Education

The Elimination of Higher Education

"You're going to see, over the next five years, a real increase in the number of schools in serious trouble."

Michael Swartz · Mar. 9, 2018

In less than a week, Americans will be exposed — with practically wall-to-wall coverage at that — to 68 of our institutions of higher learning as they take part in the annual NCAA basketball tournament. Teams that outperform expectations will benefit from an uptick in applications, and although many of the schools participating are already household names, who doesn’t take pride in seeing their alma mater in “The Big Dance?”

Unfortunately for the high school Class of 2019, whose students are just now beginning to determine where they’ll go to college, there’s a different sort of elimination going on, with much higher stakes. A long-term downturn in enrollment, along with a decline in the number of Americans who believe a college education is worth the money, is beginning to affect many schools’ bottom line. While this won’t immediately affect a state-supported public university or Ivy League schools with their multi-billion dollar endowments, those who’d prefer a smaller campus and more intimate setting may find that many small colleges are the first to fold.

As an example, based on a Wall Street Journal ranking of more than 1,000 schools accounting for a number of factors, one observer painted a bleak picture for schools near the bottom of the list. “You’re going to see, over the next five years, a real increase in the number of schools in serious trouble,” said Ohio University’s Richard Vedder, who heads the school’s Center for College Affordability and Productivity. “A degree from one of these lower schools doesn’t mean much of anything.” These closings will also expand the so-called “education deserts” that are defined in part as areas outside a convenient radius from four-year colleges.

Truth be told, though, the “desert” seems to be on campus, and it’s a desert where independent thought and ideological diversity are all but impossible to find. We joke about the “snowflakes” who can’t seem to cope when events don’t turn out as they hope, but the information silo being created by these schools is no laughing matter. When left-wing professors outnumber their right-leaning colleagues by more than 10 to 1 — leaving their unemployable graduates with useless degrees and student loan debt for which taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook — more and more concerned parents and prospective students are looking elsewhere.

“An increasing percentage of high school graduates are moving directly into job-prep education,” writes Peter Heck at The Resurgent. “Either offered by a business itself, or channeled through a trade school or online academy, these innovative programs give students direct training in the field they want to work in rather than forcing them to fill 90% of their course schedule with classes that don’t pertain to their desired field.”

Why spend well over $100,000, they reason, when there are good-paying jobs that don’t require a degree or, if a more traditional degree is desired, online institutions that provide a good, basic education to “nontraditional students” for a fraction of the cost?

Over the last 75 years, college has evolved from a place where only the best and brightest went to pursue higher education to its current marketing as a basic necessity. However, while students, parents and (mostly) taxpayers have “invested” billions to make state-supported public schools a luxurious interim experience for those soon to join the “real world” beyond campus, the model and mode of education has changed. Today, thousands have gained their degrees without ever setting foot on a campus, while still others are making the companies that sponsored and provided their post-high-school education more successful as they apply the skills and knowledge they were taught in these programs.

While none of these schools and institutes for training will ever make the field of 68 for “March Madness,” they provide the key for stopping the madness of spiraling student debt and useless but politically correct degrees. And have we mentioned that the world needs skilled tradespeople and entrepreneurs that do well without setting foot on a college campus? Yes, we have. But it bears repeating.

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