I mostly blame high school guidance counselors for our current confusion about college.
Don’t get me wrong, most counselors are fine, well-intentioned people. When I was a recruiter for the Marines in the mid-1990s I met dozens of them and appreciated the work they did. But as a group they tend to have a more-or-less unstated mantra: All kids should go to college.
If a high school student expressed a very strong interest in the military or trade school (or was in danger of dropping out of school altogether), they might encourage them to follow those paths. But for the most part, every student—even the ones barely able to pass their high school curriculum—were encouraged to go to college.
Nowadays that mentality seems to be shared by a majority of parents and politicians. It’s taken to such an extreme that Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, wrote on Twitter:
Providing a path for kids to go to the University of Iowa is a hell of a lot cheaper than providing them a path to go to jail. #iacaucus