College isn’t providing an effective engine of upward mobility for most Americans.
A native of small-town Missouri who excelled at Stanford and Yale Law School, Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, is keenly aware of how higher education can serve as a springboard into the elite and the challenges facing those it leaves behind. But that’s not to say he’s a cheerleader for the higher-education industry. Like many on the right, the senator often speaks of the higher-education sector as a kind of cartel, one that has left America’s non-college-educated majority out in the cold.
At a recent gathering of conservatives, for example, Hawley drew a straight line from the declining economic prospects of non-college-educated workers to a number of social maladies. “Just about any American worker without a four-year college degree will have a hard time in the cosmopolitan economy. Maybe that’s one reason why marriage rates among working-class Americans are falling, why birth rates are falling, why life expectancy is falling. All the while, an epidemic of suicide and drug addiction ravages every sector, every age group, every geography of the working class.”
This divergence of the economic prospects of the college-educated and non-college-educated is hardly a new development. What is new, though, is the growing interest among Republican lawmakers, Hawley included, in doing something about it legislatively. One implication of the senator’s remarks is that Congress ought to be more solicitous of the interests of the non-college-educated, and to that end the senator recently introduced legislation that, according to The Hill, would allow low-income students to use federal dollars currently earmarked for higher education to pursue vocational training.