Major: Debt

Students are told from a young age that the only way to get ahead is to go to college. And that’s bad advice, says writer Neil Swidey.

college_bannerEduShyster: You recently wrote an eye-popping report in which you challenge one of our most deeply held beliefs: that, as you put it, *the best route out of poverty runs through the college quad.* Explain.

Neil Swidey: What we have now is a decades-long consensus of advice that we give students, particularly low-income students, and it’s so widespread and accepted that it’s in the ether. Students, from a young age, are told that the only way to get ahead is to go to college, and not just to college but to a four-year college. But when you dive into the data, as I did for this project, what you find is that the low-income students who graduate, and graduate without a lot of debt, are outliers. And the ones who don’t finish are worse off than if they’d never gone to college at all. So we have to ask ourselves what it means when that good outcome we’re encouraging is statistically very unlikely to happen, and the negative outcomes are much more likely. Of course all students should be able to get ahead. But we can’t be giving students aspirational advice that ends up deepening their hole rather than helping them move ahead. Continue reading →