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NY Times Magazine: ‘Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College’

NY Times Magazine: ‘Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College’

“Only about a third of Americans now say they have a lot of confidence in higher education.”

We are seeing a lot of articles with this slant. What do you suppose is driving it?

From the NY Times Magazine:

Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That?

A decade or so ago, Americans were feeling pretty positive about higher education. Public-opinion polls in the early 2010s all told the same story. In one survey, 86 percent of college graduates said that college had been a good investment; in another, 74 percent of young adults said a college education was “very important”; in a third, 60 percent of Americans said that colleges and universities were having a positive impact on the country. Ninety-six percent of parents who identified as Democrats said they expected their kids to attend college — only to be outdone by Republican parents, 99 percent of whom said they expected their kids to go to college.

In the fall of 2009, 70 percent of that year’s crop of high school graduates did in fact go straight to college. That was the highest percentage ever, and the collegegoing rate stayed near that elevated level for the next few years. The motivation of these students was largely financial. The 2008 recession devastated many of the industries that for decades provided good jobs for less-educated workers, and a college degree had become a particularly valuable commodity in the American labor market. The typical American with a bachelor’s degree (and no further credential) was earning about two-thirds more than the typical high school grad, a financial advantage about twice as large as the one a college degree produced a generation earlier. College seemed like a reliable runway to a life of comfort and affluence.

A decade later, Americans’ feelings about higher education have turned sharply negative. The percentage of young adults who said that a college degree is very important fell to 41 percent from 74 percent. Only about a third of Americans now say they have a lot of confidence in higher education. Among young Americans in Generation Z, 45 percent say that a high school diploma is all you need today to “ensure financial security.” And in contrast to the college-focused parents of a decade ago, now almost half of American parents say they’d prefer that their children not enroll in a four-year college.


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I referenced this article in a comment on another post.

The article’s thesis is strongly supported by data: while the wage benefit of getting a college degree still holds up, it is in many cases offset by the much increased cost of attending college. This is especially true if you take a “life of the mind” major like anthropology or literature at a private university.

STEM, business, and nursing majors, and their like, still have a positive ROI.

Higher Ed has to reset or wither away. We can already see it with the failure of many small private colleges and the realignments happening at state second-tier unis and even flagships like WVU.

“What do you suppose is driving it?”
Because Fantasyland cannot long withstand incursions by Reality.

Charles Mackey | September 7, 2023 at 5:30 pm

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Charles Mackey (1841)
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions

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

I’ve been saying for years now that a huge part of the problem is that there are too many people going to college in the first place. There are 4 groups of students:

1) Those who have the intellectual capability and want to go to college;

2) Those who have the intellectual capability and don’t want to go;

3) Those who don’t have the intellectual capability yet want to go; and

4) Those who have neither the intellectual capability nor the desire to go.

The only group that really ought to be encouraged to go (at least in normal times, without the “woke” garbage) is group 1. All the other groups are wasting their time and/or money chasing a college degree. Yet for the past 20+ years the K-12 system has been pushing the message that:

* You NEED a college education (damn the cost, just do it)

* If you don’t go to college, you’re a loser

* If you don’t go to college, not only are you a loser, but you will be stuck in a dead end job and you’ll never be a financial success.

They took away shop classes and voc ed. They pushed everyone to take algebra, even those who couldn’t manage to balance a checkbook. They shut the doors of opportunity for normal kids by assuming that everyone is going to go to college, instead of teaching basic life skills.

Couple that with easy money in the form of student loans and grant money being passed out like candy, and it’s not hard to see the corruption of the whole system. Remember that bit about the high schools not bothering to teach basic life skills? How many students signed up for college loans with stars in their eyes, not realizing what they were getting themselves into? I can’t blame them for feeling duped, because in a sense they were. They believed the pack of lies their teachers told them, things came crashing down on their heads, and then they were left holding the bag. I don’t feel much sympathy for the ones who took out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to get a degree in queer feminist underwater basket weaving anthropology, but the honest kids have had a big bite of painful reality chomp them in the ass.

It’s no wonder why people are losing faith in the higher educational system. It’s a con that’s been a long time in the making, and hopefully it’s finally crashing down.

Has there ever been another time or place in human history, anywhere on earth, in which the default expectation was for 18-year-olds to spend large sums of money … in order to go spend four years in a completely artificial environment?

If you learn another language it opens your world to millions of people you never would otherwise would have been able to do business with, or socialize with.

If you learn a job , then you’ll always be able to support yourself no matter what happens in your future career. For example, waiting tables, tending bar, teaching ESL, commercial driving (CDL), etc., many options.


When you think about paying for an American four-year degree— ask yourself if there is any other purchase that you have ever made… that involves tens of thousands of dollars … that you have to debate with yourself the pros vs the cons? If there’s any doubt, then there is no doubt what you oughtta do.

Grow up, people. Do you really believe that the folks suckling off the teet of the American educational system … prioritize your future over their own? It isn’t even fair to ask such a thing of them.

Get out there and live-and-learn. You’re young! At worst, you can always go to college. (They’re not going anywhere. Some will fail, some will merge, yes, but going to college will always be available, I mean let’s face it.)

They’re a little late to the party; most people were of this opinion quite some time ago.

This is old news as to the cost and PC culture of collegiate education


    But the Dems and others are still trying to find ways to force all Americans to pay for non-performing student loans.

    So it is very much a currently relevant issue.

    Recently elected Members of Congress have publicized their own unpaid educational loans as evidence of the need for taxpayers to bail them out.

    So the value of most American four-year degrees — or the lack thereof — is not “old news” at all.

    Representative Bowman, of Westchester County NY owes six figures of non-dischargeable debt.

    In virtually any rational political system, he’d be considered a security risk susceptible to bribery schemes originating domestically or overseas.

    That’s not old news.

    Seems to me that’s ongoing news.