Phi Beta Cons

Loving the Bubble

I think it’s safe to say that there’s wide consensus in these pages that college costs too much, too many people go, and the underlying economics are unsustainable. But we still might be waiting a long time to see that perception gain wide acceptance. While I know my experiences are anecdotal, I’ve tested the “perhaps college is oversold” argument with fellow parents and have gotten ferocious push-back. There are few forces more powerful that the maternal/paternal instinct to give your kids their best chance to succeed, and if there’s one thing that American parents have demonstrated — they will spend money on their kids (they may not get or stay married for their kids, but by golly, they’ll shovel out some cash). They may agree in the abstract that too many kids go to college, and it costs too much, but their kids are not among the “too many.”

Eventually, of course, prices can only rise so much before the burden becomes too much for even the most sacrificial (or leveraged) parent or student to bear. After all, how many people were questioning the value of homeownership before 2008? But for now, the college experience and college credential exerts a mightily powerful hold on the minds of American parents — even the parents of the most mediocre of students.


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