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Girls in Yoga Pants Explain The Higher Education Apocalypse
We'll miss it when it's gone.
Students used to show up drunk to my class, especially during football season. They filled Gatorade bottles with vodka.
At least they smiled through my lectures, even if they didn’t read a single page of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which they considered the most boring book ever written.
Students started drinking during their Thursday afternoon classes. They kept going through the entire weekend, which included all of Friday. Honestly, I was ready for a drink by Thursday afternoon myself. Back then I was teaching for a big state university with a student population somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000. I taught four classes a semester, for a grand total of more than 100 students. Some nights, I really did walk straight from my last class to a bar.
My friends and I lived across the street from campus because it was cheap. It was also unbearable. We were constantly calling the police on frat bros and their girlfriends. That’s how college worked in the before times.
It’s a completely different landscape now, full of consequences for how badly higher education has been managed. This current generation isn’t going to college, for a few big reasons. The public seems to finally be noticing. The last few weeks have seen a number of major stories about the sharp drop in enrollments, in places like Newsweek and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and so on.
We’ve been predicting it for a while…
Anyway, look at this girl.
Isn’t she flexible?
Kids aren’t going to college anymore.
Half of Gen Z has decided they’re going to skip college. I’m not kidding. The polls show 50 percent of them won’t do it.
You can’t blame them. College has gotten insanely expensive, and most of them haven’t kept up with the times. Only the most elite universities offer anything remotely worth the cost.
Enrollment is down 10 percent.
That’s a million students.
Hey. I know, I know.
You don’t care.
Sabrina cares, though. She doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life posing for photos like this one.
She wants a future.
Americans hate education.
The average American doesn’t care about college or universities at all. They resent education, and they consider professors a bunch of freeloaders who get summers off (no, we’re unemployed for three months). They constantly complain about the time they wasted in the classroom.
To most people, college means football and parties.
The last few generations didn’t go to college to get an education. They went there to get laid. They went there to make friends. They went there to avoid the grueling responsibilities of adulthood.
It served a cultural purpose.
Now that’s fading.
At least, that’s what Tabitha thinks:
College kept young adults out of trouble.
The economy actually needs colleges and universities, for purely practical reasons. They’ve been keeping about 15–20 million young adults out of the job market. They suppress unemployment.
If nothing else, affordable college was a holding tank for America’s youth. We kept them occupied and entertained.
Well, not anymore.
Young adults aren’t falling for the scam. They see what’s going on. They’re not going to take out tens of thousands in student loans, then watch their politicians jack up interest rates while dangling “forgiveness” in front of them to win elections.
Instead, they’re doing literally anything else. They’re working for Amazon. They’re driving an Uber. They’re delivering groceries. They’re trying to get famous on their phones. They’re playing video games. They’re hawking crypto. They’re mooching off their parents.
Hey, so would I.
Just take it from Naomi.
She wants to be a fitness influencer:
Colleges are a total train wreck.
I’m going to tell you a secret.
The average university is completely dysfunctional. I would know. I’ve been working in higher education my entire life. I’ve seen it up close. One of my last bosses used to jerk off in people’s offices. He got fired, but quickly found a job at another university.
That happens all the time.
For every good professor like me who’s trying hard, there’s another who either doesn’t care or simply can’t get it together. Faculty can waste two hours in a meeting, and all they manage to do is create more committees with more meetings.
It’s a nightmare.
The higher up you go, the worse it gets. Deans and vice chancellors make around $150,000 - $200,000 a year. They don’t do much but send out confusing emails all day. They’re so sleep-deprived and addled with caffeine, they can barely think.
Boards of trustees preside over it all. These are made up of millionaires and billionaires. They call the shots, not us. They don’t care about anything but profits, so they ratchet up tuition every year while cutting student services and upping class sizes.
No wonder Gen Z wants to bail on college.
It’s corrupt as hell.
That’s according to Olivia, who dropped out of college to make fitness videos on TikTok:
A lot of them are going to collapse.
Experts were already predicting an “enrollment” cliff for universities, starting around the year 2025. Millennials didn’t have kids like their parents did. They were too broke. Now we’ve got a shrinking population.
The pandemic kickstarted the enrollment cliff early. That goes on top of the new lack of interest in getting an education.
It’s a triple whammy.
A lot of colleges aren’t managing a graceful decline. Greed and corruption are making the transition worse. A lot of smaller, regional universities won’t survive. Higher education is going to revert to what it used to be before the G.I. Bill made it egalitarian, a place where you sent your kids if you had money. Bigger, elite universities will do okay. They might even prosper, because they’ll pick up all the college-bound students from dying institutions.
By 2030, higher education will be a shell. Teens will go straight into the workforce, probably even before they graduate high school.
In some ways, it’ll be a good thing. We might see a revival of vocational and trade schools, along with stronger unions.
That’s a big if…
The current trend is pointing toward something darker, a large mass of under-educated, undertrained youth chasing easy money, not because they’re immature, but because other paths have shut down.
Thank Melanie for this insight:
We’re going to regret it.
In theory, higher education could be great.
If only they followed the John Dewey model. That guy was smart. He wrote a number of books and articles about the value of progressive education. He said students shouldn’t be sitting in stuffy classrooms. Their professors should build learning labs for them.
Education should be fun.
It should be exciting.
Above all, education is supposed to build citizens. It’s supposed to give them practical skills, but it’s also supposed to show them how our government works. It’s supposed to expose them to the history of our culture, and the world around them.
Despite some awful experiences, I actually got that education. Maybe I had to teach myself a lot of the practical skills I’ve got now, but I definitely learned our history. I learned the importance of civics and culture, and how something as seemingly insignificant as fonts and typeface could lead to world-changing innovations.
Education forms the foundation of a healthy economy, and a healthy democracy. We could have something like that, if we paid teachers well and stopped filling universities with overpaid administrators. We could have something like that if we made real education affordable again, and not a privilege for the rich.
The question is, do we want it?
I’m not sure.
I wonder what Erica thinks:
We’ve defunded education.
The public gets all up in arms anytime you mention defunding the police. Well, look around. We didn’t do that.
The police are very well funded. Campus police at some universities have armored vehicles now. Meanwhile, we’ve systematically defunded classrooms. Every year, states have cut funding to schools and colleges. Teachers use their own money to buy school supplies. A lot of them can’t even support themselves.
It’s been like that for decades.
It has consequences.
For starters, our politicians are getting dumber. Maybe you’ve noticed. It’s not a fluke that we’ve got more lunatics and conspiracy theorists in Congress than ever. It’s not an accident that misinformation has infested our culture. All of this is what happens when you spend decades attacking education and under-investing in it.
The best teachers quit.
Students opt out.
Professors like me have to fill articles like this with yoga photos to keep people’s attention. And it’s only going to get worse. Our politicians are going to get dumber. Our youth are going to get more restless and desperate. Misinformation is going to get more outlandish. That’s our future, as predicted by the movie Idiocracy.
Gen Z is only giving up on education now because prior generations already gave up on it, a long time ago.
To quote the lovely Amelia, pictured below:
You get what you pay for.
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