A lot of ink has been spilled over the perceived value of a college education. Much of that debate is focused on two issues: (1) younger generations are burdened with massive amounts of student debt, and (2) the lack of actual education taking place on college campuses, due to (a) treating students as consumers to please rather than teach, and (b) identity politics metastasizing traditional subject matters, rendering college credentials useless to the real world. All of these factors combined contribute to younger, mostly college-educated generations ironically not being able to function well or even normally in the US economy.
I can’t imagine encouraging our daughter not to attend college, but I frequently consider encouraging her to go abroad for her college studies as many US colleges are beyond parody at this point.
One data point that is oddly left out of discussions of the value of education is that people are “voting with their feet” already. This is not merely a theoretical matter. Enrollment at US colleges and universities has been crashing for several years now, across sectors (for-profit, non-profit, public, private, community colleges). There was an artificial up-tick in non-profit enrollment due to a large for-profit college transitioning to non-profit status (i.e., it makes for a false blip in the data). But the trend is clear.
It is going to be interesting to see how many private colleges – many of which are burdened with bonded debt of their own from the facilities arms race, constructing luxury accommodations for their student-consumers – will manage their way through significant cumulative declines in enrollment. Will they change how they operate to protect their brands, or will we be seeing a lot of financially distressed postsecondary institutions in coming years? (I suspect we will.) Will this current era be like the 1960s, where everyone smokes weed and obsesses over politics, only to ultimately grow up and start being conventionally successful? If there isn’t a change, the risk to this element of our society is very real.