Op-Ed: Higher education as a path out of poverty is now more myth than reality

A student walks on the campus of Los Angeles City College.


JAN. 29, 2023 3 AM PT

A conspicuous economic divide in the U.S. has persisted between workers with college degrees and workers without them. Social policy since World War II has been built on the idea that people from disadvantaged backgrounds can cross that divide by completing college. Though this once seemed possible, for many it now feels more like a myth.

Using a college degree to earn a higher salary and climb ladders of economic mobility is not as easy as it once was. Instead of alleviating inequality, higher education too often deepens it. We need to admit that, on its own, higher education is not an adequate solution to poverty.

Historically America has relied on higher education as an engine of opportunity, and it has been an important driver of social progress and wealth creation. While equal outcomes have never been guaranteed, equal opportunity has been a crucial underpinning of the American dream.

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