THE WORST GRADUATE SCHOOL IN THE WORLD:Congratulations, Columbia Journalism School! You’re the winner of the Personal Finance Digest Worst Graduate School in the World Award. The cost of the school’s one-year degree is $84,000, which includes a whopping $58,000 in tuition costs. As Matt Yglesias at Slate notes, this is worse than working for free, and as journalist Brian Fung notes, “So what you’re telling me is, a year of Columbia J-school costs more than what many of its graduates will ever make in a year.”
Why would anyone do this? The traditional employers of j-school grads are dying and/or dead. If you shell out big bucks for an MBA degree–which, like a journalism degree, is not particularly valuable outside of the networking opportunities– at least you’re paying for something that, at worst, maintains your employability. If you shell out big bucks for law school, you can at least point out that it’s otherwise impossible to get admitted to the bar. But journalism school? $84K? Seriously?
There are two types of people who would go for this: the wealthy, and people with poor math and/or long-term planning skills. Apparently this is the self-selecting population we draw from in the selection of our nation’s media elite.
What do you get for your j-school degree? From the school’s website:
Graduation Day: 74 percent of the students (262) were going into internships, fellowships, full-time jobs or other part-time employment such as freelancing, or continued in academics.
…which is a nice way of saying that 26% of the graduating class could not–after shelling out $84K for one year of school–land even a part-time job, a freelance gig, or an unpaid internship.
We also enjoyed this bit of hilarity from the Career Services FAQ:
If I don’t have experience before entering school, how can I develop a writing portfolio during the year so I have something to show during the job search?
Are Columbia j-school students really this dim-witted? Can they really not think of any sort of medium in which they could see their writing published? Do they really not grasp that the way to develop a writing portfolio is by writing?
In any case, congrats again to our winner for separating suckers from their money even more efficiently than law schools do! New Dean Steve Coll, please let us know where to send your Applebee’s gift card.
SPEAKING OF COLUMBIA JOURNALISM SCHOOL CAREER SERVICES: Domino’s is offering 50% off any pizza at menu price! Use offer code 9413 when ordering online. (H/T: Slickdeals)
NEGLECT YOUR PARENTS, GET FINED: A fascinating story out of China:
From July 1, parents in China can sue their kids who don’t visit often enough, under a broadened law mandating children take better care of the aged. With China’s elderly population forecast to more than double to 487 million in the next 40 years, the government needs to try and limit the cost of caring for seniors.
The issue here is that China is getting old fast, and is doing so before getting rich. The United States is looking at similar issues, though not as pronounced. China’s solution certainly wouldn’t go over well here, though it is interesting to see it tried.
A VICTORY FOR THE LITTLE GUY: By an uncomfortably close 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s legal to buy textbooks in one country and sell them in another. The headline reads, “Supreme Court upholds first-sale doctrine in textbook resale case,” but it may as well read, “Supreme Court rules it’s okay to buy something and then sell it later.”
Some background is in order: almost every company attempts some form of price discrimination, and some forms are more effective than others, but textbook publishers have a somewhat unusual policy of pricing textbooks by country. So the same econ textbook that costs you $100 here may cost, say, $20 in India.
An obvious arbitrage opportunity. Naturally, textbook publishers don’t like that as it eats into their profits. So rather than adjust their policies, they sue:
Textbook maker John Wiley & Sons sued a Thai student-entrepreneur named Supap Kirtsaeng, who had been buying cheaper (but non-pirated) versions of various textbooks in his home country, bringing them to the US, and selling them to his fellow students stateside on eBay. The price differentials were so big that there was quite a bit of money to be made; at trial, the publishing company’s lawyers hammered home the fact that they had counted up $1.2 million in receipts over the life of Kirtsaeng’s business.
Wiley argued those profits should be barred by copyright law. Their right to control prices abroad was actually part of their copyright grant, they argued. The textbook company won a jury verdict against Kirtsaeng, which was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and Kirtsaeng appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that his business was protected by the “first sale” doctrine.
Today’s decision vindicates the “first sale” doctrine, which allows the owner of a particular copy of a work to do whatever she wants with it after purchasing it. It overrides first sale losses in both the 9th and 2nd Circuits and makes it clear that digital commerce can flourish in the Internet era, even when it crosses borders.
The 6-3 opinion was authored by Justice Steven Breyer, perhaps the justice most skeptical of intellectual property rights. The dissent was authored by Justice Ruth Ginsburg, who has long favored powerful copyright privileges. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy also joined the dissent.
The decision throws out a $600,000 damages award that was granted to Wiley.
It is good to see justice prevail, though again, we would have preferred a margin larger than 6-3. It’s a no-brainer that if you buy a book, you ought to be able to sell it at a garage sale. Or on ebay, or anywhere else you please. The battle is not over yet, however:
Today, first sale won out, but this is not a victory that is necessarily built to last. Between the three dissenters, and the Kagan-Alito concurrence suggesting that Congress change the law, that’s five justices that believe copyright law should allow for price discrimination strategies to be enforced in court.
But while price discrimination is certainly lauded by the companies that rely on it, it’s not at all clear that having courts perpetuate such pricing schemes benefits anyone beyond shareholders of those companies. This battle is sure to move to the legislature, with the content industries pressuring Congress to try to recover some of what they lost today. They will be opposed by a newly empowered coalition of retailers, tech companies, libraries, and consumer rights groups.