Thursday, June 26, 2014

A look at the higher-ed crisis

Is American higher education failing, a victim of ridiculously high costs and an inability to educate students in ways that justify increasingly obscene outlays of money? Director Andrew Rossi tries to cover the entire waterfront of higher education in his documentary The Ivory Tower, a film that functions as a primer on the troubled state of American higher education. A large canvas leaves Rossi's film feeling a bit diffuse. At the same time, Rossi probably spends too much time on Cooper Union, the esteemed free college in New York City that recently began charging tuition. (The story of Cooper Union could have been a documentary all its own.) Still, Rossi hammers home the main points involving what justifiably can be called a higher-ed crisis. The movie's most stunning fact: The total amount of U.S. student debt has topped $1 trillion. Rossi hints that the proliferation of technologically-based education may hold some promise, but I got the impression that the entire system is headed for collapse. Will the fate of universities mirror that of newspapers, meaning that a few major institutions will survive while many others fall by the wayside? Will on-line education help lower costs? I didn't come away with many answers, but my heart broke for parents who must find ways to keep their kids running on the education treadmill.

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