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I was excited to read Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, thanks to the BookSneeze program.
In the circles I run in, thinking about college for one’s child can become pretty stressful pretty quickly. What do you mean, your child is a sophomore and you haven’t yet made half a dozen college visits? Maybe your child could qualify for a $50,000/year school! A prestigious school! Then again, maybe your child won’t get into as “good” a school as mine!
It goes on and on. Thankfully, this book was a welcome hop off the crazy train. Because, what if you did pay $50,000 per year for your child to attend a prestigious school. She gets a history degree. Four years later, she’s serving grande lattes at Starbucks and has a lot of knowledge, very little income, very few prospects for jobs in her field, and over $100,000 in debt. That’s a whole lotta lattes.
Or suppose your child heads off to school with a good head on his shoulders. At least, you think he does. But after he hits the college campus, things don’t go so well. He gets in with the wrong crowd and spends more time partying than he does studying. His firm convictions are contradicted and ridiculed by his college professors, who are far-left liberal almost entirely. You turn around, and there’s your talented kid, hanging out at an Occupy Wall Street rally and shouting obscenities at anyone who might listen.
Yeesh. Bill Bennett discusses these and other relevant issues in this book. I really enjoyed it — it’s like discussing college today with a smart friend. Some things I found interesting —
- Many kids go to college just because it’s “the next thing” expected of them. Majorities of high school seniors do go to college, even though many of them really don’t want to go (at least, they don’t want to go and study). Our own President has even said that every American should get some higher education. Every American? Really? Because there are lots of house builders, electricians, and landscapers out there who have no business in college. I couldn’t do their jobs if I tried. But I really don’t care if they went to college. Bennett goes into how our society looks down on those without college degrees, and this is probably true. It’s a shame though, because by pushing everyone into college, the colleges are forced to lower their standards.
- Colleges are lowering their standards. Colleges must make money. With the advent of the internet, students can rate their professors. Students are more likely to highly rate “easy” profs who give little homework. Tougher profs usually earn lower ratings from students. Fewer kids sign up for their classes, and soon they have to decide — do they decrease the rigor of their courses, or run the risk of losing their jobs altogether?
- Many colleges today spend vast sums on things that have nothing to do with education. They feature million dollar gyms and more — all to try to attract the more well-heeled students and their parents.
- Colleges also often feel that a higher price makes them appear more “prestigious.” Yet Bennett has charts of various schools — their 4 year cost, and the 30- year “return on investment” of attending them. Many have a negative return: the student would have been better off investing college money and going straight to work out of high school than paying to attend those colleges, because it will take so long to pay back the cost. What madness!
- The stereotype is accurate: college professors are liberal by wide margins, and that means that many of their students come out of school with liberal ideologies as well. Additionally, while many lower-level college profs and assistants are low-paid, colleges also have their share of “prima donnas” who teach only a class or two, offer little to no office hours, and spend most of their days shuttered away in their offices enjoying luxurious perks.
If you have a graduate or graduation Open Houses to go to this spring, check out my All-Things-Graduation board on Pinterest. I just started it for a contest I’m entering. Followers are quite welcome!