College For...All/Some/Most/Few? Redux

Great new report from Bellwether and College Summit. 

I think it's must reading for college counselors in particular, as well as all teachers and leaders in "College Prep" high-poverty schools.  Report opens with:

It’s fashionable to question whether it’s really “worth it” for students who are at the margins both academically and financially to go to college. But, while the conversation continues at an abstract level about whether high school students should be focused on “college or career,” students are, one-by-one, all across the country, quietly making their own decisions, and they are choosing college.

In Smart Shoppers: The end of the “College for All” debate? from J.B. Schramm, Chad Aldeman, Andrew Rotherham and Rachael Brown, the authors point out that, thirty years ago, half of all U.S. high school graduates went to college (meaning any form of postsecondary education that leads to a degree or credential), and the other half went directly into the workforce. But today, seven out of ten high school graduates head to college, while only three enter the workforce.

Over time, as more students have attended and completed higher education, experts have repeatedly predicted this would create an over-abundance of college-educated workers. Under this theory, a glut of over-educated workers would struggle to find jobs and depress wages for everybody else. But the exact opposite has happened.

The question often gets framed in a moral way.  Who gets to tell kids if they should or should not go to college?  At what age should someone be steered towards it or away from it?  Is it "good" to go to college? 

The authors recommend some practical stuff. 

do a better job of educating students about their options on which college they should attend, which degrees they should pursue, and how they should pay for it. These aren’t arguments against college writ large but rather for thinking differently about college and preparing students to be smart about selecting the right institutions, taking on a manageable debt burden, and finishing their degree.

I don't think most No Excuses charter schools have grappled well enough with this.  I know Match has tried hard but we'd be first to say we have a long way to go. 

That middle rec in particular -- the manageable debt burden.  Almost certainly that implies 2 things -- sometimes choosing state colleges over private colleges, and sometimes choosing community colleges (for first two years) over state colleges.  A blind spot for No Excuses schools is we draw our teachers from elite colleges, we name classrooms after those colleges, and as a result, we may extrapolate too much from our own experiences towards "maximize the name brand value of your university irrespective of cost." 

Previous blogs by me about this question are here.