The College Dropout

Over the past few days I’ve kept finding myself returning to this article on The Atlantic’s website, tying together a lot of the anti-college commentary that’s come out in the past few years. While I guess I should have been feeling more defensive reading it, more often than not I-and I imagine a lot of you out there- found myself nodding my head at Professor X’s points (on an unrelated note, can we all agree “Title” X is the lamest form of pseudonym, or at the very least the most pretentious).

For those who don’t feel like following the link, the piece is a follow-up to an article written by the professor two years ago where he or she argued that sending virtually everyone in the country to college may not be a wise strategy. As the professor notes, while the initial article created a lot of uproar, during the past two years several studies and articles have come out supporting his or her arguments, which he or she takes time to reiterate: Among them, that college is now wildly overpriced, that it doesn’t guarantee a successful career, that grade inflation has compromised its ability to teach critical thinking skills, and that several people would be better served in internships or apprenticeships.

Which really isn’t that surprising when you think about it. What this movement has done is provide arguments and data that back up an observation most of us made towards the end of high school-that a lot of people only were only going off to college because that’s what was expected of them.

I was especially reminded of this point by this post from the other day talking about Bill Ayers’ appearance gone awry at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Not so much because of its actual content, but because of the number of people from my high school who, for whatever reason, weren’t very academically orientated and yet still went there because well…just because they had to be going somewhere after senior year and it was one of the few places that would take them. I wonder what the future will be for the school, and others of its ilk, if all those kids wisely decide to do something else with their lives at 18?

Of course you could argue, albeit callously, that all this really isn’t important for Dartmouth. Which is fair enough considering that all Ivies and schools of similar academic cache (Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, etc.) are likely going to be the least affected. Sure, several people have pointed out that elite universities aren’t immune from the overall decline in academic standards and that the supposed connection between a fancy degree and a lucrative career may be just a myth. But ultimately, all these universities survived and prospered long before they were considered a stepping-stone to Goldman Sachs and there’s little reason to think this would change going forward. If anything, it’s those schools that for whatever arbitrary reasons haven’t cracked the top tier of American colleges-think NYU or George Washington- and yet still have incredibly expensive tuitions that should be most worried by the discussion on the value of an elite education.

All that being said, those in Parkhurst could still do well to consider some of the points in the article. Like when the author writes, “The (college) system had ended up expanding in ways that industry always expands: by jacking up prices, putting money into public relations, and broadening the customer base by marketing even to customers dubiously served by the product.” Let’s just say that in light of recent events, this rang a few bells.

Of course all this could wind up being little more than talk, as I’m sure some of you out there will argue in the comments, and the higher education system could stay unchanged. But whatever your views on the issue, let’s agree on this: Kanye was on this before anybody.

-Jeff Hopkins