A second look at higher education
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 02:09
For the first time in our nation’s history, young people are asking the question, “Is college really worth it?” Now not only is the American Dream under siege by the housing bubble, but investment in college education is also coming into question.
Part of the problem is that higher ed is in a way becoming irrelevant. College degrees used to be associated with prestige, and people with degrees were expected to have critical thinking skills as well as well developed reading and writing capabilities. These former assumptions are no longer the case. There is a growing number of people with college degrees who lack the reading and writing skills previously associated with college credentials. Undergraduate level degrees have become more about credentialing and less about actual learning, critical thinking, and knowledge.
Tuition rates are rising significantly faster than inflation with no evidence that the quality or value of education is increasing at all.
And with an economy that can’t provide jobs worthy of an educated population, many college graduates are unable to pay back student loans. Purely from a financial standpoint, college degrees are beginning to look like a bad investment. Some have
suggested that the mass defaulting of student loans is the next financial bubble, brewing in the midst of a nation still fragile from the recent real estate crisis.
This discrepancy in value creates many problems. Employers complain that students fresh out of four-year institutions lack the knowledge and skills to perform jobs in their fields that supposedly correlate with their majors. And if even college graduates can’t hit the mark, employers see no reason to look beyond the pool of potential employees with degrees, which causes them to overlook bright, motivated, and diversified young people without college degrees who may be just as or even more capable.
The entire world has shifted and evolved, while higher ed has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. One thing is for sure: our higher education system is in need of change. If we want to send more kids to college, it needs to be accessible to more people, both financially and academically.