VIA Middle Class Political Economist: America Shows No Increase in College Graduation Rates Over the Last 30 YearsPosted: February 8, 2013
Here is what he says:
Jared Bernstein (via Paul Krugman) highlights an amazing breakdown in the prospects for reducing economic inequality any time soon. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has made no progress whatsoever in increasing college graduation rates. To be specific, 25-34 year olds in 2009 had a college degree rate of about 40%, almost exactly the same as for 55-64 year old baby boomers. In the meantime, other industrialized countries were racking up substantial gains, most spectacularly in the case of South Korea where a little over 10% of 55-64 year olds have college degrees, but more than 60% in the 25-34 age group do. If you want to understand how South Korea has gone from a poor developing country to an industrial powerhouse within our lifetimes, this is one big reason.
So here’s a real conversation starter: what might be the response of the public universities of this country to a graph like this?
To place some of yesterday’s discussion of our historical challenges into context, I thought I’d pass along the economist Mike Konczal’s recent discussion of higher education’s debt crisis, from Dissent magazine. Here’s a representative passage:
Privatization is an ongoing project in state-level school systems. Mark Yudof, the President of the University of California system, once described the evolution of the “hybrid university”:
“[T]he extraordinary compact between state governments and their flagship universities appears to be dead – or at least on life support…Though we believers in the civic value of education may lament it greatly, with the wage premium widening, education today is increasingly seen as a private, rather than a public, good. Consequently, many legislators appear more comfortable with students’ paying higher tuition than they did in the past, tacitly encouraging students to borrow today and pay back later…Paradoxically, to continue the long tradition of broad access for students to public research universities, these institutions will have to become more like their private peers; to ensure the access for low-income and historically disadvantaged students that low-cost tuition once allowed, I believe that public research universities will have to work hard to augment funds for student aid and scholarships.”
This is an active project, reformulating state schools so they mimic their private peers. This involves reducing state funding for students and having students pick up the slack. The privatization school doesn’t view accessible higher education as a social good, a necessary component to equality of opportunity, a means of creating alternate hierarchies of education, or part of the basic process of how a civilization functions with its citizens. It focuses on the private economic gains of a university education and finds ways to shift costs to private citizens, with debt to make up the shortfall. Finding ways to get students to pay higher tuition, like choosing out-of-state applicants, becomes a priority. This creates a cycle: the more public universities are defunded and reconceived as a private good, the less civic interest there is in defending them as a public good.
Ultimately, as Konczal points out, this discussion of affordability turns on the question of “what kind of public universities and education we want to have.”
So whose wants, needs, desires, opinions, demands are being attended to now, as we watch the transformation of public higher education across the board?