Colleges everywhere are failing. Good riddance

The higher education system in the United States is broken. With skyrocketing costs, stagnant graduation rates, and a growing disconnect between degrees and workforce needs, it’s little wonder that many are questioning the value of a traditional college education. And as institutions struggle to adapt to changing times, some are asking: is it time to bid higher ed as we know it adieu?

The cost of attending college has ballooned in recent decades, with tuition tripling at public four-year universities and more than quadrupling at private non-profits since 1980. The result is a mountain of student loan debt that now tops $1.7 trillion nationwide. For many, the financial burden of a degree outweighs its potential benefits, leading a growing number to forgo college altogether.

At the same time, colleges are failing to deliver on their promise of a credential leading to a good job. Underemployment among recent grads remains rampant, with nearly half working in roles that do not require a degree. And with automation and AI poised to further reshape the workforce, the shelf life of a bachelor’s degree as a reliable ticket to the middle class looks increasingly short.

Meanwhile, higher ed’s business model is growing unsustainable. Shrinking demographics in key markets mean fewer potential students to recruit. And as concerns over cost and ROI intensify, more families are questioning the worth of a residential college experience.

In the face of these challenges, some predict a coming collapse of the higher education bubble. And to this, an increasing number say: good riddance. After all, the traditional college model has never been a great fit for all, with non-traditional learners and those seeking practical skills often finding themselves ill-served.

In its place, a more diverse array of post-secondary pathways is emerging. Apprenticeships, vocational training, and online credentialing platforms are gaining traction as alternatives to a four-year degree. Competency-based programs allow learners to progress at their own pace, demonstrating mastery of skills rather than accumulating credit hours.

The demise of the traditional college model may be a loss for those invested in the status quo. But for the many failed by the current system, the death of higher ed as we know it may just be an opportunity in disguise.

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