Leave it to those UK editors at The Economist! The special report in the March 28 issue: http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21646985-american-model-higher-education-spreading-it-good-producing-excellence is an excellent overview , on a global scale, of the impact of massification of the higher education industry.
While crediting the U.S. and our research university system for launching the globalization of higher ed, they ask the $64,000 question: is it – or has it been – worth the investment of resources? Yes, the “return” on this investment is relatively greater in poorer nations, but, as we know, there is much doubt of late in Europe & North America. I love that they dug up this quote, from an Arthur Miller play, produced in 1946: “Everybody’s gettin so goddam educated in this country they’ll be nobody around to take away the garbage…You stand on the street today and spit, you’re gonna hit a college man [remember , it’s 1946].”
As to the real ROI, the report graphs out that the highest return, per average increase in earnings for every additional year of college is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa – better than 20% (whereas it is more than 10% in high income nations).
Among the notable quotes in this essay is this one, by Jefferson, who, in proposing to reform the curriculum at William & Mary College, said: it [the curriculum] should nurture “those talents which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as the rich, but which perish without use, if not sought for and cultivated.” This is a wonderful lead to the section which, needless to say, suggests that our higher education system, to date, has failed at boosting the chances of our disadvantaged citizens to reap the benefits in an equal way with others in our society…
Do you not agree with the judgment that, “America’s universities are failing to deliver equity. People are prepared to pay through the nose to buy advantage for their children, so top institutions charge ever higher prices and acquire ever more resources, while those [colleges and universities] at the bottom get less.”
As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “And so it goes…”