I have to disagree that both the left and right are populist and brain dead on this subject. It appears to me that they are both only “partially” correct. The decline of manufacturing that has accompanied the free trade movement has decimated the jobs for non-college educated workers. Because of this, too many of the “solid middle” class moved into jobs that depended on construction, the last vestige of “Made in America”. When the Politicians and the Barons of Wall Street finally burst the bubble they created in home mortgages, the layoffs that ensued are the primary reason for the high unemployment rate we currently suffer.
But that doesn’t change the fact that not everyone desires or is suited to get a college degree. Nor does everyone want or can successfully own a business. We are not all cut out to be in sales, marketing, engineers, accountants, or programmers, etc. We have always required a way to employ the competent and hard working people who don’t enjoy school or are happier working with their hands than sitting behind a desk.
Finally, the amount of income required to achieve the American Dream has increased while wage growth has decreased. Therefore most women in the middle class feel like they must work full-time instead of staying home to raise the family. So you’ve effectively doubled the workforce while cutting the number of good paying jobs that do not require a college degree. Men’s advantages in the workplace continue to decline as more organizations view diversity and equality a much needed goal. This drives down the status of the non-college educated male even more since he is no longer expected to be the sole wage earner and many times is often the second tier wage earner, since women hold the edge in the information economy based jobs. Then as these working women realize they are no longer dependent on a male wage earner to survive, divorce or never marrying is much easier to contemplate, placing more pressure on the traditional nuclear family.
Therefore given both the social and economic trends, I think the crisis will get worse before it gets better. However, sending everyone to college is not a solution. We need to find a way to get America back to making things again or be prepared to watch the inevitable decline and disappearance of what once was the solid middle class.