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Is Higher Education in America Headed for Collapse?

Is Higher Education in America Headed for Collapse?

“recent evidence suggests that students completing high school are beginning to rethink the idea that college is necessarily the best path”

Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars seems to think so. He writes at Quillette:

After College

Why does anyone go to college? The most popular answer given by American college freshmen from 1991 to 2019 was, “To be able to get a better job.” The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, which conducted an annual survey of full-time students at some 200 four-year colleges, routinely found 75 to 85 percent gave that answer, though many also said, “To make more money.” The next most popular answer during those decades was, “To learn more about things that interest me.” Trailing these answers but still widely endorsed was the ambition, “To gain a general education and appreciation of ideas.”

I don’t have access to more recent results but I suspect the students are still saying much the same. Those answers, however, merely scratch the surface. The real reasons, then and now, that students go to college are hidden in a mixture of social expectations, family dynamics, ambitions, emotional longing, and inertia, covered with a veneer of socially acceptable rationalizations.

That mixture is powerful enough to move more than 60 percent of high-school graduates to enroll in college instead of entering the workforce, joining the military, apprenticing for a trade, or dubious options such as idling at home, wandering around, online gaming, or a life of crime.

Going to college still looks to most Americans as a better choice than going to war or a life of dissolution, but recent evidence suggests that students completing high school are beginning to rethink the idea that college is necessarily the best path. “More High-School Grads Forgo College in Hot Labor Market” declares the Wall Street Journal. There’s that, but American higher education—and perhaps education throughout the Anglophone world—is in the midst of a transformation that goes beyond the vagaries of the job market.

Read the whole thing.


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Is Higher Education in America Headed for Collapse?

Sweet Mother of Mercy, I hope so. And I’m writing this as a guy who spent 21 years working in higher education at a major university.

“Is Higher Education in America Headed for Collapse?”

That happened a long time ago. What you’re seeing now is just the financial and social aftermath.

The Gentle Grizzly | June 27, 2023 at 2:20 pm

“Is Higher Education in America Headed for Collapse?”

It hasn’t already? We already had grievance studies and other nonsense majors when I first hit college in 1967.

Young people and their parents need to ask themselves whether they want to have a successful college or a successful life.

Just my opinion.

Well, there’s also the absence of adult supervision, and all that entails.

The_Mew_Cat | June 27, 2023 at 9:32 pm

All industries go in cycles. I think we may have passed “peak college”. The peak is usually when they get maximally greedy and start pricing themselves out of the market, and then macro environment turns against them. In this case, that greed was stoked by federal student loans. Once a trend has peaked, the only path is to reverse direction. This happened with everything else (interest rates, US global power, etc…), why not college?

There’s a housing crisis, right? At least the dorms can be easily repurposed as low income housing. If it’s good enough for students, it’s surely good enough for government supported housing, and I would insist on that.

What to do with the rest of unused campuses? That seems to be a problem, but something will be found in most cases.

My belief is that in regard to females, the majority hie off to college to find a hubby that can get a good job to afford all the material desires her greedy heart and mind lusts for.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Bloppo. | June 28, 2023 at 10:44 am

    We used to call that “she is pursuing her M R S degree”. At least back then it meant a marriage that might last. Not five or six years followed by ‘I just don’t love you anymore I want the best car, the house, you will never see your children again because I will tell the courts you are molesting them. And, about that pension…”

High school was a bore and one year of college was, disappointingly, more of the same. It was the late 60s, Viet Nam was in full fight, and I had a 2S deferment I knew I wouldn’t keep, so I enlisted in the Air Force – one of the best decisions I ever made. The technical training on aircraft avionics systems led to many challenging and fulfilling events in my professional life. One amusing aside: After being in the USAF for eight months and near the end of my first tech school, my draft board revoked my deferment. Yeah, they were a little behind the curve. My class got a good chuckle out of that.

Recently my church recognized our high school and college graduates. Out of dozens, only a few were going into the trades. I told one of them that he would be pulling in $100K+ a year as a master welder while his classmates would be struggling with their student loans. He had a grim a mile wide.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to DSHornet. | June 28, 2023 at 10:51 am

    I had a deferment as well, and came to realize I was wasting my time. My first enlistment attempt (navy) I flunked the physical. I later got in and although the field I entered had no private sector demand, that four years did a lot to change my views on many things.

Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School? The case for helping them leave, chart their own paths, and prepare for adulthood
Author: Blake Boles
Year: 2020

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money
Author: Bryan Caplan
Year: 2018

The Teenage Liberation Handbook (Third Edition): How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education
Author: Grace Llewelyn
Year: 2021

Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas
Author: Thomas Sowell
Year: 1992

To believe that American colleges really care about their customers’ futures is to believe that bartenders really care about what you have to say while you’re sitting at their bar.

retiredcantbefired | June 29, 2023 at 11:35 am

Yes, do read Wood’s entire article.