Higher Education Not Serving National Purpose

Career College Central summary:

  • In a new book, “Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream,” Cornell University professor Suzanne Mettler wrote that although the United States used to be the world leader in higher education with respect to graduation rates and lower- and middle-income student access, that’s no longer true.
  • Rising tuition, political polarization in Washington, reduced budgets in the states, federal education policy “drift,” and the rise of for-profit universities and colleges have all played a role in negatively impacting graduation rates and access to higher education over the last 40 years.
  • Our higher education system is not effectively reducing inequality, but instead it perpetuates inequality, according to Mettler. Before World War II, higher education was mainly for the privileged. From the mid-20th century to the 1970s when Pell grants were introduced, higher education in public universities and colleges had enabled many from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain four-year degrees—and the realization of the American dream.
  • Mettler said her research found that those veterans who went to college on the G.I. Bill were later in life more involved with civic organizations and were much more politically active than veterans of similar backgrounds who did not use the G.I. Bill. In other words, this legislation enabling persons to go to college who otherwise would not have gone also served an important national purpose, enabling the country to more fully live up to its ideals.

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