Educational Institutions Should Guarantee Their Work

            A constant theme of my writing is and will continue to be the necessity of a revolution in our higher education, particularly musical education. The current system is a malicious titan, intoxicated of ill-gotten money. He laughs in his power, oblivious to his drunken reeling. The great size with which he terrorized the populace will also be his downfall. When drunk enough, he will sway too far and crash upon the earth. Such a day should be one for rejoicing. What opportunities could grow from the soil as the great giant’s body returns to the earth? Yet, how many will be crushed by the initial impact?

            The colossus will fall, of that fact can no question be made, but mayhap we take away his drink in the meantime? Maybe if he isn’t as drunk his fall won’t be as devastating. And, perhaps, we could put some effort into never having a student loan crisis again.

            Many politicians are bandying about supposed solutions to the current student debt crisis. While emergency measures might very well be necessary before too many people default, the focus on the current loan bubble seems an attempt to slap a band-aid on a festering wound. It’s that or a shameless way to buy the votes of impressionable young people. How ironic, that schools lobby Washington so student loans remain untouchable by bankruptcy, so that politicians can turn around and campaign on fixing a problem they got rich from creating. By the way, Elizabeth Warren was paid $400,000 a year to teach a single class at Harvard. Did she care about the student loan crisis then, or is this some kind of moral awakening?  

Pictured: Not the solution to this issue

Pictured: Not the solution to this issue

            Emergency measures aside, our focus must be on the future. The crash is coming. What can we do in the rebuild to be certain our new institutions thrive and don’t recreate the same problem? Shamefully, only one major public figure has been putting any thought into these ideas: Tucker Carlson. Whether you like Tucker or not, he’s doing God’s work in delving into this topic. Unfortunately, Squarespace won’t let me embed the video, so you’ll just have to watch it here.

Tucker Carlson student debt.jpg

               If you watched the video, he suggests something that I’ve considered for years (if you didn’t watch it, please go do so, it isn’t that long). As many who follow me are aware, I plan to make Murphy Music Academy a top music school, structured completely different from the current conservatory model. There will be no formal accreditation, no academic strangling, no aimless classes and, if you can imagine it, you will actually be prepared to take on the world as an independent musician when you are through.

-The only schools that might be able to make such a definitive claim, Colburn and Curtis, are not going to sully you with debt anyway, so we can leave them out of the discussion-

                Now, how could anyone expect me to make such a claim (the Murphy Music Academy Conservatory will not be free, though several times less costly than current schools) without guaranteeing my work? Tucker brings up this point and I can’t imagine why no one else talks about it.

            We expect those involved in any kind of labor to guarantee the quality of their work. If the work isn’t up to the specifications of the person purchasing it, the laborer is required to either refund or redo. We expect this of someone payed a few-hundred dollars for landscaping, but not of those running a system convincing young people that their only ticket to a quality life-style is an education system that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars which they can only fund through non-dischargeable debt? How is it we don’t demand by law they guarantee their work? This, my friends, is clown world.

            Tucker Carlson suggests schools cosign the loans. If you ask someone to take a huge financial risk on your behalf, arguing that the product in which you want them to invest will greatly benefit them, why shouldn’t you incur some risk as well? It’s certainly a starting point for solutions. My only problem is it presupposes that tuition costs remain ludicrously high. Remove the high tuition and students don’t need loans. For my own music school, I’m considering a different solution: a partial refund.

            Firstly, it’s entirely possible to run a music performance school with a tuition between $5,000 to $10,000 a year. Yes, per year, not semester. While I will certainly go more into detail on how this could work at a later date, suffice it to say that the primary teacher of each student would be tasked with almost the entirety of the students’ development, becoming as much a mentor as teacher. Traditional academia would not be a factor, but classes necessary to building a capable performer could possibly be outsourced. The details aren’t relevant to the debt issue, I’m just putting forward the fact that the music school of the future would be affordable as well as guaranteeing its work.

            The number one goal of the future iteration of the Murphy Music Academy would be to give each student the necessary tools to make a living as a musician. This would not only include your ability as a player but also the ability to network, create performances and festivals yourself – to be a business person as well as a musician. If it can be established that someone went through the program, did everything they were told, and can’t succeed after a certain period, then the school will return 25% to 50% of the tuition. Seeing as the person in question did still gain information of some sort from their time at the school, it can’t be 100%. Also, that would be a terrible business decision.

            There would have to be clear, but fair, criteria for what would constitute the appropriate situation for a refund, but actions like this must be taken by those who are truly dedicated to preparing the next generation of artists. Maybe we can save the next generation from our foibles and secure a future for our children.