Twelve inconvenient truths about American higher education, a report by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, explains that while the U.S. higher education system is still considered one of the best in the world, the systematic problems below the surface need to be addressed to avoid negatively impacting its status in the near future. Theses problems need to be targeted and solved if the United States wants to make sure that the nation’s institutions of higher learning continue to be tools for bettering the lives of its students.
Some of the problems outlined in the report have already been thoroughly dissected in the education and mainstream media outlets. The fact that college costs have been growing rapidly, especially over the past decade, is well known. Although some have sounded the clarion call that such growth is unsustainable in the long run, so far, few solutions have emerged to control or counteract it. Another related issue is that since the 2008 financial crisis, graduates’ ability to repay student loan debt taken on to cover the ever-increasing tuition has been severely compromised. According to the report, nearly 17 million of America’s college graduates are unemployed.
The problem is further compounded because over 40% of students in four-year colleges don’t just fail to graduate after four years, but even after six. Thus, although their debt burden had grown substantially over the fifth and sixth year, their employability didn’t make a similar jump.
The first step to controlling college costs is to honestly and thoroughly examine if the unwieldy government college aid apparatus is contributing to spiraling costs. Vedder predicts that such a step would be politically unpopular, but the solution to the higher education crisis will require an act of political will.
The need for reform in American higher education is a pressing one, yet the first step to putting the proper solutions in place is recognizing the true extent of the problem that exists. As Richard Vedder says in the report, “Reform will not be effective…unless attention is placed on the three ‘I’s’: information, incentives and innovation.” Some reforms may necessitate making hard policy choices but they must be made to ensure that American higher education lives up to its full potential.