The Corner

Education

Our ‘College for Everyone’ Mania Is Doing Much Harm

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Leftists are never much for evaluating the hidden long-run, often negative consequences of their interventions. As a case in point, consider their policies designed to get as many young Americans as possible into college. They have thereby managed to seriously degrade the quality of college education, increase its cost, and create credential inflation so that college degrees are now required for many jobs that call only for some basic trainability.

And what about the mental-health problems that are created for people who don’t really want to be in college, who don’t fit in? In today’s Martin Center article, John Sailer of the National Association of Scholars looks at that aspect.

He writes: “While politicians and education leaders talk up the benefits of college, they rarely mention the non-monetary costs. For most students, attending college means leaving friends, family members, and longstanding communities. This broad network of support — social capital, to invoke the sociological term — plays an important role in the formation of young people.”

We often read that college life attracts a great many students because it’s so much fun. For many, it is — often too much fun. But for others, college means homesickness and depression. Schools find themselves spending more and more money to deal with the mental-health problems that afflict many.

Moreover, college may help in the radicalization of students. As Sailer explains, “when students lose this natural sense of belonging, they may even become more susceptible to extreme causes, which can fill the void. Hannah Arendt argues that isolation makes totalitarian ideology more attractive. In the absence of strong communal ties, utopian movements can fill the void and impart an overarching sense of meaning. If Arendt is right, it shouldn’t be surprising that colleges are hotbeds of radicalism; isolated students find meaning in extreme politics.”

Well, maybe that’s one of the hidden consequences that the Left counted on.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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