From the 1940s, with the introduction of the G.I. Bill, through the 1970s, with the creation of Pell Grants, the federal government and states transformed American higher education from a bastion of privilege into a path to the American dream. But in the years since, this progress has stopped, and in fact, reversed itself. Instead of facilitating upward mobility, our higher education system is now exacerbating inequality.
Over the past 30 years, the purchasing power of Pell Grants has plummeted, college prices have skyrocketed, states have been divesting from their public colleges and universities, and students are taking on more debt than they have ever before. Only one out of ten of the country's lowest-income students earn a bachelor's degree by the age of 24, compared to three out of four of the wealthiest students.
What's gone wrong and who's to blame? In a new book, entitled Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream, Cornell University political scientist Suzanne Mettler argues that the demise of opportunity through higher education is, fundamentally, a political failure. Our landmark higher education policies have ceased to function effectively, and lawmakers — consumed by partisan polarization and plutocracy — have neglected to maintain and update them, writes Mettler, a fellow at The Century Foundation.
New America Foundation's Education Policy Program and The Century Foundation invite you to join us on March 27 for a discussion with Mettler and a panel of experts about the book and what the government can do to ensure that colleges continue to provide a gateway to opportunity, rather than perpetuating inequality by limiting access to only those who are rich enough to afford it. Register here.
This event is over. If you missed it live, you can watch the video below.