Since the pandemic began, college enrollment has declined by almost 1 million students. How bad is it? Men attending college are down 10%.
The Hechinger Report, “Another million adults ‘have stepped off the path to the middle class’.”
Prior to World War II, going from high school to college was not the well-worn path it has become today. What changed? The G.I. Bill passed after W.W. II, made college affordable for returning soldiers. The result was to make college education a right of passage for the middle class. In the last couple of decades, that right of passage has become a debt machine that has saddled students with loans, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
That university system is facing another turn in the road, which may be a U-Turn. Since the pandemic began, college enrollment has declined by almost 1 million students. How bad is it? Men attending college are down 10%. That is according to The Hechinger Report, “Another million adults ‘have stepped off the path to the middle class.'” Here is how they put the challenge:
A sharp and persistent decline in the number of Americans going to college — down by nearly a million since the start of the pandemic, according to newly released figures, and by nearly three million over the last decade — could alter American society for the worse, even as economic rival nations such as China vastly increase university enrollment.The Hechinger Report, “Another million adults ‘have stepped off the path to the middle class’.”
What are the causes? There are several:
- Births have been declining for decades.
- Cynicism about higher education has been growing.
- More blue-collar jobs are waiting for graduating high school students.
When I study the situation, I see the high cost of college and the ensuing debt has made college look less like the launch pad for a good life and more like the ball and chain of indebtedness. Throw politics into the mix, and we have a population that questions not just going to college but going to work.
The problem starts in childhood. Today’s children feel the pressure to get into Harvard or Yale when they are younger than five. Private schools require interviews that asses the child and the family to see if they are suitable for that school’s community. Imagine the pressure on the child to get in so Mom and Dad get status, and the child gets a seat on the success train.
Can the toy industry play a role in turning this trend around? After all, the toys we design and sell for children help determine their educational and professional choices. Can we do more?
Actually, we may need to do less. We may be part of the problem, though well-intentioned.
Education has made its way out of the school aisle and into the toy department. Kids are smart enough to know that STEM and STEAM toys are not just toys but another piece of education. They come home from school, go to soccer practice or a chaperoned play date, eat dinner, do their homework, and then play with toys that are secretly part of the educational process.
Can’t we make toys that deliver education without shouting about it? After all, the toy industry has been making toys with educational value since the beginning of toys. We just have not spoken about it. As a child, I loved building with blocks, molding with clay, using a magnifying glass, and looking through a kaleidoscope. They were fascinating and fun and not laden with educational meaning.
What do you think? Can we help? Should we help? What is the solution?