Thursday, May 19, 2011

The College Racket

I can find almost nothing positive to say about the modern-day state of affairs concerning going to college except that I think our family will, mercifully, emerge relatively unscathed from the whole business.  If I had it to do over again, I might have tried harder to buck the system and suggest to my kids that they look for a job or apply to one of the local city colleges and be done with it.  I might even have caved in to the idea of the "gap year," that prerogative of the upper-middle class whereby parents pay--not as much as they've been paying for private school and not as much as they would be paying for college--so that their young 'uns can go out into the world and have an "experience." 

I read somewhere that America's love affair with college will end when parents and kids begin to see that four years of higher education doesn't pay off economically.  Maybe that's beginning to happen.  In this Pew Research Center study, 57% of those surveyed say that higher education doesn't provide good value for the money.  Then again, 94% of parents surveyed  say they "expect" their children to go to college.    Of course that begs the question of whether or not they want their kids to go to college (as well as whether or not the kids want to go).  Among those surveyed who have not gone on to college, 57% say they prefer to be working and making money.  Makes sense.  Surprisingly, this study claims that most Americans do not go to college.  Obviously, there are many angles and avenues to explore on the subject and the aforementioned study probes more deeply than I've done here.

Though most parents expect their children to attend college, colleges are now scrambling to adjust to the coming decline in applicants.  We parents who went through the boom (when the children of us baby-boomers applied to college) are now to witness the bust that we've been promised.   The number of high school graduates is going to slump beginning about now until the year 2019.  Just as they did back in the 70s, colleges are thinking up new ways to fill their classrooms and dormitories.  This time around,  the targeted populations will be transfer students from community colleges, international students and the newly-invented minority that has become popular in the last few years, the first-generation college student.    What next.

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