Is Higher Education a Dying Institution?

This week, US colleges no longer advance free speech principles, higher education may be dying, and most people’s career paths are “non-linear.”

The news within the last week or so has been oddly dominated one theme: free speech issues on college campuses. This has been a hot topic for quite some time. However, it is far from a widely-recognized, top-tier political issue. This could change based on current political trends.

When you combine the scrutiny directed at colleges who engage in acts of campus censorship with the diminishing learning outcomes experienced by students and noticed by employers, one must ask: Is the traditional college model dying? We explore. 

Read more about this in the Deep Dive Section of this Newsletter.

In the News

Shocking Video: Another speaker on a college campus was berated and heckled by students. This time the students were joined by a campus administrator. (UK Daily Mail)

  • The free speech advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) sent an open letter that was critical of Stanford Law School. (FIRE)
  • Stanford’s student newspaper called on the campus administrators to fire the academic dean who advanced the heckling of a Federal judge who was invited to speak by a student organization. (Stanford Review)
  • The judge in question has been accused by some of provoking the incident and for using the incident to raise his popularity. (Slate)

Watch the video here.

Increasing Selectivity: “Some white-collar training programs have become as selective as Ivy League universities.” (Wall Street Journal)

  • Recent enrollment in college has declined 15% whereas apprenticeships have increased over 50% according to Federal data.
  • Colleges and universities do still enroll 15 million undergraduate students. There are only approximately 800 thousand apprentices.

Crushing Debt? “No Thank You:” Far fewer high school students are enrolling in higher education. (NBC New York

  • In a trend that was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the percentage of high schoolers who enroll in college is decreasing. 

Could this be a good thing? (Reason)

No Degree Necessary: Earlier this year, newly elected Pennsylvania Governor, Josh Shapiro removed the requirement of a 4 year bachelor’s degree from most state jobs. (

Other News

Paid Time Off is Not Wages: 3 judges on the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that PTO is a fringe benefit, not a part of employee wages. (Reuters

  • The case is known as Higgins v. Bayada Home Health Care and it has implications for employment law because if companies deduct wages from their employees, they can become eligible for overtime.

No Layoffs: One notable tech company has not laid off workers, and it happens to be the richest company in the world. (IT Brew)

Pay Ranges: 44% of US job postings include salary ranges. (Bloomberg)

  • Pay transparency laws may accelerate this trend.
  • This is an increase from 18% 3 years ago. 


Are higher education DEI initiatives ruled by an ideological “orthodoxy?” (Inside Higher Ed)

  • One staff member at California Community College did not have her contract renewed. 
  • She claims that the reason for this was because she questioned ‘anti-racism’ and why “Black” was being capitalized in written communications but not “white.” She also supposedly refused to use the term “Latinx.” 
  • She claims a colleague accused her of “supporting white supremacy.”

The kids are not all right. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

  • Observe the contrast between separate visits to A US University in 2015 and 2019. In 2015, the students were happy. In 2019, not so much. 

A Deeper Dive – US Colleges are Dying

US higher education has been criticized recently for two major reasons: (1) students are not learning as much as they should. This longstanding claim is supported by stacks of evidence, including this renowned measurement of grade inflation. (Stuart Rojstaczer – Blog) The implications of lackluster learning outcomes are severe, especially when costs are astronomical for student loan borrowers. Increasingly, employers also no longer see college achievement as a reliable indicator of ability. (Benzinga)

Although companies continue to see degrees as generally valuable assets in job candidates, they do consider two other factors to be more valuable: skills (43%) and real-world experience (28%). (HR Executive)

“Employers seem to be stuck in a contradictory cycle where they recognize that a degree is not an indicator of job readiness but nonetheless require one as part of their candidate screening process.” 

–  Michael Hansen (Reported by HR Executive)


Further, (2) colleges have become ideologically monolithic. Critics often correctly argue that a liberal, progressive, ideological orthodoxy rules over institutions of higher education. This is problematic, considering that society has widely entrusted these organizations to serve as incubators of human intellect.

Future Trends

These trends are likely to continue until something significant happens to change behavior. Conservative politicians are taking notice as they increasingly place higher education in their crosshairs for what they consider to be activism, or “indoctrination,” rather than a commitment to objective learning.

This scrutiny is likely to grow more politically popular as student loan debt continues to accelerate and the public tires of so-called ‘political wokeness.’ 

If students continue to leave college with a flashy piece of paper that is coupled with little-or-no new knowledge, the trend of decreasing college enrollment can only continue. This model is unsustainable unless something gives. Either costs need to come under control, the learning outcomes need to increase, or the programs need to provide more value to career outcomes.

If none of these are achieved, look for more and more colleges to close down or get bought out by bigger colleges in the near future.

Books Worth Reading on this Important Topic:

Coddling of the American Mind – Co-authored by the founder of FIRE Greg Lukianoff and the founder of Heterodox Academy, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt

A New U – Authored by Ryan Craig

The End of College – Authored by Kevin Carey

Order at least one of these excellent books today! You KNOW you want to. 

What I’m Reading

On the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if You Know How to Use It 

– Seneca 

Anyone who has read the writing of ancient philosophers knows how dense and difficult this sort of reading can be. As a result, even a short essay like this takes a while to get through.

Here is my futile and probably ill-advised attempt to describe this reading in one sentence:

A habit of engrossment and indulgence into emotion comes at the expense of life.

Underwhelmed? Good. Buy the book and read intently. Then you can make your own sentence. Or better yet, you can just become a wiser person than you are now.

Quotes of the Week

“I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.” 

– Barack Obama

“When the university allows speakers like Judge Duncan to be silenced, it sends the message to all in the Stanford community that those who engage in unlawful, disruptive conduct have the power to dictate which voices and views may be heard on campus.” 

FIRE organization in their open letter to Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne

Articles of the Week

Does fulfillment lead to success or does success lead to fulfillment? Perhaps it’s a symbiotic relationship (Molly Fletcher)

How is your Control/Trust ratio? (Tiny Buddha)

People talk about other people’s careers as if they are a straight line. But when they talk about their own, they describe a non-linear path. (Forbes)

From Deep Dive Careers: Defeat the Attention Economy with Your Very Own Focus Chamber

If you’re alive on planet earth, you have likely noticed that companies, organizations, media personalities, and just about everyone seems to be vying for your attention. If you’re feeling distracted, it is time to reclaim your focus. 

One cannot gain traction on anything meaningful in a constant state of distraction.

Other Fun Stuff

These maps may be TERRIBLE, but they are SO much FUN!

The worldwide prevalence of plastic has actually decreased.

Dad Joke of the Week

Dada says: 

 “Yesterday a clown held the door open for me. I thought it was a nice jester.” 

*This post may contain affiliate links. These help financially support the Deep Dive Careers platform.

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