Someone once said that it's hard to make predictions, particularly when they involve the future. I don't remember who said it. But I think I read it when I was in college. If I had known then that I would use it in this article 25 years later, I would have made a note to remember who said it. But in a way, that makes my point, doesn't it?
To be honest, I didn't work that hard in college. But then again, I didn't have to. I went to college during less competitive times. Particularly for white males. I recently went back to my alma mater, Harvard, and it seemed that almost a quarter of the students were Asian or Asian American. "They've got to stop admitting these people based on merit," I thought to myself.
Diversity is an admirable goal, and many universities very rightly pride themselves in their multiethnic student bodies. For example, my daughter applied to Duke this year, which stressed in its literature that its student population is 57% Caucasian, 18% Asian, 13% African American, 11% Hispanic and 1% "other."
As it so happens, my daughter is herself 57% Caucasian, 18% Asian, 13% African American, 11% Hispanic and 1% "other" and noted that on her application. If you're good at math, you'll see immediately that my wife is 14% Caucasian, 36% Asian, 26% African American, 22% Hispanic and 2% "other." Which is a good thing, because I think my daughter's genetic background was one of the reasons she was admitted. My guess is that in 20 years, being as racially diverse as my daughter is will be even more advantageous than it is today.
It will also be important to be computer literate. By that I mean, able to use a computer. I predict that in 20 years, it will no longer be necessary or even advisable to bring a typewriter to college. White-out will be a thing of the past, as will carbon paper.
I say this because I have seen what a useful learning tool the computer has been for my children. For example, the Internet. Last year, my 12-year-old son used the Internet to do his sixth-grade report on bestiality. He downloaded some great visual aids, and the rest of the kids just loved them. Kids are great that way. They're just sponges.
Some people believe the computer revolution will change college more radically and even foresee what they call "virtual" college. Conceivably, a student in the future will be able to attend Yale, say, without leaving his bedroom in, say, Keokuk, Iowa. While that may seem like a more "convenient" way to go to college, I would advise against it. College is more than just studies. It's a chance to throw a frisbee in the quad, to root on your school team, to argue during late night "bull" sessions in the dorm about philosophy, politics or the recent suicide of a fellow student.
Of course, college will be more expensive in 20 years. Assuming the current rate of academic inflation, tuition and room and board at the best private college in 2019 will cost nearly $70,000 a year. However, if inflation spins out of control, like it did in Germany during the 1920s, that figure could easily go as high as $70 million. Per year!
That would make financial aid even more important than it is today. Finding $280 million to go to college will be difficult for most families, and students will have to be resourceful. A couple million here from your local Rotary Club, a couple million there from the Kiwanis, plus a $30-million low-interest loan, and pretty soon you're in business.
As the college admission process becomes more competitive there will, of course, be increased pressure on high school students to score higher and higher SAT's and GPA's. This could lead to some very disturbing trends. Sexual harassment may well become a huge problem in AP calculus classes in our most affluent high schools. And pushy parents in the same communities may feel the need to hire live-in SAT coaches once their children enter nursery school.
As if all this pressure isn't enough, kids applying to college in 2019 may well have to compete with older applicants who will be part of the "continuing education" trend of the 21st century. Economists predict that workers will change jobs every two or three years and will have to go back to school to learn new skills.
It is conceivable that an 18-year-old president of the high school drama club may have to compete for a place in the class of 2023 with her own childhood SAT coach, a 47-year-old father of three who has also been a sexual harassment attorney, and wants to become a grief counselor for families of students who have committed suicide.