I’m going to be plowing the south 40 of the spread today. The south 40 feet, that is.”

What next? Getting a couple of hamsters and calling it “ranching?” Round ’em up, and head ’em out! Rawhide.

These people are … what is the phrase? “Screwing around,” I believe it’s called. They went to college for four years to do what they could have done out of high school, and without hefty student debt.

It comes down to this: universities need to have skin in the game, so that they have a financial interest in discouraging weak students from attending, and able people from pursuing economically nonviable majors.This is not say some people shouldn’t pursue such majors, but that they need to consider carefully their chances of success before embarking on such study, and to be made aware of the odds against them.

Further, universities should establish finance arms, much like GE or GM, to assist prospective customers in financing their purchase (of an education, a washing machine, or a car, as the case may be), so that they consider carefully whether the prospective borrower’s plan makes economic sense, and whether the prospective borrower has his head screwed on. Loans made to students should be dischargeable in bankruptcy, so that universities have a compelling direct interest in admitting students who can finish a degree in serious university-level work and go on to contribute meaningfully to the economy. Then if the student fails in either task, alma mater has to write off a bad loan. (Think that that might cheer up student career counseling, and the hiring and rewarding of effective instructors?)

The upshot: fewer students going to university (way too many people go now, with attendant dilution of standards), better screening of prospective incoming students, better counseling and instruction of admitted students, and a more business-like atmosphere at university that will facilitate students’ transition from childhood to adulthood.

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