Is college really worth it? How higher education may be crucial to success

Is college really worth it? How higher education may be crucial to success

September 15, 2019 1 By Ronny Jaskolski


SOLEDAD: IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR
WHEN COLLEGE FRESHMEN EMBARK ON
AN EXCITING NEW CHAPTER OF THEIR
LIVES. FOR MANY, THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
WON’T BE OVER IN FOUR YEARS. IT’LL LAST FOR DECADES AFTER
GRADUATION IN THE FORM OF
STUDENT LOANS. TOTAL OUTSTANDING STUDENT DEBT
IN THE U.S. HAS REACHED AN ALL
TIME HIGH, NEARLY $1.5 TRILLION. THE HIGH COST OF A COLLEGE
DEGREE HAS MANY ASKING: IS IT
WORTH IT? ACCORDING TO A NEW SURVEY, JUST
58% OF AMERICANS SAY YES. PAUL TOUGH, THE AUTHOR OF THE
NEW BOOK, “THE YEARS THAT MATTER
MOST: HOW COLLEGE MAKES OR BREAK
US,” IS AMONG THOSE WHO SAY, A
COLLEGE DEGREE CAN SET YOU OFF
ON A VERY PROFITABLE PATH. IT’S NICE TO HAVE YOU. PAUL: THANK YOU. GREAT TO BE HERE. SOLEDAD: DOES IT MATTER WHERE
YOU GO TO COLLEGE? PAUL: IT DOES. I MEAN, FOR ANY INDIVIDUAL
STUDENT, YOU KNOW, IT DOESN’T. IT’S NOT A LIFE OR DEATH
SITUATION WHERE YOU GO. BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE DATA
ABOUT COLLEGES AS A WHOLE, IT
DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WHEN KIDS GO TO MORE SELECTIVE
COLLEGES, THEY ARE MORE LIKELY
TO EARN MORE MONEY AS ADULTS. SOLEDAD: YOU OPEN THE BOOK
DISCUSSING HOW THE COUNTRY WAS
REALLY FOUNDED ON THIS CONCEPT
OF MERITOCRACY AND THAT ALSO WE
HAVE CLASS FLUIDITY UNLIKE
ENGLAND AND WE HAVE GREAT SOCIAL MOBILITY UNLIKE ENGLAND. THE ELITE COLLEGE THING SEEMS
TO PUT THE KIBOSH ON THAT A BIT. PAUL: YEAH, I THINK THINGS HAVE
CHANGED. SO ESPECIALLY OVER THE LAST 50
OR SO YEARS, THE WAY TO GET
AHEAD IN THE UNITED STATES HAS
BEEN THROUGH A COLLEGE DEGREE. THAT WASN’T TRUE IN THE PAST. I THINK IT’S STILL SOMETHING
THAT WE HAVE A HARD TIME
RECONCILING WITH OUR KIND OF
AMERICAN CAN-DO SPIRIT. BUT NOW THAT THAT IS TRUE, I
THINK IT HAS HELPED TO RECREATE
SOME OF THE ARISTOCRACY, SOME OF
THE HIERARCHY THAT WAS THERE
BEFORE. SOLEDAD: YOU WRITE ABOUT THE
G.I. BILL, AND I WAS SO
INTERESTED TO READ THAT THE
PRESIDENTS OF HARVARD AND THE
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO DID NOT
SORT OF EMBRACE THE IDEA BEHIND THE G.I. BILL. THEY WERE ACTUALLY FEARFUL WHEN
THE G.I. BILL BECAME A THING
PAUL: THERE WAS THIS IDEA THAT,
WELL, WHAT IF ALL OF THESE
POORLY EDUCATED G.I.’S, YOU
KNOW, MOST OF THEM, LIKE, SOME OF THEM HAD DIDN’T HAVE A HIG
SCHOOL DEGREE, A LOT OF THEM
WERE FARM BOYS. AND NOW THE G.I. BILL WAS GOING
TO LET THEM ALL SHOW UP ON
CAMPUS. AND THE IDEA WAS THAT THAT THAT
WASN’T WHAT COLLEGES WERE FOR. ELITE COLLEGES WERE JUST FOR THE
RICH KIDS. AND IF WE LET ALL THESE KIDS IN
IN, IT’S GOING TO BE CHAOS,
WE’RE GONNA HAVE EDUCATIONAL
HOBO JUNGLES IS WHAT THE
PRESIDENT’S CALL IS SUCH A CRAZY
THING. SOLEDAD: THEY ACTUALLY FOUND
VERY MUCH THE OPPOSITE. PAUL: YEAH. SO FIRST OF ALL, THEY DID SHOW
UP IN BIG NUMBERS WHICH A LOT OF
PEOPLE WERE SKEPTICAL ABOUT TH
G.I.’S. AND WHEN THEY DID, THEY WORKED
INCREDIBLY HARD AND THEY
SUCCEEDED. AND IT WAS REALLY THE FIRST TIME
IN AMERICAN HISTORY WHEN THIS
SORT OF WORKING CLASS AND MIDDLE
CLASS KIDS WHO HADN’T BEEN A
PART OF HIGHER EDUCATION BEFORE
SUDDENLY WERE. AND IT CHANGED I THINK NOT ONLY
THE FACE OF HIGHER EDUCATION BUT
IT CHANGED FOR A WHILE ANYWAY
AMERICANS OPINIONS OF WHAT
HIGHER EDUCATION CAN DO. SOLEDAD: WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE
ADMISSIONS INDUSTRIAL CONFLICTS,
WHAT DO YOU MEAN? PAUL: SO KNOW THAT’S A PHRASE
THAT ONE ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR WHO
I WROTE ABOUT USED AND HE TALKS
ABOUT THE WAY THAT ADMISSIONS IS
NOW BECOME THIS INCREDIBLY
STRESSFUL PROFESSION. SO I THINK WHEN YOU’RE A PARENT
OR A KID, YOU THINK OF
ADMISSIONS DIRECTORS AS THESE
DEMIGODS UP ON MOUNT OLYMPUS
JUST MAKING DECISIONS AND
CHOOSING THE KIDS THEY WANT. BUT IN REALITY, YOU KNOW, A LOT
OF COLLEGES ARE UNDER FINANCIAL
PRESSURE AND THAT FINANCIAL
PRESSURE TENDS TO TRICKLE DOWN
TO THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE AND
ADMISSIONS PEOPLE ARE UNDER PRESSURE TO ADMIT KIDS WHO CAN
PAY THE TUITION. SOLEDAD: ARE THESE THE YEARS
THAT MATTER THE MOST DO YOU
THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY? I MEAN, MY DAUGHTER LITERALL
JUST WENT OFF TO COLLEGE. PUTS A LOT OF PRESSURE AND IT’S
— YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT A
LITTLE BIT ACTUALLY AND I’VE GOT
ONE WHO’S A SENIOR IN HIGH
SCHOOL. SO YOU’RE KIND OF FREAKING ME
OUT ABOUT THAT TOO. IT’S IMPORTANT, BUT IT’S NOT
EVERYTHING AND THAT ANY EVERY
KID HAS A COLLEGE THAT IT’S GOOD
FOR THEM. PAUL: AND I THINK THAT’S EXACTLY
THE RIGHT MESSAGE FOR ANY
INDIVIDUAL STUDENT. THERE ARE LOTS OF DIFFERENT
OPTIONS ESPECIALLY IF YOU’VE GOT
RESOURCES IN YOUR FAMILY WHERE
YOU GO. DOESN’T MATTER THAT MUCH. BUT FOR THE COUNTRY AS A WHOLE
THE PATTERNS OF WHO GOES WHERE
AND THE FACT THAT SO MANY
WELL-OFF KIDS ARE THE ONES WHO
ARE GOING TO THESE INSTITUTIONS
THAT HELP YOUR INCOME SO