Questions About Higher Education’s Value Go Viral on YouTube

Have you heard that higher education is a scam? That accusation is racing around YouTube these days, in a video that has been viewed more than two million times.

The hourlong video, College Conspiracy, was produced by a group called the National Inflation Association, which warns of a coming era of hyperinflation and recommends converting personal wealth to precious metals. The video features slick animation, an ominous soundtrack, and interviews with indebted students and critical professors.

The video’s main argument: “College education is the largest scam in American history,” and university leaders care only about “lining their own pockets” rather than helping students.

Most college officials would undoubtedly dispute those charges, and question some of the facts rattled off in the video. But the video’s popularity highlights a growing frustration among members of the public with the soaring costs of education at a time of rising unemployment.

Many students have posted their own video rants complaining that they felt duped by college. One recent graduate burned his undergraduate diploma on a grill and posted the video to YouTube. Another student who plans to graduate soon called his degree “worthless.”

The producers of College Conspiracy did not return calls and e-mail messages requesting comment. One professor who appears in the film, Karl Klein, an associate professor of computer studies at Onondaga Community College, said he was not aware of how the interview would be used when he talked to a member of the National Inflation Association.

“I would have called it something like, ‘Is There a College Bubble?’” he said. “But I think there are some things in that video that we need to think about and talk about, and I’m not sure there is a real good conversation taking place in higher education about cost.”

The group’s video is not the first to use the s-word—scam—in describing colleges. A Chronicle blogger, Richard Vedder, did so in December.

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