Magazine article The American (Washington, DC)

From the Editor

Magazine article The American (Washington, DC)

From the Editor

Article excerpt

Dear Reader:

It's back to school season and this fall over 17 million students have descended on America's college campuses. Undergraduate enrollment has increased by roughly 20 percent over the last decade and is expected to jump by another 10 percent to 15 percent by 2016.

That's good news, right? Maybe not. In this issue's cover story, beginning on page 40, Charles Murray argues that far too many Americans are going to college. Indeed, according to Murray, today's college system may be partly responsible "for the emergence of class-riven America."

To understand how that could be, let's first stipulate the good qualities of the American system of higher education.

Only a nation as rich and devoted to developing human capital as ours would have the ability to make a sustained commitment to higher education. Thanks to generous alumni giving and shrewd capital management, our elite schools are extraordinarily wealthy. The market value of the 20 largest university endowments is over $100 billion. These endowments have helped guarantee the steady increase in spending on students witnessed since the early 1990s. Colleges in the United States now spend over $350 billion a year in an effort to educate young adults.

And U.S. universities are leaders in cutting-edge research and technology development. According to a new report discussed in American Scene on page 10, "The United States accounts for 40 percent of total world R&D spending and 38 percent of patented new technology inventions by ... industrialized nations." We can thank our nations research universities for helping foster a culture that makes such innovation possible.

But there is another, less sanguine way of looking at America's university system and the role it plays in the nations life. Murray argues in his article that the college degree has become a source of class division in America as we have accidentally turned a B. …

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