TV star Mike Rowe, who for years has waged a one-man campaign to promote roads to success that do not involve high-priced college degrees, said he was “disgusted” with the scandal in which megabucks parents were accused of bribing their children’s way into top colleges.
More than 40 people, including high-profile actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were accused of participating in a scheme in which parents bribed coaches and testing center staff to get their children into elite colleges.
“The cheating is galling, as is the scope of the scandal,” Rowe posted on his Facebook page.
But Rowe said that the desperate attempts to buy success reveal something more fundamentally wrong in American society.
“I wish we were as outraged by the cost of college, as we are by the wealth of the cheaters,” he said. For the 2019-2020 year, for example, the total cost of one year of undergraduate study at Yale University is $72,100, according to the college’s website.
Rowe said the race to do whatever it takes is a symptom of the belief that only a four-year degree can buy happiness.
“You don’t have to be rich or famous to believe your kid is doomed to fail without a four-year degree. Millions of otherwise sensible parents in every tax-bracket share this misguided belief, and many will do whatever it takes to get their kids enrolled in a ‘good school,'” he wrote.
Rowe suggested that the same impulses that led the rich and famous to cross the line exist in millions of Americans who believe it is college or bust.
“Obviously, those who resort to bribery are in a class by themselves, but what about parents who allow their kids to borrow vast sums of money to attend universities they can’t possibly afford? What about the guidance counselors and teachers who pressure kids to apply for college regardless of the cost? What about the politicians and lobbyists who so transparently favor one form of education at the expense of all the others? What about the employers who won’t even interview a candidate who doesn’t have a degree? Where’s the outrage?” he wrote.
Rowe said college is no longer about learning.
“The cost of college today has almost nothing to do with the cost of an education, and everything to do with the cost of buying a credential. That’s all a diploma is,” he said.
Rowe then turned to his core theme, saying diplomas are not documents worth the worship they are receiving.
“(N)one are necessary to live a happy and prosperous life, and none of them come with any guarantees. And yet, the pressure we put on kids to borrow whatever it takes is constant, and precisely why tuition is so costly. It’s also why we have $1.6 trillion of student loans on the books along with a widening skills gap. That’s a bigger scandal, in my opinion,” he wrote.
Elsewhere on his Facebook page, Rowe battled the “persistent perception that I am ‘anti-college.'”
“I’m not. I’m just convinced the best path for the most people is NOT the most expensive path. I’m therefore focused on more affordable ways to learn a useful skill, specifically trade schools and community colleges,” he wrote.
SWEAT Pledge #5 – belief a 4 yr degree is not the best path for the most people. This doesn’t make me anti-college/anti-education. It just makes me suspicious of the persistent belief that a college degree is a ticket to prosperity.
Pledge 5 https://t.co/aHHy7M5Brr via @YouTube
— The Real Mike Rowe (@mikeroweworks) February 19, 2019
In comments to The Washington Times, Rowe described the educational system as having lost its way.
“We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore, and that’s crazy,” he said.
He said vocational education, downplayed in the modern curriculum, should be an integral part of high school.
“If you think about the impact of removing shop from high school, you can’t look at it simply as a budget thing. You have to look at it in terms of, ‘What better message could you possibly send to a kid who’s trying to figure out what’s important than by simply removing the entire discipline from consideration?’” he said.
“That’s what happened when vocational education got pulled out of high school. We made it crystal clear that all of the jobs that votech (vocational-technical school) presaged were not worth having. There’s just no other way to spin it. The jobs that are worth having are the jobs that require the things we’re teaching. And the things we’re teaching, therefore, become the things that are aspirational,” he said.
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