Ed­i­to­ri­als: Sad news for old Si­wash U.

Mil­lions ask the un­think­able ques­tion, is a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion re­ally worth it?

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY -

Is a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion worth the time and ex­pense to get one? This is a ques­tion that only yes­ter­day al­most no­body would ask, lest he be dis­missed as rus­tic, crank, ig­no­ra­mus, or worse. Own­ing a home and get­ting a col­lege de­gree for the chil­dren have been the fun­da­men­tal goals of Amer­i­cans for gen­er­a­tions.

But now, in the wake of the col­lapse of the in­tel­lec­tual tra­di­tion on cam­pus, the ques­tion is asked in in­tel­lec­tu­ally re­spectable precincts, and asked of­ten.

“Too many peo­ple are go­ing to col­lege,” says Charles Mur­ray, the em­i­nent so­cial sci­en­tist with an un­usual gift for elim­i­nat­ing aca­demic jar­gon, and say­ing what he means with­out try­ing to dress it up with ar­gle-bar­gle that not even an­other so­cial sci­en­tist can de­ci­pher.

Mr. Mur­ray, who has been at­tacked for po­lit­i­cal in­cor­rect­ness on cam­pus and has the scars from Mid­dle­bury Col­lege in Con­necti­cut to prove it, has in fact been de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage like this for years, in books, lec­tures and pub­lished es­says. He even wrote a book about it. In fact, sev­eral.

If his ob­ser­va­tion is cor­rect, the good news is that col­lege en­roll­ment has been de­clin­ing over the last decade or so. The cam­pus, like the swamp, could profit by drain­ing it for a lot of flot­sam and con­sid­er­able jet­sam. The best news of all, per­haps, is that law school en­roll­ment de­clined a stun­ning 31 per­cent be­tween 2010 and 2015. The num­bers are even worse in some places. En­roll­ment in the fresh­man class at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri last year plunged 35 per­cent af­ter ri­ot­ers, led by one of the pro­fes­sors, de­manded sat­is­fac­tion for stu­dent de­mands, and the hu­mil­i­ated univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion quickly caved.

Richard Ved­der and Justin Stehle, eco­nomics pro­fes­sors at Ohio Univer­sity, ar­gued in The Wall Street Jour­nal that a pri­mary cause of pub­lic dis­il­lu­sion is that the price of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion keeps ris­ing ever higher and the eco­nomic re­turns keep shrink­ing. Par­ents are do­ing the cost anal­y­sis that univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors don’t, or won’t, and act ac­cord­ingly. Since the turn of the 21st cen­tury, col­lege tu­ition has in­creased 74 per­cent, ad­justed for in­fla­tion, while the dif­fer­ence be­tween what high school grad­u­ates and col­lege grad­u­ates earn shrank by 10 per­cent.

“For years,” ob­serves Michael Barone of the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner, “pol­i­cy­mak­ers sub­si­dized higher ed­u­ca­tion, like [they sub­si­dized] home own­er­ship be­cause they no­ticed that col­lege grad­u­ates and home­own­ers earned more and had stronger com­mu­nity ties than oth­ers. The think­ing was, more sub­si­dies would pro­duce more of both.”

But it’s not work­ing out that way, as the cold num­bers demon­strate. Fed­eral aid and stu­dent loan pro­ceeds have been ab­sorbed by the col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, Mr. Barone ob­serves, and hence the uni­ver­si­ties now em­ploy more ad­min­is­tra­tors than teach­ers. A grow­ing num­ber of uni­ver­si­ties can’t even main­tain or­der on cam­pus. Many pro­fes­sors grew up in the ’60s, when the mantra ev­ery­where was “if it feels good, do it.” Learn­ing any­thing be­yond po­lit­i­cally cor­rect at­ti­tudes usu­ally didn’t feel good. Stu­dents in­ter­ested in Shake­speare or Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tional gov­ern­ment need not ap­ply.

Much of this is not new; the de­struc­tion of authen­tic schol­ar­ship has been com­ing for years. But what is new is that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, and par­tic­u­larly par­ents of stu­dent-age chil­dren, have con­cluded, sadly, that the book, such as it is, is not worth the can­dle.

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