Today’s freshmen are more focused on the financial benefits of a college education than were their counterparts four decades ago. Freshmen now are also more racially and ethnically diverse, harbor higher expectations for the college experience, and are increasingly interested in pursuing graduate degrees.
Today brings another helpful juxtaposition or a set of juxtapositions all set against research into student attitudes done by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angles. Students, this implies, understand that education is both increasingly important and increasingly too expensive. Interestingly, this interest in graduate programs is being met by shrinking Ph.D. programs (“Top Ph.D. Programs, Shrinking“).
It’s not surprising that the humanities are the weakest link in this chain. I suspect that many of these students would be far less concerned about their job prospects if they were not forced to go into so much debt. I am also convinced that the so-called glut of Ph.D.’s, as Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA suggests, is less about demand and more about the dominance of adjunct and part-time positions in university employment.
Are we shaped by the market or do we shape the market? If we allow the market to dominate– letting the push of indentured student debt and poorly paid teachers drive economic development– we get something like the current medical system. If we choose to shape the market to our own interests and desires, we could create an economy in which education is cheap and accessible and college teachers well paid and secure.