Presidents and other politicians of both parties have promised for years to provide college opportunities for everyone, and they measure progress by the percentage of students enrolled. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that college doesn’t make sense for everyone. Some simply lack the necessary verbal and math capacity. Others are interested in worthy non-college careers like carpentry.
Still others wonder whether the four-year residential college is worth the investment when you can spend much less on two years in community college and then transfer to a four-year school.
A century ago, only about 2 percent of American adults graduated from college; in 1910, the number of college graduates nationally was 39,755 — smaller than the student bodies at many campuses today.
Higher education expanded when the G.I. Bill financed veterans’ education after World War II and then expanded further with postwar growth. The federal government’s student-loan subsidies have enabled institutions to grow faster over the last three decades than the economy on whose productivity they ultimately depend.
As often happens, success leads to excess. America leads the world in higher education; yet there is much in our colleges and universities that is amiss and, more to the point, suddenly not sustainable. The people running America’s colleges and universities have long thought they were exempt from the laws of supply and demand and unaffected by the business cycle. Turns out that’s wrong.
– Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2010 the Washington Examiner.