With the nation's unemployment rate hovering about 10 percent, recent high school graduates are escaping reality by going to college, and college grads are avoiding reality by entering grad school. The result is that it now takes an M.A. to become a shift manager at a fast food restaurant.
Colleges have stayed ahead of the Recession by becoming business models, where students are "inventory units," and success is based upon escalating profit. Increasing the number of incoming units, class size, and tuition, while not increasing teaching and support staff, leads some colleges to believe they are solvent in a leaking economy. Budgets for academics are decreasing; budgets for dorms are increasing. Enrollment in degree-granting institutions is expected to be about 19.1 million in 2012, an increase of about 25 percent from 2000, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Desperate to destroy their image as places of scholarship, colleges are using the 98.6 admissions criteria--admit almost anyone with a body temperature. Colleges may claim they admit only students with at least a 3.0 grade point average, which at some high schools is about half the student body, but it's likely that students with lower averages aren't recruited because they're already working as lab specimens.
Across the nation, Developmental Education classes are increasing, with some departments now within the Top 5 in the college. For those who don't speak "academicese," that means more students are in college who have basic readin', 'riting, and 'rithmetic problems.
Nevertheless, there are still a few hold-outs among colleges where students actually go to study, develop their minds, and hope to make great contributions to society. This, of course, in a declining economy, is not acceptable.
At Neargreat Tech, when the Admissions department failed to increase enrollment because most high school grads didn't want to be associated with geeks, the President convened a Judiciary Review Board to reduce the college's academic reputation. First in was the class valedictorian.
"Bennish, this is the fifth time this semester you've been caught sneaking into the library. This administration just doesn't know what to do with you."
"Sir, maybe I could increase my community service and read books to the ill and illiterate."
"Why can't you just go to our football games Saturday afternoons, then party and get drunk like a normal college student?"
"Because, sir, we don't have a football team."
"Then start one! If it's as bad as it could be, you'll have an excuse to drink. Next!"
Next in was a student accused of disturbing the peace.
"Rachmaninoff, your advisor says you're a pretty good musician, but you only want to play the classical stuff. We're assigning you to the marching band."
"But, Dean, I play the piano."