Perhaps the biggest backer of the “college for everyone” movement is the Lumina Foundation. It spends lots of money pushing the notion that what’s holding America back is the fact that a lot of people don’t earn any educational credentials past high school. We’d be much better off if only we had more “attainment.”
Despite their efforts, there is a noticeable trend in the opposite direction. Fewer Americans are choosing college.
In today’s Martin Center article, Erik Gilbert takes a look at what Lumina is up to.
Boasting a $1.4 billion endowment, it seeks to take us to a point where 60 percent of Americans have a post-secondary credential of some sort by 2025. That would mean a 10 percent increase in the number of working-age Americans who have finished some sort of degree. (President Obama announced his determination to reach those goals early in his administration.) That is music to the ears of financially strapped colleges, but how this benefits those additional 20 million students is less certain.
The Foundation advocates dramatic action to raise our college percentage because the country supposedly needs “more talent.” Gilbert is skeptical of this, and even more skeptical that formal education past high school is the best way to develop talent anyway.
To whatever extent we follow Lumina’s advice, the beneficiaries, Gilbert thinks, won’t so much be students as the educational providers. He concludes, “As much as the Lumina Foundation talks about ‘learners,’ the main beneficiaries of its agenda will be people like me who work in and around universities and not the ‘learners.’”