The numbers say it all: Since 1985, the price of college has increased a staggering 538%. Average student loan debt is approaching $30,000 per grad. And more than 50% of recent grads are either jobless or underemployed.
To many observers—not to mention debt-wracked, struggling graduates—these statistics suggest one thing: Higher education in the U.S. is broken.
So how did we get here, and what can be done to remedy the situation?
To try and glean some possible answers, we chatted with Andrew Rossi, the director behind the new documentary “Ivory Tower.” The film’s premise is certainly apropos: It’s an in-depth investigation into whether a four-year college degree is still worth the cost.
LearnVest: What inspired you to create a documentary on higher education?
Andrew Rossi: After I finished my last film, “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” which looked at the crisis in the newspaper industry and the forces of digital disruption, I wanted to explore another sector that was on the precipice of similar change. And higher education seemed like one that was really ripe for investigation.
It also presented a unique opportunity to challenge my own personal views: I studied history at Yale, and for me, college was such a valuable and rewarding experience. I use a lot of the critical-thinking skills I learned there in my current job as a filmmaker.
And I am the son of immigrants who worked very hard to pay for me to go to school, enabling me to emerge as a first-generation college graduate without any student loan debt.
So, for me, going to college was a 100% win. But I wanted to find out why people like Peter Thiel [co-founder of PayPal] are now offering students $100,000 to drop out [in order to pursue research or launch their own start-ups].