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We Don’t Need More College. We Need Better College

June 22, 2023

In 1960, 8% of Americans over the age of 25 had completed four years of college. Today, nearly five times that many (38%) have earned a bachelor’s or advanced degree, while another 25% have completed at least some college or obtained an associate’s degree. States across the nation have jumped onto the bandwagon of trying to bring college attainment rates up even further: Several have stated that they want their attainment rate (including degrees or industry certifications) to reach 60% of adults by 2025, just two years from now.

While more and more Americans have set their sights on postsecondary degrees, those numbers haven’t translated into more robust civic health. Instead, at the same time colleges are focusing on amorphous platitudes such as “global citizenship,” The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that “patriotism,” “hard work,” “community involvement” and various other measures of civic health have fallen precipitously over the past three decades, leading the paper to conclude: “America Pulls Back From Values That Once Defined It.”

Emerging cracks in the college value proposition—coupled with several worrying national trends—suggest that American higher education may need much more of a course correction than it does any further amplification. In particular, universities must restore their intellectual integrity, address their runaway ideological imbalance, rein in their ruinous student debt-driven financial model, and recommit themselves to transmitting foundational knowledge central to a prosperous republic.

Read the rest of the op-ed at Discourse.

Matt Beienburg is the Director of Education Policy at the Goldwater Institute. He also serves as director of the institute’s Van Sittert Center for Constitutional Advocacy.



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