Is a college degree worth what it costs? More and more Americans are questioning the conventional wisdom that it is, as the price tag climbs while the educational value (at least for many students) falls.
That isn’t either a “right” or a “left” critique. Honest observers from all over the political landscape realize that to a great extent, colleges and universities are run more for the benefit of their faculty, than for the benefit of their students.
Two well-known liberal writers, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus made that point in their 2011 book Higher Education? “The schools almost function for (the professors), for their aspirations and interests. Students come and go every four years, administrators will move on, but the tenured stay on in Bloomington, College Park, and Chapel Hill, accumulating power, controlling resources, reshaping the university according to their needs,” they write.
The libertarian Peter Thiel, a Stanford graduate, thinks that the pursuit of the college degree is a waste of time for bright and energetic young people. He has established Thiel Fellowships for people like that, enabling them to bypass college and start their productive careers years sooner.
But just because much of our higher education system is now a poor value for students who really want to study, we shouldn’t think that worthwhile schools have disappeared. In fact, just a few years ago, a new, very small university was created — the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) – that does just what a college is supposed to do.