The sordid scandal that broke this week concerning the bribery of college employees to get the children of rich kids entry into prestigious colleges when , by themselves, they hadn’t a hope, points to a growing crisis in the higher education that isn’t going away (given the general atmosphere of corruption in government nothing is surprising anymore. Ed.)
Leaving aside the elite universities, undergraduate college enrollment in the U.S. is, in any case, down for the sixth straight year. The decline is happening across the board in higher education — despite the popularity of a bachelor’s degree. This is according to a set of numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center — a nonprofit that tracks students in degree-granting institutions. Though the number of undergraduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees this last spring increased slightly, that uptick paled in comparison to the decline in enrollment for alternative pathways, like associate’s degrees and certificate programs.
One explanation for the drop is the current job market: The unemployment rate is under 4 percent. The number of high school graduates has also flat-lined — and is expected to stay flat over the next 10 years, before it declines, thanks to low birthrates. (NPR, May 28 2018).
But there are other things going on. Colleges have become increasingly expensive, as top salaries have rocketed and huge sums have gone into fancy sports facilities and other attractions. The teaching is often regarded as poor, the teachers unavailable to individual students, and the quality of actual education is often second rate. Part-time teachers of specialist subjects are, unbelievably, paid per hour what they(or their predecessors) were paid 30 years ago, while the top salaries compete with big company salaries! Why go through a second or third-rate college course that doesn’t necessarily teach you anything, and which will leave you with huge debts for years, when you can earn money now? Of course, the employment situation will not last, maybe for only a couple of years. One person I know, who is closely associated with the higher education industry (yes, that’s what it is!), called the whole sector a bubble that would surely burst. Mind you, he told me this about ten years ago, but his analysis sounded viable then, more so now.
Meanwhile, the corruption scandal, which affects only prestige colleges that can usher you into a lucrative job, is a huge blow to the sector. But, given the huge wealth divide, the greed and the blatant flaunting of wealth by the minority, made all the richer by Trump, it can come as no great surprise. Not something to Make America Great Again!