A new poll finds just 44% of Americans rate getting a college education as "very important" in life. That is down from 75% in the same poll just four years ago. So what happened in the space of a single presidential term to turn so many people off to the importance of higher education?
I suspect, that this year's poll may have hit a few more Americans who are sitting at home with a degree--but no job. And it's likely a degree that they borrowed a lot of money to get--and are now having to pay back with money they are not earning in their field of study. Or maybe the pollsters contacted a lot of parents who currently have college graduates back in the house with them because it turns out that there was not a lot of demand for Tibetan Monk Sand Artists--or it turned out that marketing degree is only good for a bunch of commission sales jobs and "things just aren't good in sales right now".
Or maybe, the poll contacted more Americans who are working in their fields of study--but are finding people without degrees--but greater inter-personal skills or technical knowledge are making more than them--or are their bosses. They are probably wondering how that could happen--since we've been told for years that people with a BS or a BA will make "a million dollars more over their careers than those without a college degree". So when is the "extra million" going to start rolling in?
If anything, the poll should serve as a wakeup call to those in higher education to look at whether they are delivering a good value for the product they provide. I know they bristle at the use of the term "product". "We provide education Mr. Krause. We don't make widgets on an assembly line. And please note that it's DOCTOR--not mister. I didn't go to school for 12-years myself to be called Mister." I'm sure every employer in the room rolls his eyes when he hears a school administrator say their goal is to "produce global citizens who are looking to take action to improve their communities and their planet"--when all the boss is looking for is someone who understands that ten minutes early is actually "on time" and who can do some math in his or her head--as opposed to needing to use the calculator function on their smartphone.
UW System President Ray Cross outlined his plan to "completely overhaul" the universities to meet the needs of employers in the 21st Century. As this new poll shows, that is probably something that everyone in education should have done about 20-years ago.