You don't need another babysitter.
The recent political spectrum has driven politicians to push for free college education. Candidates such as Bernie Sanders made a big splash in the presidential race claiming that everyone deserved a free college education. There are three problems with this scenario: if everyone has a college education, the value of that degree drops dramatically (to almost zero) as applied to the workforce; rising enrollment includes rising costs; we are studying areas which would yield greater outcomes if studied on your own (while you’re a part of the work force). These combinations create a social environment where students are on their own for the first time in their lives, must navigate complex social situations of people with vastly different cultures, and in many cases these students have no idea what alternate utility their choice to attend college could have on their lives. They find themselves in a second nanny state where they believe they’re finally on their own to make their own decisions but now demand faculty and staff attend to their every need.
I have an arts degree in Instrumental Music Performance. As far as marketability is concerned, this is one of the worse diplomas you could find yourself with - especially if you took on massive debt to achieve it (which many of my classmates did). The market value of this degree is that I can teach and be recycled back into the academic environment. No potential employer cares that I have a music performance degree - they want to know that I can perform. I learned plenty in college, some of it was useful but most of it was not. In fact, after leaving college I spent three years in Las Vegas where I learned more about my craft from other performers and trial and error than I ever learned in college. Since performance was my desired career path, I would have been much better off working and performing at night (which is what I did in Las Vegas), to network with other performers and not have to waste my time with all the fluff curriculum that colleges make you take today.
The most frequent argument I hear in response to this is that “We need students to value education intrinsically.” One problem we have in academia is this notion that knowledge for knowledge’s sake is good: it isn’t. It’s masturbation. If you are not gathering knowledge to better yourself through new skills, higher understanding of the environment you live in, or to be more competitive you are wasting your time.
We cannot value things intrinsically as a means of self satisfaction - just like hedonism it’s only satisfying temporarily. The real value in education comes from how you can use it. People value knowledge differently for different reasons and this is the problem with one size fits all education from the ground up. We should not be punishing our children for having preferences. We need to allow them to have the satisfaction of failure that leads to success. College is an enormous net to forstal failure; without failure there can be no success.
The units/credits required for graduating have increased over time due to budgetary and political competition within the ivory tower. Departments receive their budget based on the number of students enrolled: this is why math departments do so well. They have a giant lecture hall that they stuff 230 students into that every student on campus has to be a part of. This helps generate a tremendous amount of money for the department to go towards their much smaller graduate program. Every other department is vying for a piece of this pie as they lobby administration to add one of their classes onto the general education requirements. There isn’t any reason that an civil engineering major should have to take a basic instrumental music class unless he does so voluntarily but college degree requirements have inflated so much that it has become nearly impossible to complete the required course work in four years. This leads to more student debt spending which feeds the narrative that the state should pay for college.
Students in secondary education today see four possible options upon leaving high school: Join the military, follow the trade path of a parent, follow a college path towards a desired trade, or go to college because they don’t know what else to do. The bulk of our student population is falling into this last category because it is the only thing we talk about in high school. The fact that colleges accept Undeclared majors is a sign of what a clown show it has become. These are supposed to be bastions of learning for motivated individuals who are dedicated to their subject matter - instead they have become attention seeking factions vying for the minds of lost youth desperate for the money and political power that comes from getting warm bodies into chairs. Colleges have stopped giving students a product that they want - they offer a series of hoops that they can jump through to receive a diploma that society claims that they need.
This extension of adolescence is not caused by college but merely the result of it. Our daycare-nation has provided children with a perspective that they are a burden on their parents. That children are not worth having because doing so would limit their own life’s potential. That along with a decrease in real opportunities for secondary education students to take has allowed children to delay any sort of responsibility, of failure, that would result in growth into adulthood and eventually to success.