I asked an AI to help justify student loan forgiveness
Bread, circuses, emperors, and hallucinating AIs
If you want the straight truth about President Biden’s (likely doomed) effort to harness emperor-level authority and “forgive” hundreds of billions in student loans, I can save time and boil it down to Jonah Goldberg’s closing words in his essay on the subject (sadly behind a paywall, protected by a phalanx of murder-buttons): “I want the law.”
Higher education has always been a source of jealousy and covetousness. The educated are not necessarily smarter, or more clever, or more moral for having their minds filled with the stuff of college. As I’d always been told by my parents: You get out of it what you put into it. Stupid people in college become educated stupid people; immoral people in college become immoral college-educated people.
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The old saw holds that “people who cannot do, teach.” That’s not particularly true. But people who cannot do, or teach, tend to get sinecure positions with silly titles at colleges these days. So I asked GPT ChatAI to give me a list of some of these positions. I take them with a huge grain of salt because LLM AI’s in general have a bad habit of hallucinating. If I were an AI codex who memorized all of Wikipedia and had no real understanding of the world, I’d hallucinate too. But seriously, I also asked Bing’s Sydney to verify some of GPT3’s results, and they didn’t always agree.
Here’s one they didn’t agree on:
“The job title "Chief Storytelling Officer" has been used at several colleges and universities in recent years. Some examples include:
Columbia University School of Professional Studies
Johns Hopkins University
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Pennsylvania
It's worth noting that the specific responsibilities and job duties of a Chief Storytelling Officer can vary depending on the institution, but the role typically involves using narrative techniques to help communicate the school's mission, values, and achievements to various stakeholders.”
Bing didn’t find a “Chief Storytelling Officer” at any of those schools. If any of you wish to fact check it, feel free. I’m skeptical. But that title is not far off from reality:
The job title "Director of Student Experience" has been used at numerous colleges and universities in recent years. Some examples include:
Duke University ($95k)
Loyola University Chicago
Oregon State University
University of California, Berkeley
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of Pennsylvania
University of Southern California
It's worth noting that the specific responsibilities and job duties of a Director of Student Experience can vary depending on the institution, but the role typically involves overseeing programs and initiatives that enhance the quality of life and academic success of students on campus. This may include managing housing and dining services, supporting student organizations, coordinating campus events and activities, and providing resources and support for student well-being.
Another is the “Vice President of Brand Engagement.” The two AI’s didn’t agree on it, but GPT3 thinks it’s pretty common:
Brown University (Salary: $212k)
Loyola University Maryland
Michigan State University
New York University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Arizona
University of Michigan
University of North Texas
University of Oklahoma
University of San Francisco
Virginia Commonwealth University (Salary: $152k)
Bing’s Sydney said it could not find the position at Brown University, but GPT3 insisted that Glassdoor had a salary for it. Why any college needs a highly-paid VP of Brand Engagement is something I think hard about. GPT3 said this:
It's worth noting that the specific responsibilities and job duties of a Vice President of Brand Engagement can vary depending on the institution, but the role typically involves overseeing strategies and initiatives that promote and enhance the school's reputation, image, and visibility. This may include managing marketing and communications efforts, coordinating public relations activities, developing branding and messaging, and engaging with various stakeholders to promote the institution's mission and values.
It seems Brown University shows up a lot. So I asked GPT3 for a list of some VP positions there:
Yes, here are some of the Vice President positions at Brown University:
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services
Vice President for Communications
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion
Vice President for Facilities Management
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Vice President for Human Resources
Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
Vice President for International Affairs
Vice President for Research
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
GPT3 said the average salary of a VP at Brown is $240k. Not bad for Rhode Island. Why there’s a VP for Institutional Equity and Diversity, and one for Diversity and Inclusion at the same time is puzzling, and might be the AI hallucinating. Or it could be there’s two VPs battling over turf to see who’s more woke. Either is plausible to me.
Then I asked GPT3 to write an essay defending President Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt. I won’t share the whole thing here because you’d be bored by it. But I’m going to focus on this statement: “Despite the necessity of high tuition fees, it is important to acknowledge that many students struggle to afford college education.”
Why is high tuition a necessity? The AI doesn’t explain it very well, only that “universities require funding to continue operating, and tuition fees are a significant source of income for them.” And, “universities have to invest in research, infrastructure, and technology to maintain their competitive edge, which requires significant financial investment.” But if a college education is for everyone, why must colleges compete?
So I asked GPT3 to write a contra-position on why student loan debt should not be forgiven. I’ll share that one here.
The cost of attending college has increased significantly over the past few decades, making higher education increasingly inaccessible for many students. While there are many factors contributing to the rising cost of college, we will argue that college tuition increases are an example of administrative bloat and greed by overpaid school executives. In this essay, we will examine how administrative bloat and greed have contributed to the increasing cost of college, resulting in significant student loan debt.
Administrative bloat refers to the expansion of administrative staff at universities and colleges without a corresponding increase in academic faculty. This has resulted in an increase in the number of non-teaching staff and a rise in administrative salaries. This increase in administrative staff has contributed to the rising cost of college, as the salaries and benefits of these staff members account for a significant portion of the university's budget.
Furthermore, many university executives are paid exorbitant salaries, which has contributed to the rising cost of college. These executives often have salaries that are far beyond what is reasonable, given their responsibilities. This is particularly true for executives in the higher education sector who often earn more than their counterparts in other sectors.
Another factor contributing to the rising cost of college is the prioritization of non-educational projects such as lavish building projects, fancy campus amenities, and extensive sports facilities. These projects often come at a significant cost and are designed to attract students and donors rather than to provide academic benefits. The cost of these projects is often passed onto students, contributing to the increasing cost of college education.
The impact of these factors is significant, as the increasing cost of college education has resulted in a significant amount of student loan debt. Students who are unable to afford the rising cost of tuition are forced to take out loans, resulting in substantial debt that can take years, if not decades, to pay off. This debt can impact their financial stability and future opportunities, and can even limit their ability to pursue higher education in the future.
In conclusion, the rising cost of college tuition is a result of administrative bloat and greed by overpaid school executives. The expansion of administrative staff, exorbitant executive salaries, and prioritization of non-educational projects have all contributed to the increasing cost of college education. This has resulted in significant student loan debt, which can have a negative impact on the financial stability of students. It is essential that universities and colleges take steps to address these issues, to ensure that college education remains accessible to all students, regardless of their financial backgrounds. This can be done by reducing administrative bloat and executive salaries, and prioritizing academic projects over non-educational ones. By doing so, universities can promote affordability and accessibility, and provide a quality education to all students.
We really need to look at how these AIs can spread so much disinformation. But we also need to look at why colleges spend so much on things not related to education. And after that, we can figure out why government is so focused on handing out bread and circuses for free to people who don’t deserve either.
"But we also need to look at why colleges spend so much on things not related to education."
Because student debt is given out like candy, and there's ZERO incentive all around to compete on cost (Mitch Daniels' Purdue being the lone exception I can think of). Until student debt can be discharged as easily as other forms of debt, taxpayers will be left holding the bag, and schools will continue to add non-academic amenities (cheaper and less argument in the long run than hiring actual human professors) that allow subpar schools to compete with better schools for their place at the federal student loan teat.