This week, there is a big conference going on at the University of North Carolina, “The Politics of Inclusion: Higher Education at a Crossroads,” which is devoting a lot of time to the supposed need to get more students from various groups, including poorer families into college. InsideHigherEd has the story here.
The conventional wisdom about higher ed is, naturally, in evidence — particularly the belief that there are large numbers of very sharp students who just can’t find the financial support to get into even the least expensive colleges. If there are poor kids with strong SATs, by all means they ought to be able to go to college, but I think that just about all of them have already been found and assisted by scholarship programs that are eager to help such students. The great majority of students who might be “included” who now don’t go to college are academically marginal students who would probably be better off going to a community college to improve their basic skills and start learning a good trade. That’s one of the arguments in my recent paper, “The Overselling of Higher Education.”
The best quotation in the piece is by Thomas Mortensen, who sees that most poor kids “are left unprepared for college by their poor elementary and secondary educations.” Exactly. What they really need are the fundamentals, without which a college degree (and it’s now quite possible to get a degree without them) is just a costly piece of décor.