Nov 2019

Students Demanding More Value Would Boost The Impact Of The Years That Matter Most

In his new book “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us,” journalist Paul Tough dishes up a whirlwind of details on the successes and failures of American higher education.

From the resulting back-and-forth with the College Board to Tough’s depiction of a college process that results in deeply disappointing outcomes for far too many students, the book has driven some notable headlines.

As Matthew Chingos documents in his review of the book for Education Next, the book’s lack of a unifying argument or set of solutions reflects the reality that these are hard problems to solve more than a shortcoming of the book. “The final paragraph of the book correctly notes that government alone cannot solve the problems of a decentralized higher education system. Instead, ‘pressure for change has to come from many directions at once,’ from students, parents, educators, and citizens who just have to decide how to pull the ‘levers for change [that] are all around us.’”

Chingos’ observation and Tough’s argument that change must come from many directions at once is a critical one and resonates with arguments that Bob Moesta and I advance in Choosing College, which perhaps provides the coda to Tough’s volume of college twists, tales and travails.


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