HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Why Americans Have Lost Faith in the Value of College: Three generations of ‘college for all’ in the U.S. has left most families looking for alternatives.

For three generations, the national aspiration to “college for all” shaped America’s economy and culture, as most high-school graduates took it for granted that they would earn a degree. That consensus is now collapsing in the face of massive student debt, underemployed degree-holders and political intolerance on campus.

In the past decade, the percentage of Americans who expressed a lot of confidence in higher education fell from 57% to 36%, according to Gallup. A decline in undergraduate enrollment since 2011 has translated into 3 million fewer students on campus. Nearly half of parents say they would prefer not to send their children to a four-year college after high school, even if there were no obstacles, financial or otherwise. Two-thirds of high-school students think they will be just fine without a college degree.

The pandemic drove home a sobering realization for a lot of middle-class American families: “College for all” is broken for most.

Plus: “Of 100 random freshmen enrolling in college today, 40 will not graduate. Of the remaining 60 that earn a degree in six years, 20 will end up chronically underemployed. In other words, for every five students who enroll in a four-year college, only two will graduate and find a job based on their degree.”

Perhaps college was always mostly a positional good, whose chief value was that only a few people could go. When so many people could go, it lost its value.

If only there had been some sort of warning.