There are incipient signs that a Great Recoiling from this intellectual disaster is beginning to form. It will be greatly aided by the economic disaster in which the institutional life of universities is embedded. “Why,” hard-working parents will ask themselves, “does it cost more than $50,000 a year to send Johnny to college.” Leave aside the question of what it is that Johnny is and isn’t learning in those ivy-covered walls. Why does his four-year furlough from the real world cost so much? One reason, of course, is that Johnny, assuming his parents are paying full freight, is paying not only for his own tuition: he is also helping to foot the bill for Ahmed, Juan, and Harriet down the hall. Colleges routinely boast about their generous financial aid packages, how they provide assistance for some large percentage of students, etc. What they don’t mention is the fact that parents who scrimp and save to come up with the tuition are in effect subsidizing the others. How do you suppose Johnny’s parents feel about that?
There are many other aspects to the Higher Education Bubble. Charles Murray touched on some of them in his devastating critique of “educational romanticism” in The New Criterion and in his book Real Education. Too many people go to college; Garrison Keillor has it wrong: half of all children are below average; we need more and better vocational schools, on the one hand, and colleges that cater to the academically gifted, on the other.