“This hat cost me $110K.” That was the message a 2012 graduate displayed on her mortarboard at her university commencement.
The recent flare-up over huge student-loan balances, especially among jobless recent college graduates, is exposing deep flaws in the way higher education is financed. Historically, the U.S. has always emphasized education as the route to financial success. In much of Europe, the link between education and economic achievement has never been as deeply ingrained.
This U.S. zeal for schooling has been so vigorous that it has blurred the distinction between education (the development of the mind and the thinking process) and training (the preparation for a job or career). Today, a person studying for a doctorate, a pursuit that traditionally drew those with a thirst for pure learning, may well be aiming for a career in business in the same way as a candidate for a medical degree or a master’s in business administration. Middle-class American parents have long believed that the more degrees their offspring collect, the higher they will end up on the social and economic scale.