Education and Distorted Priorities

Distorted priorities are undermining the strength of the U.S. Health care failures are now becoming more obvious. Here is a discussion of lagging higher education.

I think that the most troubling tendency of education that I have witnessed has been the need for the vast majority of my students to work excessive hours to earn enough to stay in college. Even if they stay in school, they study under a severe handicap.

Lewin, Tamar. 2006. “Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College.” New York Times (7 September).
“The United States, long the world leader in higher education, has fallen behind other nations in its college enrollment and completion rates, as the affordability of American colleges and universities has declined, according to a new report. The study, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, found that although the United States still leads the world in the proportion of 35- to 64-year-olds with college degrees, it ranks seventh among developed nations for 25- to 34-year-olds. On rates of college completion, the United States is in the lower half of developed nations.”
“One particular area of concern, Mr. Callan [Patrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, Calif., and Washington] said, is that younger Americans — the most diverse generation in the nation’s history — are lagging educationally, compared with the baby boom generation. “The strength of America is in the population that’s closest to retirement, while the strength of many countries against whom we compare ourselves is in their younger population,” he said. “Perhaps for the first time in our history, the next generation will be less educated.”
“Over all, the report said, while other nations have significantly improved and expanded their higher education systems, the United States’ higher education performance has stalled since the early 1990’s.”
“At the same time, for most American families, college is becoming increasingly unaffordable. While federal Pell grants for low-income students covered 70 percent of the cost of a year at a four-year public university in the 1990’s, Mr. Callan said, that has dropped to less than half.”

“It’s going backwards,” he said. “Tuition is going up faster than family income, faster than inflation, faster even than health care”.”
“On average, a year at a public four-year university costs 31 percent of a family’s income, the report said. But that figure hides the enormous difference between families in the bottom 20 percent of income, for which it would be 73 percent of annual income, and those in the top 20 percent, for which it would amount to only 9 percent.”
“The report, “Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education,” paints a picture of an income-stratified society, with a huge educational gap between low- and high-income young adults. In 12 states, the proportion of 18- to 24-year-olds from high-income families who are enrolled in college is at least twice as great as those from low-income families; in five states, the high-income students are at least three times as likely to be in college.”
“In New York, 33 percent of young adults from families with the lowest fifth of incomes are in college, compared with 55 percent of those from the richest families, close to the national average. The figures for Connecticut are 16.1 percent from the bottom fifth and 57.9 percent from the top fifth. New Jersey’s figures are 19.6 percent from the bottom fifth and 51.0 percent from the top.”

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