17.8.15

UNIVERSITIES ARE FAILING AT THEIR MISSION.

But, suggests Daniel Drezner, there are multiple concepts of failure.
College is just a horrible place to send your children — because you are spending obscene sums of money for a substandard education.

The reasons why it’s a substandard education can get a bit confusing at times, however. Best not to think too much about it.

You still want to think about it? Okay, but I warn you, you’re not going to like my conclusions.
Spoiler alert: too much trendy leftism collides with too much career preparation.  That's the quintessential U.S. News problem (I've been picking up readers recently, that refers to something that concerns the relatively few people who work in or attend or aspire to the fifty or so institutions that claim to be in the top ten in those rankings.  If your environment is the land-grants or the mid-majors or the community colleges, the article might be of academic interest, but not something to pick a fight over in a meeting.)

There's a longer essay by American Enterprise's Andrew P. Kelly, reprinted by Minding the Campus, that might reward careful study.
The wage premium attached to college is down, but the wage premium between earnings of a college graduate and the earnings of a high-school graduate have actually increased over time. The same is true for associate’s degrees.

This sets up what I call the college conundrum: that some education after high school — associate’s degrees, certificates, technical training, some kind of education post-high school — has become more important to economic mobility, but it is also more expensive than ever before, and it is also riskier than before because it is both more expensive, and completion rates have actually declined over time.

This creates what I call the Enterprise Rent-A-Car problem. If you’ve watched college sports on TV, you’ve seen the commercials. Enterprise prides itself on hiring college graduates. And during college games, they profile former athletes who work and run their rental-car counters. So some of us see that, and I myself say, gosh, four years of college to run a rental car counter? College isn’t worth it any more, is it?

But for some parents, particularly in middle-income and working-class families, it is a much more terrifying proposition: my kids can’t even work at Enterprise Rent-A-Car if they don’t go to college.

And so harping on the fact that too many kids are going to college, I think, is tone-deaf. Tone-deaf to the anxieties of the middle class. And this is why it is a defining middle-class issue. People feel trapped. They can’t afford to go to college and they can’t afford not to; the cost of both have increased.
But more third-party payments aren't going to help. If you think higher education is expensive now, wait until it's free.

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