What's the deal with college in America?
People still believe in the power of a degree, but it's getting too expensive and making inequality and inequity worse.
Sree’s newsletter is produced w/ Zach Peterson (@zachprague). • I took this photo with two of my favorite professors, friends and mentors, Merv Block & Peter Herford. A reminder to reach out to your mentors and thank them while you can. Otherwise, you’ll regret it one day.
Scroll down for Read Something; Watch Something; and a weekly tech tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob).
🗞 TUNE IN: Our #NYTReadalong this week is w/ Pulitzer-winning former NYT Supreme Court writer Linda Greenhouse - Sunday, 8:30-10 am ET (live or recording). Recent episode: Pulitzer-winning photojournalist Ozier Muhammad. The Readalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This week, Bryan Walsh’s Axios Future had a great roundup of the state of the American university. The headline numbers are not great:
Undergraduate enrollment declined 3.2% this autumn, following a 3.4% drop in 2020, which would represent the biggest two-year fall in at least half a century, according to preliminary data released last month by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
It’s even worse for community colleges, which have seen a 14% drop in enrollment since 2019.
Part of the recent downturn is almost certainly due to the pandemic, but the idea of what post-high school life should look like is also changing. Somehow, it became the norm that going to a four-year school meant, in most cases, some sort of student loan debt. But, look what’s happened to college tuition over the last two decades:
In-state public higher education is getting more expensive faster than anything else. This, combined with the decline in community college enrollment, speaks to a massive loss of opportunity for tens of millions of families and their prospective college grads.
There’s been a distinct public opinion turn against higher education, driven by conservatives (liberals still believe that college is a net good), but I think the political side of this is more of an effect than a cause — and I’ll save that for a later date.
This strikes me as one of those times when the topline data says all that needs to be said. A whole generation of people, now parents themselves, took on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt on the promise that their degree would eventually pay that off and then some. Look at this chart from educationdata.org:
Now compare that with housing prices (from the Fed):
These two things alone speak to far more practical reasons for a drop in college enrollment than any sort of politics. Higher education is more expensive than ever at a time when living what would be considered a “normal” life is ridiculously expensive. A college education typically means a more socioeconomically-secure life, but the current model simply doesn’t work financially for a lot of people.
I’ve had the pleasure to share classrooms with people who are, right this second, making unequivocally positive contributions to society. Seeing them learn, grow, work with their peers to find solutions — the whole thing — is indescribable. I want everyone to have this opportunity.
That’s not limited to the liberal arts. We should make no mistake that the trades can offer excellent pay, great benefits, and (sometimes) a much better work/life balance than information-economy, always-on, digital work. The way community colleges are getting battered now will have a noticeable effect on the economy down the road.
The fact is that the bachelor’s degree became the new high school diploma for wide swaths of the economy — you just couldn’t consider not having it. Nearly $2 trillion of student loan debt later, and still unable to even consider buying a home, it’s no wonder the children of the people who were the first generations to really pay for college are a bit more reluctant to take all of that on. They have watched — and are watching — their parents make thousands of dollars a month in payments and make no headway. “Is this all worth it?” is a very valid question.
This reminds me that a bunch of conservatives has announced the formation of The University of Austin (UATX for short). Looking over the trustees and advisors, I can say one thing for sure: There’s no lack of deplorables in the mix.
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This Thursday, I will be flying to Montgomery, Alabama, to help produce a powerful virtual event. Join me as we reflect on the legendary Southern Poverty Law Center and its enormous impact over the past 50 years and look ahead at what’s to come with SPLC President and CEO Margaret Huang (@MargaretLHuang). Includes remarks from such fab folks as Stacey Abrams, Sen. Jon Ossoff, Rep. James Clyburn as well as a variety of partner organizations, all fighting the good fight. Thursday, Nov. 18, 8-9 pm ET. Get your free tix for this virtual event.
It’s why we invest.
At this year's Armory Square Ventures (ASV) Annual Meeting Reception in September, the ASV community gathered in person after over a year.
To mark the occasion, we invited Buffalo Bills General Manager Brandon Beane to discuss how he has cultivated and recruited an exemplary, beloved professional football team and staff rooted in the Upstate New York region.
We love the ones who play hard through it all, magnificently, year after year, at the north end of New York State in spite of the weather (Go Bills!)
ASV Managing Partner Somak Chattopadhyay (@somakc) interviewed Brandon.
Watch the interview here.
Reading through this story is tough. Today, the NRA is in dire straits — it’s bankrupt, a bunch of current and former officials are under investigation, and it’s a shell of what it used to be. But, its legacy — now clad in a MAGA hat with an arsenal of grifters and right-wing media behind it — lives on.
A word from our friends at India Sweets And Spices
After debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival, Geeta Malik’s acclaimed new film INDIA SWEETS AND SPICES will release in US cinemas on November 19, 2021. This award-winning film stars Sophia Ali, Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain, Rish Shah, Deepti Gupta, Ved Sapru, and Anita Kalathara. Check out the new trailer!
@NewYorkBob’s TECH TIP: Cat S22 Rugged Flip Phone Keeps Things Simple
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.
Sometimes simple beats sophisticated, especially when the latter results in puzzled looks and frequent head scratches. Today’s flagship smartphones have cameras that rival those of DSLRs and processors that support super-fast 5G data, but high-end features sometimes get in the way of simple tasks—like actually making phone calls.
The new Cat S22 ruggedized Android flip phone from Bullitt Group may have been built with construction workers in mind, but is also well-suited for those with hard floors but no hard hats. With a solid, weatherproof and dirt-resistant case built to survive multiple drops and a screen that’s safely protected once it’s closed, the Cat S22 makes for a good option for older users or anyone who likes having access to a real keypad.
Instead of a proprietary operating system and vanilla apps, the Cat S22 comes with Android 11 Go Edition, a slimmed-down version of Android designed for phones with less than 2GB of memory. This allows the phone to run key Google apps like Chrome, Maps, Gmail and YouTube and other apps like Twitter and Spotify.
The Cat S22 is rated as waterproof to 5 feet, which means it won’t drown in a bathtub or kitchen sink, and is designed to survive multiple drops to steel from 6 feet, according to Bullitt Group, which licenses the Cat phone brand from construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. The unit also has an extra-loud speaker for use in noisy situations and a small external display.
While it does have a keypad, the Cat S22’s 2.8-inch display is a glove- and wet-finger-friendly touchscreen protected by durable Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The unit also offers smartphone features like front and back cameras, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless connectivity and it can be used as a mobile hotspot. The $234 Cat S22 is available only via T-Mobile.
Something on the Economy
The Great Resignation seems to be the settled language on how we’re talking about the job market right now, but maybe it’s more like The Great Worker Awakening…or The Great Algorithmic Filtering. Whatever we call it, people are not just jumping into jobs, they are more willing to leave their current jobs, and they are being more mindful about work/life balance and how their employer (or potential employer) affects society. Good thread of reporting here from Anna Kramer from Protocol.
Carl Sagan would have been 87 years old on November 9. Dr. Sagan was a man ahead of his time — he knew the climate crisis was coming; he detailed our modern mess of an information economy decades before it came to exist; and, as you see in this segment from MSNBC below, he was very conscientious of the race and representation issues we are in constant debate about today. Carl Sagan was an absolutely amazing person, and the world sorely misses him, even if we don’t realize it.
Odds & Ends
🗞 TUNE IN: Our #NYTReadalong this week is w/ Pulitzer-winning former NYT Supreme Court writer Linda Greenhouse - Sunday, 8:30-10 am ET (live or recording). The Readalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Be sure to check out “She’s On Call” podcast with surgeons Sujana Chandrasekhar, MD (@DrSujanaENT), and Marina Kurian, MD (@MarinaKurian).
👀 Did we miss anything? Make a mistake? Do you have an idea for anything we’re up to? Let us know! Let’s collaborate! firstname.lastname@example.org