"There can hardly be too large an attendance at our colleges so long as the sturdy common sense of American life keeps its balance — the common sense that forbids even an effort to make a distinct "educated " class which when "educated" is unwilling to do the common tasks at which young men must first try their mettle. In Germany there is a surplus of scholars who are worth nothing to the community. They might have been good craftsmen, but university training has left them unwilling to do the common work of the world."
Has the U.S. lost that "sturdy common sense" recently? Too many degrees are handed out (a large part thanks to for-profits) to those who probably shouldn't have a degree. If they were to attend a vocational school or become an apprentice instead of college, college degrees wouldn't be watered down by those who don't even need them, meanwhile colleges would have a student body of only those fit to be there.
I am a mathematics professor, and I have the opportunity to work at what I love. Why should I forego this to instead do "the common work of the world"?
If the only paying job available to me were digging ditches, then I would do it happily and well. Presumably the same for most people. But this comment doesn't seem to describe a choice that anyone actually faces.
Now, there where plenty of reasons to set things up like this, but it also distorts what people thought was reasonable 100 years ago.
I went to school with plenty of people who were there because thats just what you do. They partied too much and studied too little and now they are overqualified and underemployed. The fact that you can be overqualified to me is the loss of "sturdy common sense", not everyone is as centered as you appear to be and I think you overestimate more than a few people.
If they studied to little they are hardly overqualified. Someone in the position you describe seems to be at a point where their own perception of their qualification, based on the fact that they did somehow get a degree, is inflated compared to their qualifications as perceived by potential employers.
"Overqualification" is a strange term anyway. It's not that a potential employer wouldn't want someone better than strictly necessary for a job. It seems to have more to do with some people expecting a certain "baseline" of job offers once they have a degree on paper, despite their actual qualification perhaps not warranting this.
“I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” Mr. Obama said in February 2009. “This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.”
The problem is I haven't seen any concrete initiative to do such a thing. That being said, the system is ripe for it's inevitable crash. Which in my opinion is a good thing. What the US needs is to crash and hurt. That will ultimately force change.
 - http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/27/obama-defends-...
We don't have an education crisis and improvement cycle coming, we have a crisis and "surge" coming.
These days having a degree doesn't mean you actually know anything about the field that you have studied in. It just means that you have a degree thus you are allowed to get a job that doesn't require manual labor. This isn't just America, it's everywhere.
But that's okay, we have plenty of money to spend on all kinds of research - we're aiming at a lofty goal! But the discomforting bit is when the majority of the graduates regard everyday-life mundane stuffs are below them, that all high is in the textbooks, and simultaneously have no urge to do something (themselves or earthly people value) instead of just "learning".
- 43 percent of all grades are As. Isn't an A supposed to be the best grade? I was always very impressed when someone was mentioned as "a straight A student" but I guess it just means she got average or slightly better than average grades :-)
For instance, on one of the C++ homework we had, the median was 100%. It's fun to have good grades when deserved, but sometimes they feel thrown away and the only to not get good grades is to willingly not do as asked. (Oh and by the way, in this class, A+ is given for the 90-100% bracket.)
Of course it's not ALWAYS a good investment. It depends on what you're investing in. That's like saying investing in equities is a bad idea, because poor choices lead to poor returns.
Why do all of the ballooning student loan conversations lump "college degrees" together? Area of study has a significant impact. I know of very few engineers who are being crushed by student debt. Of course if someone chooses to spend over $100k obtaining a bachelors degree in art, and has problems getting a job out of school, this has somehow become the fault of the university, or the United States, or society in general.
Do they really think this is a new phenomenon? I can't imagine nobody spread the word about what classes were easy before the Internet.
That is to say, aside from the important other factors mentioned in the article, the decline of American secondary education clearly is a factor in the decline of American college education.
Nothing can replace good parents but there's only so much that can be done to improve the general quality of parents. Given that society has a vested interest in the future of every child, I don't think it's unreasonable for government to try to do better. That doesn't necessarily mean the public school system; it could be vouchers, various incentives, etc. But just saying parents need to do it is a cop out, shortsighted, and unrealistic.