My girlfriend and I both teach college courses. She teaches English and I teach in a STEM field. She has to deal with incoming freshmen who can't write in well-formed, complete sentences--forget about something as simple as composing a five-paragraph essay. My students are juniors in college and get nervous when the work I give them requires them to understand ratios or do simple algebra to solve an equation for a particular variable.
Our secondary education system is horribly, shamefully failing young people today by allowing them to pass courses despite being hopelessly underqualified. In addition, with credential inflation over time, jobs that several decades ago required nothing more than a high school diploma now want four-year degrees as minimum qualifications; and we tell students over and over again that their only chance to go anywhere in life is to go to college. Add to that, the price of college has increased by roughly 800% since 1980, vastly outpacing inflation. So students need loans, and even the government loans are expensive.
Our university is dealing with falling enrollment numbers this year, and the people at the top act mystified about why. They did a survey and found that it's not that young people aren't aware of college (they really thought that this might be the problem), but it's that young people don't see the value proposition that college provides. It saddles them with $50,000+ in debt while keeping them out of the workforce for 4-5 years, and in exchange they get a somewhat better chance to get hired for a variety of white-collar wage-slave jobs that they have to keep no matter what because if they become unemployed, they won't be able to pay for the loans (which are generally immune from being discharged in bankruptcy). Who would intentionally choose that life?
So, anyway. Yes, it seems that both the quality and quantity of incoming freshmen is falling, and since the state has decided that funneling money to private prisons is way more important than education, it leaves the university to try to make up the difference. Which they do by lowering admissions standards and trying to drive up enrollment so they can cash in on tuition as a way to prop up the budget. Which just makes the whole system shittier in a grotesque feedback loop.
The university just released its draft strategic plan recently. I'm being completely serious when I say that the enrollment goals section basically reads 'Our enrollment this year is -2%. Our goal for next year is 0%. The year after that is +3%. And our ten year goal is +50%.' Right now, our enrollment is trending down, but their 'plan' is to increase enrollment by 50%. It's a fantasy. Oh, and by the way, one way that they intend to implement this miracle enrollment increase? 'Modify curriculum and instruction as needed to increase enrollment and graduation success.' Is there any other way to read that than, 'Dumb college down so far that any halfwit can get in and make it through'? When we're done, will there be any value at all in a degree from our school? And other schools are going the same way...
Sorry. I got carried away.