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The false promise that has become higher education

The Pope Center’s George Leef reviews Charles Sykes’ latest book Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Educationa “major extension” of his previous work, 1988’s Profscam.

“All of the bad trends” Sykes related almost 30 years ago “have continued and worsened, but in addition, a host of new troubles have arisen,” Leef writes.

For instance, the quantity of college graduates working at jobs that don’t require a (college) degree has greatly increased. For  example, in 1970 less than 1% of cab drivers had a college degree; now, the figure tops 15%.

From the piece:

In the past, when relatively few Americans went to college and had to show good academic progress to stay in and graduate, higher education generally was a sound investment, leading to lucrative careers. That’s no longer true. Defenders of the higher education system keep talking about the supposed “college premium,” but it’s extremely misleading. “Rather than benefiting from a wage premium,” Sykes writes, many students “find themselves actually worse off than if they had not enrolled at all.”

Another recent problem that has metastasized like an aggressive cancer is that of intolerance. Sykes devotes a chapter to that, calling it “Grievance U.” Back in 1988, you could have found a few faculty members who pushed their “progressive” ideas. Students then could easily avoid the intolerance; on most campuses, the fever swamps where only politically correct thoughts were allowed were small and confined. …

The cost of college continues rising at the same time that the educational value delivered is generally falling. Many schools have gone so far into debt that they’re finding it increasingly hard to cover their debt service costs, and many families are questioning whether they can or should afford to send the kids to college. The higher education market is simply unsustainable.

Sykes puts it this way: “The education bubble bursts when puffery is confronted by reality. Increasingly, the economic model of higher education no longer works for many students, who realize belatedly that they have placed themselves in a financial stranglehold for unmarketable degrees.”

Read the full article.

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