College has always been a mark of social distinction; it has recently become a prerequisite for even moderate-salaried jobs.
Because of this development--and despite the inevitable variation in college standards--the attempt to grant a multitude of degrees in higher education should not be disparaged. College is increasingly an economic necessity and should be within each of anyone who merits it.
Unfortunately, however, America's educational resources become less adequate yearly. The war babies are growing up, and it is estimated that by 1970 college enrollment will have doubled.
To relieve the pressure on present institutions and to take care of the expected influx, the number of accredited colleges will have to increase. Some states are expanding their accredited facilities quickly--New York and California, for example. But these are the exception. Neglect of unaccredited institutions in other areas makes Federal aid a necessity.
Federal aid to education has been traditionally resisted by the states for two reasons--fear of Federal control and the problem of equitable administration. Direct Depression grants for building schools, however, show that aid need not mean control; and an independent commission for administering the money would minimize the possibility of making grants a political football. Objectivity would be further assured by the appointment of educators to study each institution before aid was granted.
The difficulty in obtaining teachers good enough to enable these colleges to gain accreditation will, however, be acute. The low Depression birthrate--disregarding the many discouragements to entering teaching--is enough to insure insufficient teachers to meet the war baby deluge.
Some decline in the level of faculty in accredited schools will have to be accepted. To gain national accreditation, a school must have a certain percentage of M.A.s and Ph.D.s on its faculty. Clearly, there will be a minor raid on teachers with the necessary requirements, probably upon those unacceptable to the great universities. The decline will thus not affect the highest level of American education.
Marginal institutions do not offer--nor do most of their students wish--a rigorous four-year program. College to them is solely a means to vocational advancement. To give more students greater economic opportunity, there will have to be a pooling of faculty resources at this marginal level.
To pool mediocrity is not a panacea. It is not a simple way out of a complex situation. But Federal money and faculty realignment will help to solve a problem that cannot be ignored by a nation which invests twice as much in autocars as education.