HIT Piece 5.31.2016

Seth Godin made a good point: “In any failing system, the people at the top get hurt last.

From schools to students, higher education is playing out this maxim before our eyes in the US right now.

The schools at the top in the US—Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, and even second-tier, state schools like the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota (where I used to work)—are doing fine in terms of enrollment, prestige, status, and the other markers of being “at the top” in a system of higher education that’s failing.

Students who can attend those schools, and manage the debt that comes from attaining credentials that aren’t any better than the ones obtained at a third tier school with minimal cost, are also doing fine. They, their families, and their personal finances are “at the top” of attending at, participating in, and paying to a system that’s failing.

Certain racial and ethnic groups who have historically been able to attend colleges in large numbers and who have done so at a swift, continuous generational pace, are also doing fine. They and the generational wealth transfer of knowledge, confidence, and self-esteem that comes from knowing that generations before you attended higher education and did well (i.e. it was the path to financial security and relative prosperity) means that if you choose to participate in the higher education system now, then you are already “at the top” in a status driven system that’s failing.

The people at the top get hurt last.

But if you’re a school, a student, or a member of a racial or ethnic group that was either in the middle, or at the bottom, historically, economically, socially, or by any practical measure that matters, then you are being hurt first by the failing of the higher education system as it was previously arranged.

And the worst part is that, you are almost guaranteed to continue to be hurt as the system (which is failing not because of anything anybody did directly, but because of a series of decisions made steadily and non-maliciously over time) continues to spectacularly collapse into something else where the outcomes aren’t guarenteed, and the vision is cloudy.

This is why, when discussions of higher education, debt, and the inability of credentialing to match employer need, come around to minority groups, women, the poor and working classes, immigrants, and others in this country are in relation to the system that created this problem, pache Mike Rowe, but we need more Hispanic physicists than we do Hispanic carpenters. And we need fewer wealthy scions who birth Ivy league lawyers, and more state school, 1st generation, entrepreneurial wealth builders backed by the 1st college degree  in their household.

The people at the top get hurt last.

My mother went to college. So did my sisters. I went to college, though my father did not. My grandmother on my mothers’ side of the family went to college. My children are going to college.

Yes, the higher education system is failing.

But I am far from being at the top where I am protected in spite of the system failing.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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