Although American higher education has been terribly dumbed down since the late 1960s, it still has considerable practical value. College graduates earn more money, enjoy better health, and are less likely to get divorced than those who don’t have such degrees. Plus, their children fare better in these areas than the children of people who don’t get a college education. The credential isn’t necessary to financial success and being able to afford a family, but it’s the surest path to each.
So, it continues to be widely believed that everyone should go to college. And of course, academia itself has no objection to the idea. With the government providing grants to needy students and subsidizing student loans, colleges and universities have raised tuitions at exorbitant rates. But while they have reaped enormous profits, the average student in the class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt. Student loan debt is the nation’s second-highest consumer debt category—trailing only mortgage debt—and is much higher than both credit card debt and auto loans debt.
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Student loan debt is the only type of debt that can’t be got rid of by filing for bankruptcy. Getting a bachelor’s degree in sociology or environmental studies can result in a young person trying to climb out of a financial hole for decades while earning wages that lead him to question the prudence of having “followed his passion.”
There are other problems with higher education, reflecting the poor quality of our K–12 education system. In National Affairs, Chester E. Finn Jr. describes the situation well:
Although there’s much talk of school standards…