This is a story I should not have enjoyed. I have many friends and family in higher education, and many colleagues whom I respect and admire, including two who have founded colleges. I know it’s a tough gig, and generally underpaid for the value it adds to society.

And yet, I can’t help but feel that many universities, especially those offering professional qualifications that lead into the business world, have lost their way. With ever inflated claims as they compete more and more with each other, increasing business mindsets (read ‘profit motive’) in their structures and operations, and a cookie cutter approach to education, they are failing to adequately prepare a new generation of graduates for success in a rapidly changing business world.

They promise to generate innovators, business leaders and to ‘give you an edge’, but are none of these things themselves. I am generalising, of course, but this is definitely the norm. And it seems that the more successful the institution, the more likely it is to be conformist.

So, although I should be more supportive of my family, friends and colleagues in higher education, I did take some delight in a recent news story about a group of graduates who have decided to sue the universities they attended. The universities had made certain claims in their advertising, specifically about the jobs the graduates would get. Now graduated, the students have found no jobs, and so they’ve decided to sue. I should read this story and shake my head in disgust at an American litigious culture out of control (I think it is). I should also see it through a generational lens, and tell the students to suck it up and make their own future (they should).

But it is the generational lens that also causes me to love this story. Generation Y is unlike their Gen X older siblings who were more phlegmatic, reactive and pragmatic. This younger generation is not going to accept that they’re being handed a world that is less than the world their parents experienced. In America, and many other countries around the world, this will be the first time in many centuries that has happened. And Gen Y are not going to just accept that. They are not going to allow an older generation to use up the world’s resources – whether those are natural resources or jobs or societal assets – and leave scraps for them.

So, I like this story. They might not win, but this is an indication that a new generation is coming into political and social life, and they need to be taken seriously. The full story is at Washington Post, or read the Huffington Post summary here, or an extract below:

Law Grads Sue Alma Maters For Millions In Tuition Refunds

Huffington Post, 11 Aug 2011

Law schools across the country are gearing up to greet the freshest batch of wannabe lawyers later this month. But some will be dealing with more than just ice cream socials and welcome parties – namely, lawsuits alleging the schools purposefully inflated employment statistics to attract more students.

Two lawsuits seeking class action status were filed today against Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan and New York Law School. The several plaintiffs, who are all graduates of the defendant schools, seek $250 million from Cooley and $200 million from NYLS in tuition refunds, as well as other damages and reformed employment statistic reporting practices.

Both lawsuits state that the plaintiffs seek “to remedy a systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry and threatens to leave a generation of law students in dire financial straits.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney David Anziska said his firm, Kurzon Strauss LLP, chose these two particular law schools in large part because of their large class sizes, with Cooley – at about 1,000 students in each year – the biggest in the country by far.

Source: Huffington Post

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