American College Education: Solution Or Scam?

student property

Over the course of his re-election campaign president Obama repeated his belief that a college education represented young people’s entry to the middle-class and career stability. Within the Black community, Obama’a pleas fell upon receptive ears. In many Black households, acquiring a college education is non-negotiable. Black people traditionally place great value in post-secondary education, and for good reason. In the past, college education provided Black people a degree of status in addition to general escape from poverty and social immobility. Recent research on the matter however, raises a number of disturbing issues that force us to seriously reexamine our traditional view of college education.


First we have the issue of exorbitant college costs leading to staggering educational debt. Next , it appears that  U.S.colleges’ educational quality is decreasing and students graduate far less academically competent and accomplished than their older siblings and parents were.

Shocking Statistics 

  1. Even after adjusting for inflation, the  American college student today borrows two times as much money for school as they did 10 years ago.
  2. The cost of college textbooks has tripled over the past decade
  3. Student loan debt in the U.S. exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the U.S.
  4. According to the report “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses According to the book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” U.S. college students spend 24% of their time sleeping, 51% of their time socializing and 7% of their time studying.
  5. 35% of U.S. college students polled reported that they spend 5 hours or less studying per week.
  6. Less than one-third of college graduates are proficient in basic reading and mathematical skills, and literacy levels have dropped significantly among college graduates from 1992-2003.

And this represents the proverbial “Tip of the iceberg.” We also have hundreds of sub-par and overpriced community colleges and technical programs that chronically fail to prepare or place students in jobs upon graduation, yet charge tuition prices comparable to much better 4-year institutions! Students of color across this  nation believing a college education necessary for better pay and mobility, ultimately pay more than other students and receive less academic or professional benefit. We trivialize the issue by using references to low-performing” or “under-achieving.” The situation I described is nothing short of criminal and we should view it as such. Administrators, faculty and advisors receive pay and perks but fail to deliver for our youth and as described previously, lock them into serious debt long after college ends. Some of these institutions should have their accreditation revoked and be closed immediately. Some of the professionals responsible for this should face jail time for defrauding the public.

Suggestions for us

Perhaps we parents should become better informed so our children avoid the college scam. Maybe we must force a better system of evaluating these schools and create stiff penalties for negligent and fraudulent educators. Certainly it should be illegal for community colleges and technical programs to  have Ivy-league tuition and fee scales. and WE BLack people must force others to respect our time and money by refusing to eat from the garbage can of academia – the very thought is insulting!

Additional References

No Sucker Left Behind: Avoiding the Great College Rip-off by Marc Scheer

The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History and How We Can Fight Back, by Alan Collinge

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Josipa Roksa


Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at

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