Political Education

Higher Education in Transition

Higher Education experienced growth after World War II as returning veterans were able to attend university on the G.I. Bill. Education would help the vets achieve a better life than their parents. Many urban vets moved to the suburbs and started raising their own children- the Baby Boom Generation. When the Boomers reached college age universities experienced explosive growth.

Financial aid such as Pell Grants and MAP Grants (monetary grants specifically for Illinois residents to help pay for college or university) were available for Boomers to pay for a college education that was already affordable. There were so many applicants that some were put on waiting lists. Entrance standards were raised to control enrollment. The Boomers aged past college years and raised fewer children than their parents. Universities were left with a shrinking pool of applicants, ageing infrastructure, rising pension costs, and a decrease in state and federal funding.

The cost of higher education has skyrocketed, leaving students with staggering debt. Because of the economic aspects of higher education, students may not want to incur debt for classwork that may not directly benefit them in employment. Subjects such as foreign languages and higher mathematics may be discarded by students as part of a cost-benefit analysis. Students do not want to go any further into debt than absolutely necessary.

Students may decide to pick off skill sets that help them in their work lives. The traditional college degree is losing its prestige and value in a competitive and costly education market. Today’s students have more options than a traditional university higher education.

There are private enterprises, community colleges, and online opportunities available. In addition to providing sharply focused skill sets, these educational options can help the student to avoid the high cost of university residential living and meal plans.

What do we lose in this systemic education transition? Mainly knoledge subjects such as philosophy, political science, history, literature & rhetoric are sorely missing in today’s political discourse.  Some knowledge of the sciences would help citizens to make decisions on difficult issues like climate change and stem cell research. A well-rounded education is necessary for an informed voting population.

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