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Event -- School of Hard Shocks: Should Everyone Go to College?

This forum is hosted by the Urban Institute and Public Agenda.

Thursday, September 17
9:00-10:30 a.m. ET

Jean Johnson, executive vice president of Public Agenda and head of its Education Insights division
Charles Kolb, president, Committee for Economic Development
Robert Lerman, institute fellow, Urban Institute and professor of economics, American University
Paul Lingenfelter, president, State Higher Education Executive Officers
Claudio Sanchez, education correspondent, National Public Radio (moderator)

The road to the American dream has a four-year pit stop on a college quadrangle. This fall, more than 18 million collegians, including 4 million freshmen, will test that axiom amid an agitated economy and rising concerns about college affordability. Meanwhile, several million new would-be workers -- college and high school grads and dropouts -- are fighting for good jobs.

Fifty-five percent of Americans say that college is necessary in today’s economy, Public Agenda polling indicates, up from 31 percent in 2000. But 67 percent believe that not all qualified students have the opportunity to go to college, the highest percentage in the survey’s 15-year history. Fifty-five percent say that higher education is run like most businesses, with the bottom line trumping the educational mission. And, in another Public Agenda survey, only 33 percent of public school teachers say that “virtually all students” are better off going to college; 65 percent believe that many students should take a different career path.

Be part of the discussion as a panel of experts takes on such questions as

• Is higher education for everyone, and, if not, who should go to college? Are there really enough good jobs for four-year college graduates, or are too many consigned to poor-paying, insecure, semi-professional jobs that don’t make use of graduates’ knowledge and skills?
• Should some students be encouraged to pursue two-year or certification programs instead? 
• What are the prospects for public universities and community colleges, given battered budgets and overflowing applicant pools?
• What is the fallout of the “college for success” mindset for K-12 education, parents, and policymakers?
• Are there enough high-quality alternatives to college for young people who don’t want to go or fail to finish?
• Do too many Americans not complete degrees, and should we focus on increasing enrollment, as the Obama administration and others insist?

- Bios (pdf)
- Robert Lerman: Rethinking Preparation for Careers (pdf)
- Paul Lingenfelter presentation (pdf)
- Jean Johnson: Campus Commons? What Faculty, Financial Officers and Others Think about Controlling College Costs (pdf)

Other resources:
- Public Agenda: Life after High School (pdf)
- Public Agenda: Squeeze Play 2009: The Public’s Views on College Costs Today (pdf)
- Robert Lerman: Widening the Scope of Standards Through Work-Based Learning (pdf)

At the Urban Institute
2100 M Street N.W., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C.

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