That is what Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, says about a new report finding that, quoting from the Inside Higher Ed piece on this, “The latest generation of adults in the United States may be the first since World War II, and possibly before that, not to attain higher levels of education than the previous generations.”
“We are at a tipping point in our nation’s history,” Broad maintains.
Chill out, say I. Like most higher-ed cheerleaders, Broad attaches far too much importance to years of formal education. If a somewhat smaller percentage of Americans are now going for postsecondary education than in the recent past, that’s just an indication that some have figured out that college credentials aren’t always worth what they cost. The great increase in “educational attainment” following World War II led to the false impression that having a college degree — just any degree, in anything, from any school — was a ticket to the good life. We’re now seeing that it’s not true. People who spend four or more years and lots of money, often borrowing heavily, may wind up doing mundane work that calls for no academic preparation. (I have made that point many times, most recently here.)
The government-blown housing bubble has now burst spectacularly. I think a good case can be made that the smaller education bubble is at least slowly deflating.