For any one who uses Greg Mankiw's Principles of Economics text, here is a video to help you translate to students the Ten Principles of Economics.




A dereliction of duty?

Posted by cmares28 Jan 27, 2012

     Last fall Stanford Professor Sebastian Thurn along with Peter Norvig the Director of Research at Google Inc taught an Artificial Intelligence course at Stanford. In conjunction with this course, Thurn and Norvig hosted an online version complete with homework assignments, quizzes, exames and a certificate indicating proficiency signed by the instructors. While Stanford itself did not lend its own accredition creditionals to the project it helped in a small way to legitimize the enterprise. The results: "over 160,000 people worldwide signed up for the course...more from Lithuania alone than in attendence at Stanford University as a whole. The list of countries participating included students from Afghanistan as well." 248 online students received perfect scorces, and 170 members of Thurn's physical students ended up participating online instead. Thurn decided he could no longer teach at Stanford and gave up his tenure to launch Udacity (an online university) the goal of which is to enroll 500,000 students for his first course on designing a search engine. The course begins Feburary 20th, I'm intrigued enough by the idea that I signed up.


     So where is the dereliciton of duty?


     Felix Salmon of Reuters explains:

I was expecting was an announcement from Thrun that he was helping to reinvent university education: that he was moving all his Stanford courses online, that the physical class would be a space for students to get more personalized help. No more lecturing: instead, the classes would be taken on the students’ own time, and the job of the real-world professor would be to answer questions from kids paying $30,000 for their education.


I have to say I’m a little sad that it’s happening away from, rather than being part of, Stanford. If any world-class university would embrace this idea, one would hope it would be the one at the heart of Silicon Valley. And surely Udacity would only benefit if it was part of Stanford and carried the Stanford brand name.


Stanford was willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building a new physical campus in New York City — but it isn’t willing, it seems, to     help Thrun build a free virtual campus which could reach the whole world. That’s a dereliction of its educational duty. But where Stanford has failed, surely some other elite university will step in. Thrun is taking a bold step here. Let’s hope he soon gets the support, if not of Stanford, then of some other college. Like Harvard, or Yale, or Oxford, or Cambridge. They’re exclusive places now. But they don’t have to be, in the future.


     If the goal of education is to educate individuals we would certainly benefit greatly by expanding the availiability of learning opportunities at a significantly reduced cost. Some university is eventually going to figure this out. The costs of a university degree, especially if you combine into the mix in the "hidden costs" paid by taxpayers is quite high and growing. In my opinion (and the opinion of others) you are buying the accredition not the knowledge. My own university has spent hundreds of millions (outside of athletic facilities improvements) on new buildings and renovations during the past decade. Enrollment is up, so is tuition. Student fees per semester are at least as much as taking an additional course. The majority of the money rolling into our univerisites is fronted by the federal government in the form of  low interest deferred loans. The assumption, the value of a degree is worth it in the long run because its value never goes down. The latter sounds eriely familiar to me. Wasn't there some other asset class which never loses its value being backed by the federal loan gurantees a few years ago?


     Something to think about. In the meantime, bravo to Mr. Thurn for his great work. A marginal step in the right direction.

     The cost of going to college in the United States is rising. There is also an increasing amount of students who are not finding the kind of employment they thought that there education would bring them. Solution? Tie financial success to the cost of your education.


     The common line cited by supporters of higher education is a statistic that says that over a lifetime an individual with a college degree will earn on average around $1 million more than an individual without one. Certainly for some individuals the value of a degree is more than the value of a similar degree or a degree of equal cost. Tuition and fees are usually set at a university wide rate, x dollars per credit hour. A student who receives a degree in social work may end up paying the same amount as a student who majored in computer science and engineering, even though it is more likely that the latter student will earn a much higher income. A way of redressing this imbalance according to students at the University of California at Riverside would be to tie future earnings to the cost of your education.


     The specifics of the proposal are quite simple. Each student is able to go to school tuition free for the duration they choose. At the end of their schooling they are contractually obligated (assumption of omitted detail) to pay the school 5% of their wages for the next twenty years. The math is such that a student who makes on average $50,000 for 20 years will end up paying the school that amount for tuition. So basically your average salary for twenty years is how much your schooling will cost you.


    First there will be winners/losers as with any policy change. The winners are those who are currently paying large tuitions for low-paying jobs i.e. teachers. The losers are those who are paying the same amount as someone who will not earn as much as them, they will now have to pay more, albeit the same percentage of their income. This system also creates an incentive for graduates to try to artificially hold down their earnings for the first 20 years to lower their tuition costs. At the same time it creates an incentive for colleges to get their graduates into higher salaried positions. Another question, if you drop out are you forced to pay the tuition as you would under the old system? How would that price be established if it has been abandoned?


     Final thoughts: GO FOR IT! We learn best through trial and error, even though the time horizon on this experiment is long, (20 years) give it a shot. In fact, you could have a control group, allow the students to choose which method the would prefer, or randomally select them.


     Comments welcomed.