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Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education
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Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  253 ratings  ·  60 reviews
The cost of a college degree has increased by 1,125% since 1978—four times the rate of inflation. Total student debt has surpassed $1.3 trillion. Nearly two thirds of all college students must borrow to study, and the average student graduates with more than $30,000 in debt. Many college graduates under twenty-five years old are unemployed or underemployed. And professors— ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by St. Martin's Press (first published August 2nd 2016)
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Edie I don't believe that this book (which I would also like to read as become available yet. In the credits its says August of 2016. Should be a good book…moreI don't believe that this book (which I would also like to read as become available yet. In the credits its says August of 2016. Should be a good book.(less)

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Douglas Wilson
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
A devastating indictment of the current travesty called higher education. A very worthwhile read, especially for those parents preparing to shell out megabucks for a bunch of nothing.
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received this book through the Goodreads Giveaways program. A very thought provoking book on the ills and wrongs of the American higher education system. As a part of the system, I found agreement and understanding of several of author's points. I would argue for a broader understanding of learning, one which transcends the academic classroom, and includes the many co-curricular pursuits the author seems to negate as non-essential to academic mission and purpose.

Regardless of one's position on
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed college when I attended in the 1990s. Back then, we challenged the profs and tuition was reasonable. Since many high school students obtained good paying jobs in the manufacturing sector, 18-year-olds did not need to attend college to access meaningful employment.

Things have obviously changed. I have two children in college and, quite frankly, when they come home on the weekends, I feel as if they are being brainwashed by liberal professors, who feel no need to even pretend to
Steve Peifer
Sep 01, 2016 rated it did not like it
There are two drinking games that could come out of this worthless book:

1. Please give oh another reference to your classic, most beloved former book ProfScam said no one ever, yet we are treated to SO many references to his former book that the first drinking game is to have to take a shot every time ProfScam is mentioned. If you are a mean drunk, give notice because you will be blotto by the third chapter.

2. This isn't a real book with real research. The second drinking game is to pick a topic
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm biased since I've been advising against college for years. Most people don't need it and would be better off avoiding it. Most of this book will fall on deaf ears as the author tries to swim against a very strong tide. Like most things in America, it won't be fixed until a crisis and then it will probably be fixed badly. The author had plenty of evidence, statistics and studies to support his positions that college is overpriced, over prescribed where the inmates run the asylum. ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
compiles many of the anti-modern-university greatest hits [tuition costs have gone up too much; federally subsidized loans insulate the consumer from the costs and facilitate tuition increases; star professors' teaching loads are too light; grade inflation is rampant; Antioch's code requiring affirmative consent for each escalating step of a sexual encounter can be easily mocked; MOOC's are going to put these sorry teachers out of business; college sports are a big waste of money; modern student ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wish I could give this 2 1/2 stars because that's exactly how I feel about it, 50%. It's not wrong but it only represents half of the full picture and unfortunately, like so much discourse in this country right now, is therefore part of the problem, not a solution. He points out real, serious problems in higher ed that need to be addressed but does it by abusing the reader with a barrage of statistics on cherry picked cases/issues while slinging insults at everyone. It's not scholarly research ...more
Mama K
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
clearly lays out the corrupt condition of our higher education system. But, of course, the universities have no reason to heed the advice to reform, students have no desire to heed reform because the government keeps throwing more money at them. Furthermore, The Snowflake Generation will not listen as they are being seduced by the promise Progressives feed them with "free" education......which they will pay for eventually down the road. Alas, I have no confidence that the universities, the gover ...more
Thomas Achord
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
A biting assessment of the state of public higher education. The book is well reasoned and copiously documented. However, the author takes liberties with his rhetoric that, at times, strains the work into a more polemical light than it need be. Overall, students and potential students, teachers and parents, professors and administrators should all read this book and consider their options in a world where college is growing old, bloated, and very much unlike what education is supposed to be.

Ian Vance
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Legitimate criticisms encompassing a growing structural issue, marred by typical conservative hyperbole + generalized brushstroking.
James Carter
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having attended colleges and universities for many years and experiencing different formats of how instruction is delivered, everything covered in Fail U. is true.

I have to say that the author forgot to include a chapter on fraternities/sororities for being a colossal waste of time and money unless the goal is to develop network connections to get in the front door when it comes to getting jobs regardless of what they did in classes.

There are a few incidents that happened to me that I want to r
I have been reading several educational reform books in the past months, and this one is a good one among many. Good because the suggestions for reform are more rational and reasonable. Whether they could be carried out in reform is another question.

We all know that college costs have skyrocketed, colleges have exploded their administrations to the point that there are often more administrators than real teaching professors, and we all know college students who graduate with degrees that don't
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-policy
Excellent book by Charles Sykes on the problems with higher education and a few possible solutions.

The ticking time bond of the student loan debt bubble orchestrated by government manipulation of increasing demand (e.g., grants and artificially low interest rates on student loans, etc.) and limiting supply (e.g., restrictions on new universities and lack of change to online options, etc.) contribute to extraordinary increases in college tuition and large potential economic effects.

This process
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, education
I read with some breadth on the topic of education and from the title alone I braced myself for a very critical look at higher education. All of the points raised by Sykes (such as bloated administrations and grade inflation) *should* be raised, but what troubles me is that someone might read this book and think it is fair and accurate or scholarly when it is not. For example, it is important to question the assumption that everyone should go to college, but to do so fairly one would use a longe ...more
D. Ryan
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well written. It made me sad for current undergrads, scared for our country, and thankful for my time in college.
Elina Salminen
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
(Still in the process of reading this, updating as I go.) Disclaimer: I have a long and complex history with higher education, having spent more than a decade in it and loving some parts of it while loathing others.

Higher ed is in crisis and we're all failing. Sykes is scathing in his verdict, in a way that feels satisfying although not very productive. He also has skin in the game: the entire first section of the book focuses on the reception of "ProfScam", a book he wrote in the 80s. In short,
Sykes thinks that college is a joke that the Universities are playing/preying on the undergraduate students. Tuition is rising, administration staff is growing out of proportion to students and staff, political correctness and safe spaces are on the rise.

Why I started it: Eye catching title... but after 10 minutes I knew that it would be a battle to finish the book because of the author's immediate political stance and aggressive hyperbole.

Why I finished it: It is necessary and good to listen to
Jerrid Kruse
Jul 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
The book is well written and appears to be well supported, but that support is suspect. While there are many things wrong with higher education, this author has simply highlighted already popularized accounts of instances of university failings. The anecdotal nature of the examples, combined with the complete lack of effort to provide any balance in the discussion result in a series of strawman arguments. While these straw men might point to more comprehensive issues, the lack of nuance means th ...more
Christina Gagliano
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read most of this book because I got the picture right away--in fact, all you really needed to do was read the chapter titles to get the picture: higher education is grossly overpriced, not challenging enough, and producing a generation of whiners who are under-prepared for the workforce. Tell me something I didn't know, and provide better answers for what can realistically be done about it! ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Is there a chance this author wrote a book called ProfScam? I'm not sure, I think he might have mentioned it. Oh wait, he mentioned it dozens of times per chapter! Ii expected so much more from this book. All the interesting information could have filled about one chapter - the rest was endless griping and rehashing of the same exact arguments. Don't waste your time. ...more
Frank Schwarz
Feb 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting information. Explains what each of us knows...the cost of a college degree is unbearable. Also, the payoff in meaningful employment is shrinking.
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Charles sheds light on the 🔦 the whole college industry. Academia will never be the same for you after this read. Maybe that's a stretch but at least you won't feel guilty for not donating to your college when they reach out to you each year as an alumni.

🗝️ Takeaways ⤵️

n recent decades has become not just a status symbol, but a perk
The higher one rose in academia the less they had to teach
no act of good teachinf goes unpunished
there is an emphasis on research
college professors actually get pa
Budd Margolis
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Goodreads star rating system should be more precise. This book is not a 4 star but maybe 3.6 There is an obvious conservative bias which influences many of the critical points being made. This is an attack against Federal funding of Universities and student loans which is connected to subprime loans and a bubble crisis. Universities are spending huge sums on stadiums and sport centers but very few programs deliver a return. Professors hardly teach underclass, grade inflation and the reduction of ...more
Tracy Montefour
Jun 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Kadmon
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Most (but not all) criticisms are more or less on point, but the book is light on data and heavy on emotionally laden anecdotes. The author is conservative and in typical fashion muddies the waters with shrill anecdotes of extreme cases designed to generate outrage while spending insufficient time on data and specifics of management models and trends, and certainly not enough time supporting his arguments with evidence. The tragedy of it is that for many of his arguments there are reams of it ou ...more
Joseph Bredesen
Apr 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Decent book, but insensitive on trigger warnings, safe spaces, rape and PC. Good points on campus athletics and cheating, debatable on tenure, and missing the point on online learning. I think some of it will replace the conventional classroom, but you need the give and take of the classroom and MOOC charged at free is not sustainable; you are going to at the least need someone to do busy work: answering questions, grading paper (teacher assistants) etc. And missing the point on funding. Free co ...more
Bret Jones
Apr 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a university professor for nearly 30 years, I live what is written in this book every day. Sykes hits every single issue currently plaguing higher ed with insightful accuracy. Very quotable, my favorite: "...and almost no institution in the modern world has proven to be more impervious to reform than the modern university." Yes, indeed, that hits the bull's eye dead center. And, if anything, how universities handled the Covid situation further reinforces just how old-fashioned and traditional ...more
Michael Mullady
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
The premise is a good one. That the skyrocketing amount of student debt and questionable amount of learning that occurs in some institutions is a significant problem in today’s and future higher learning

That being said, the author frequently refers to his own writing and in some cases uses limited examples to state that things like sexual assault are overblown on campuses due to political correctness. Something I can’t agree with.

It was underwhelmed
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I believe the author had some good points - not everyone needs to go to college, the dumbing down of the curriculum, the emphasis on research instead of teaching. However his writing style was too much of a rant and not enough substance (he also referred to his previous book an inordinate number of times).
Chris Hart
May 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you've been paying attention for the last few decades, most of the content of this book won't come as any surprise. The author spends a lot of ink on citing a previous book of his, which comes across as a bit disingenuous--was there no other research worth doing? Second half of the book picks up a little as it cites actual situations on campuses these days rather than statistics. ...more
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