The Imperiled Promise of College New York Times By FRANK BRUNI
And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors, we could pretty much count on a career, just about depend on a decent income and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn’t a piece of paper. It was an amulet.
And it was broadly accessible, or at least it was spoken of that way. With the right mix of intelligence, moxie and various kinds of aid, a motivated person could supposedly get there. College was seen as a glittering centerpiece of the American dream, a reliable engine of social mobility.
Because of levitating costs, college these days is a luxury item. What’s more, it’s a luxury item with newly uncertain returns.
According to an AP analysis of data from 2011:
-> 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or, if they were lucky, merely underemployed, which means they were in jobs for which their degrees weren’t necessary.
“Thirty years ago, the U.S. led the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with the equivalent of at least a two-year degree; only Canada and Israel were close.
As of 2009, the U.S. lagged behind 14 other developed countries.”
That situation isn’t helped by the cost of higher education, which has escalated wildly over the last three decades and has left too many students with crippling Everests of debt.
Today, students who are facing “an incredibly tough job market” need to know “how their particular program will stack up and what kind of debt they’re going to rack up.”
That you can’t gain a competitive edge with just any diploma from just any college is reflected in the ferociousness of the race to get into elite universities. It’s madness out there.
Tiger Mom's and $125-an-hour tutors proliferate, and parents scrimp and struggle to pay up to $40,000 a year in tuition to private secondary schools that then put them on the spot for supplemental donations, lest the soccer field turn brown and the Latin club languish.
The two Americas are evident in education as perhaps nowhere else. And even among the gilded elite, career success and life happiness are far from guaranteed by a diploma.