Article Club
Article Club
#427: “It’s the inequality of higher education that makes me mad.”

#427: “It’s the inequality of higher education that makes me mad.”

An interview with Paul Tough, author of “Saying No to College”

Welcome, new subscribers, and welcome back, loyal readers! I’m happy you’re here.

Today’s issue is dedicated to an interview with Paul Tough, the author of “Saying No to College,” January’s article of the month.

Published in The New York Times Magazine last September, the piece explains the significant shift in Americans’ views on the value of college over the past decade. Whereas in 2010, when nearly all families wanted their children to attend college, now only half do. And 45 percent of Gen Z says a high school diploma is sufficient to “ensure financial security.”

What explains this trend — this darkening mood about college? Two things, Mr. Tough explains:

  • There’s a difference between the college wage premium and the college wealth premium. In other words, you’ll make more money if you graduate from college. But that doesn’t mean you’ll become more well-off.

  • Going to college is a little like going to a casino. If you graduate, you’re largely good (unless you pay full price at NYU and get a Humanities degree). But if you drop out, and you’ve got debt — that’s another story.

There’s much more in the article, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to do so — and to join our discussion if you’re intrigued. We’re meeting on January 28 from 2:00 to 3:30 pm PT.

Join our discussion

I got a chance to interview Mr. Tough (again!) last week, and it was an honor. If you’re a long-time subscriber, you know that Mr. Tough helped get Article Club off the ground. Back in February 2020, he shared his thoughts on “Getting an A,” a chapter from his book, The Inequality Machine. He was generous and thoughtful then. Nothing has changed.

About our conversation: I won’t give everything away, because it’s better to listen, but we discussed a number of topics, including:

  • how there’s a major disconnect between “college experts” and regular American families on the value of higher education

  • how this piece required a different kind of reporting and approach to writing

  • how giving college advice to young people is way more complicated than it used to be

  • how even though there’s “something really wrong in higher education,” our country is doomed if this current trend continues

Most of all, it became abundantly clear in our conversation that Mr. Tough knows what he’s talking about and knows how to write. Most of all, I appreciate his clarity and compassion. Especially if you’re a student, parent, or educator, this is an article that is worth your time and attention.

Thank you for reading this week’s issue. Hope you liked it. 😀

To our 6 new subscribers — including Scott, Hoa, Sammy, Amimul, and Kevin — I hope you find the newsletter a solid addition to your email inbox. To our long-time subscribers (Quincy! Quinn! Quince!), you’re pretty great, too. Loyal reader Wayne, thank you for sharing the newsletter and getting the word out.

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