First, most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house. How much does the average English major at college X earn 18 months after graduation? What is the average debt of college Y’s alumni? How much does it cost to attend college Z, and is it worth it? How much more does the “average” college grad earn over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree? (The current number appears to be about $1 million.) There is now a cottage industry built around such data.The rest of his essay is given to homilies about students getting out what effort they apply into it; he does make some valid points there, as in
If colleges are responsible for outcomes, then students can feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable. Hence colleges too often cater to student demands for trigger warnings, “safe rooms,” and canceled commencement speakers. When rating colleges, as everyone from the president to weekly magazines insist on doing nowadays, people use performance measures such as graduation rates and time to degree as though those figures depended entirely upon the colleges and not at all upon the students.The insane costs of college certainly would seem to push for a cosseted demographic; trigger warnings and all the other panic-stricken nonsense of modern academia are nothing if not an extreme example of demands the world bend to the individual rather than the individual develop resilience. Yet at the same time, he never really bothers trying to answer critics' charges head-on that the costs of college have become untethered from their economic benefits. It is simply a question we're not allowed to ask.