As more and more students continue to apply to our nation’s most elite universities, enrollment numbers at lower tier colleges have dropped precipitously in recent years. A piece today in “The Wall Street Journal” highlights the struggle of bottom tier colleges to attract new students. With rising tuition costs, one could reasonably presume that in many cases it’s just not worth paying for an education from a bottom tier college when such degrees don’t lead to high-paying jobs. In many instances, completing trade schools and apprenticeships in lieu of attending a bottom tier college would lead to higher paying opportunities. So how exactly do these figures break down?
Top Tier Colleges and All the Rest
As reports Douglas Belkin in a piece for “The Wall Street Journal” entitled “U.S. Colleges Are Separating Into Winners and Losers,” “According to an analysis of 20 years of freshman-enrollment data at 1,040 of the 1,052 schools listed in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking, U.S. not-for-profit colleges and universities are segregating into winners and losers—with winners growing and expanding and losers seeing the first signs of a death spiral. The Journal ranking, which includes most major public and private colleges with more than 1,000 students, focused on how well a college prepares students for life after graduation. The analysis found that the closer to the bottom of the ranking a school was, the more likely its enrollment was shrinking…Enrollment at those 1,040 schools between 1996 and 2011 grew 37%. But between 2011 and 2016, enrollment at the bottom 20% declined 2%. The top 80% of schools grew 7%.”
But leave it to the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity to tell it like it is. As our regular readers know all too well, we’re all about championing folks who tell it like it is when it comes to college admissions. As Belkin reports, “Richard Vedder, the director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a teacher at Ohio University, believes dark days are ahead for the nation’s poorest ranked schools. ‘You’re going to see, over the next five years, a real increase in the number of schools in serious trouble,’ Dr. Vedder said. ‘A degree from a top school is a still a pretty good signaling device [to employers]. It means you’re smart and hardworking. But a degree from one of these lower schools doesn’t mean much of anything.'” Well said, Dr. Vedder. Well said.
Skip the Lowest Tier Universities, Pass Go
College isn’t for everybody. And not all colleges offer a valuable education. Not all college degrees are worth the paper they’re written on. Not all college degrees lead to high paying jobs. The fact of the matter is that just as there are too many McDonald’s in America, there are too many universities in America. We don’t need so many. You know the schools we’re referring to. Maybe you pass them when you’re driving down the highway. You’ve probably never heard of them. Neither have we. Sometimes you pass an office building and it says such and such university. What kind of college education is that? Just as Siemens recently announced that the company will likely be investing in apprenticeships and trade schools, we believe that America’s future isn’t at the lowest tier universities. It’s at the highest tier universities. To a lesser extent, it’s at the second tier universities. And it’s at apprenticeships and trade schools.
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