Will 600 Colleges Disappear in the Next 10 Years?
In 1980, the satirical priest Father Guido Sarducci, played by comedian Don Novello, took the stage on Saturday Night Live and proposed a model for college education. He wanted to start The Five Minute University (FMU).
At FMU, he would teach — in five minutes — everything the average college graduate remembers five years after graduation.
He pointed out that $20 may seem like a lot of money for just five minutes. It’s not so expensive when you realize the fee covers “tuition, cap and gown rental, a graduation picture and a snack.”
Students would take a foreign language, economics and — as is appropriate for a Catholic school — theology. The courses would require an oral exam in the final minute.
If Spanish, he would ask them:
Father Guido: ¿Como esta usted? (How are you?)
Student: Muy bien. (Very well)
In economics, students have to understand supply and demand:
Father Guido: How can you be successful in business?
Student: Buy something for one price and sell it for more.
Two questions would be asked in theology:
Father Guido: Where is God?
Student: God is everywhere.
Father Guido: Why?
Student: Because he likes me.
Father Guido pointed out the theology course was a combination of the Roman Catholic Church and Disney philosophies.
His school would offer a spring break. “No time to go to Fort Lauderdale.” He simply would turn on a sun lamp and serve students orange juice as his previously mentioned snack.
If students are successful with the oral exam, they would put on a cap and gown. He would take a Polaroid picture and give them a diploma.
Father Guido’s presentation is alive and well all across YouTube and other Internet platforms. But, as we might ask in a philosophy course, “Is it a comedy or a tragedy?”
In 2018, 70 percent of the 3.1 million graduating high school seniors will enroll in degree-granting colleges and universities. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition will be $35,000 at private colleges or $10,000 for in-state and $25,620 for out-of-state students at public colleges. Add another $12,000 to $15,000 for room and board, fees, books and miscellaneous expenses.
These numbers, when totaled over four years, range from $100,000 to $200,000. Parents can plan on spending another $100,000 or so if their progeny choose an elite or prestigious private university.
The dichotomy between Father Guido’s model and traditional colleges should be giving university risk managers nightmares. What do students remember from college five years after graduation?
It is decidedly a risk management issue if we put two 27-year-old “graduates” side by side. The one from the Five Minute University has been working for nine years, has a savings account and no college debt. The one from a traditional college has been paying off student loans for five years and still owes $30,000.
The United States has 2,600 accredited four-year colleges on a trajectory that might produce 2,000 survivors in 10 years. Can college professors and administrators do anything to manage this risk?
Maybe they need to enroll in the Five Minute University.
Is “muy bien” representative of what students remember from most of their college courses five years after graduation? Can college graduates sell their skills for more than they paid for their degrees? Should graduates have to depend upon God being everywhere and liking them as they try to pay off student loans and get on with the rest of their lives?
If college administrators and professors correctly answer these questions, they deserve a reward. How about a cap and gown, snack and graduation picture?