A new Wall Street Journal-NORC poll reveals that a majority of Americans believe a college degree isn't worth the cost and time. Sliding confidence in the higher education system indicates that the American Dream can be achieved without a college degree. This is an ominous sign for liberal professors teaching meaningless programs, particularly in the humanities.
The poll, conducted with NORC at the University of Chicago, found that 56% of Americans believe a four-year degree is a poor investment, while 42% still have confidence in colleges.
The majority of this skepticism is found among individuals aged 18-34, and those with degrees are among the groups whose views have soured about college. And why is that?
Well, over 43 million individuals have federal student loans totaling $1.6 trillion. Many of these individuals were assured that obtaining a degree would secure them a high-paying job. Yet, in the current job market, where artificial intelligence is automating vast parts of the economy, some folks with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt are working two and even three low-paying, low-skilled jobs.
For some context of just how quickly the belief in higher education has slumped, in 2013, 53% of Americans had a favorable view of college, while 40% did not. By 2017, the percentage of Americans who believed a four-year degree would result in good jobs fell to 49%, with 47% holding the opposite opinion. Much of the sentiment shift occurred after the 2007–2008 financial crisis.
"These findings are indeed sobering for all of us in higher education, and in some ways, a wake-up call," said Ted Mitchell, the president of the American Council on Education, which has more than 1,700 institutions of higher education as members.
What bothers us is Mitchell's next comment:
"We need to do a better job at storytelling, but we need to improve our practice, that seems to me to be the only recipe I know of regaining public confidence."
Maybe the "better job at storytelling" could come if meaningless programs, particularly in the humanities, were removed from the curriculum. Universities need to stop catering to a few radical liberals and teach skills and critical thinking that will translate into a lifetime of success for the student. The current higher education model has failed, and the college grads working as bartenders and or 2-3 jobs are the result of a failed system.
And if universities don't change their tune and public opinion continues to slide. The bust in the higher education bubble will broaden:
Young people realize that a college degree is not always necessary to succeed in today's economy. Some individuals earn over $100k per year in specialized trades, such as electricians, plumbers, and or welders -- many of them have very little debt.