With the cost of higher education skyrocketing, student loan debt growing, and youth unemployment persistently high, a former United States Secretary of Education asks "Is College Worth It?"
In Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, William J. Bennett and David Wilezol examine the costs and benefits of American higher education. The book explains the tough jobs market, a potentially repressive academic culture, and the benefits of alternative options.
Wilezol, an associate producer of the Bill Bennett's Morning in America show, discussed the economic benefits of a college degree. He intends the bookto be for "parents who think about not only the ROI [Return On Investment] for their kids in terms of jobs, but also what is being taught in the classroom in terms of what they want their kids exposed to," he told The Christian Post.
"They have to take an honest assessment of whether their kid is college material or not," he added, chillingly.
"I don't know that people are aware of the wastefulness in higher education," he said, explaining that "almost 50% of people who enroll don't graduate within six years." This leads students, parents, and the government to "waste a terrific amount of money."
But the money is not the only concern. "We know that the academy has been dominated by a lot of intellectuals who reject traditional values and sources of learning in the Western tradition," Wilezol said. He urged parents to examine the prevalent viewpoint "that sees Western Civilization or America as racist, sexist, violent, classist."
On the issue of homosexuality, in particular, Wilezol noted "unofficial speech codes." "People are very afraid to take the opposite of a stance like gay marriage," he explained.
He praised the National Association of Scholars' recent report "What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students" as "the most detailed outline there's ever been of a single college." In the report, the authors mark several occasions where students and visiting speakers have been ridiculed and denied funding due to opposition to homosexuality.
Wilezol also praised the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). "Their job is to come up with legal defenses for people who say politically incorrect things on campus," he explained, promoting their website www.thefire.org.
Home schooling provides another solution to higher education problems, the authors said. "The home school movement has proved itself and if you looked at the data you could argue, maybe everybody should be home schooled, if their parents are up to it," Bennett, former Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988, told The Christian Post.
When asked if it can help solve the higher education crisis, Bennett said "yes," because "it exercises upward leverage in performance." Parents care for their children better than teachers do for students, so the personalized help enables children to succeed.
Bennett also mentioned "places that are catering to home school kids, like Patrick Henry College, Hillsdale College, and Grove City College," which "do very well."
Wilezol tempered his praise: "I think home schooling is great for equipping people for college, but home schoolers need to be held to the same academic standards."
When asked if Congress should push education reform as well as immigration reform, the author suggested more personal alternatives. "It's more on the individual level where most reform can happen," he explained.
"You're starting to see that now with school choice, with home schooling, people choosing to take up alternative education models." This bottom-up reform, rather than top-down legislation, may prove the solution to ballooning costs and declining returns.