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The Bottom Line from Forbes’ Ten Trends from the 2010s: The Rich are Getting Richer

January 2, 2020

As the 2010 decade came to an end, several articles appeared summarizing trends in everything from movies, to fashion to politics. An article in Forbes by Carter Cordriet offered Ten trends in higher education which can be summarized by one phrase: the rich are getting richer. The ten trends are outlined below:

1) The Varsity Blues admissions scandal cast a pall on elite admissions

2) Struggling private colleges are closing

3) Student debt has doubled

4) For-profit colleges have closed, contracted or merged

5) The number of high school graduates has plateaued and is predicted to fall

6) International student enrollment at U.S. colleges has leveled off

7) Private colleges are increasing discounts

8) Elite colleges are becoming increasingly elite

9) Endowments are up at the richest schools

10) Rich people have pledged bigger donations

An examination of this list illustrate an unsettling trend over the past decade that is unlikely to change unless some kind of policy changes occur at the federal level. A vicious circle is in place whereby the wealthiest individuals will be controlling the elite schools through their donations and access to those schools will be increasingly limited to a vanishingly small pool of students who can afford to attend those schools. Worse, students who are saddled with debt, especially those students who attended the for profit colleges that closed, will have little to show for the money they spent and little chance to accumulate the wealth they would need to provide their children with access to an elite college. The “varsity blues” scandal notwithstanding, children raised in affluence will continue to be the beneficiaries of the largess of the billionaires who underwrite the elite schools while children raised in poverty will face increasing tuitions at state funded colleges.

The rags-to-riches American Dream is predicated on a level playing field. The last decade tilted the playing field toward the top 1%. If the American Dream hopes to survive in the 2020s a tile toward the 99% is needed.

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