– The lowering of college entrance requirements, except at elite schools (in 2008, about 20 percent of four-year schools had “open admissions” policies, meaning that virtually anyone with a high-school diploma could get in).
– The dumbing down of college standards (one study I cited found that about a third of college seniors hadn’t improved their analytical skills).
– Much human and financial waste — the dropout rate at four-year schools is roughly 40 percent, and many of these students leave with large debts.
– A monolithic focus on the college track in high school that ignores the real-life needs of millions of students who either won’t start or won’t finish college and would benefit more from vocational programs.
Not surprisingly, Samuelson received a strong rebuttal on June 7 from Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, Dr. William Kirwan, which also appeared in the Washington Post. Kirwan argued that what’s desirable is not “college for all” but “college for more.” I thought Kirwan also made some good points:
Should every kid go to college? No. But should all kids who want to go to college and are capable of handling college-level work have the opportunity to do so? I believe they should. So although calls to enact universal college for all are misguided (and essentially nonexistent), calls to significantly increase college completion — by enhancing readiness, access, affordability and retention — are correct and should be heeded.
Consider that three decades ago, about 41 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 held a two- or four-year degree, which led the world at the time. Today’s 25- to 34-year-olds are at about that same rate . But in today’s innovation-centered, globally connected world, 41 percent places the United States 14th among industrialized nations. We have made no progress in college attainment in a generation, while nation after nation has improved dramatically. How can the United States remain the world leader in things that matter if we aren’t the leader in educating our citizens?