The woke college implosion – and what comes next
In a famous exchange in “The Sun Also Rises,” Ernest Hemingway wrote, “How did you go bankrupt? asked Bill. « Two ways, » Mike said. « Gradually, then suddenly. »
“Gradually” and “suddenly” apply to the implosion of higher education.
During the “culture wars” of the 1990s, universities were warned that their chronic tuition hikes above the rate of inflation were unsustainable.
Their increasing manipulation of general federal student loan guarantees and part-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants has always been suicidal.
Leftist indoctrination, administrative bloat, obsessions with racial preferences, arcane, jargon-filled research, and campus-wide intolerance of diverse thought have rattled students, further alienated the public — and often exasperated the elders.
Over the past 30 years, enrollment in the humanities and history has plummeted. The same was true for tenure-track professorships. Some $1.7 trillion in federally-backed student loans has only given the green light to inflated tuition fees — and masked the contagion of political indoctrination and watered-down courses.
But imploding « gradually » became « suddenly ». Zoom classes, a shrinking student pool and skyrocketing costs are making the public completely question the college experience.
Undergraduate enrollment nationwide fell by more than 650,000 students in a single year — more than 4% from spring 2021 to 2022, and about 14% over the past decade. Yet the US population continues to grow by about 2 million people a year.
Men make up about 71% of the current student deficit. Women make up almost 60% of all university students – an all time high.
Monotonous professors harass students about “toxic masculinity,” while “gender” studies proliferate. If the plan was to drive the men off campus, the universities have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
The number of history majors has plummeted by 50% in the past 20 years alone. Tenured history positions have shrunk by one-third to one-half at major state universities.
In the past decade alone, English majors at universities across the country have fallen by a third.
At Yale University, administrative positions have grown more than 150% over the past two decades. But the number of professors has only increased by 10%. In a new low/high, Stanford recently enrolled 16,937 undergraduate and graduate students, but lists 15,750 administrative staff — almost individually.
In the past, such costly praetorian bloat would have sparked a faculty rebellion. Not now. The new six-figure “diversity, equity and inclusion” salaried commissioners are feared and free from criticism.
Since 2020, the old proportional representation admissions quotas have turned into weird “restorative” admissions. So-called “marginalized populations” have often been admitted at higher levels than percentages of the general population.
Therefore, “problematic” standardized tests are damned as biased and anti-diversity.
To accommodate the radical re-engineering of diversity, the only demographics deemed consumable are white males. Their plummeting numbers on campus, especially of the working class, are now far below their percentage in the general population — regardless of their grades or test scores.
At Yale, the class of 2026 is listed as 50% white and 55% female. Fourteen percent were admitted as « legacy. » In sum, skilled but poor white men without privilege or connections seem mostly excluded.
The class profile published by Stanford in 2025 claims a “23% white” student body. Less than half of the class is male. Stanford mysteriously does not publish the number of people successfully admitted without SAT tests – but recently admitted that it rejects around 70% of those with perfect SAT scores.
In fact, universities are quietly rejecting test score requirements. Ironically, these age-old standardized tests were originally designed to offer people from disadvantaged backgrounds or less competitive high schools a meritocratic route to elite schools.
At Cornell, students are lobbying for pass/fail classes only and for all grades to be abolished. At The New School in New York, students demand that everyone receive an “A” grade. Dean’s lists and class and school rankings are equally suspected of being counter-revolutionary. Even though the courses are watered down, eligible students still assume that admission should automatically guarantee graduation – otherwise!
Skeptical U.S. employers, to stay globally competitive, will likely soon administer their own hiring tests. They already suspect that prestigious university degrees are hollow and certify very little.
Traditional colleges will seize the moment and grow by sticking to meritocratic criteria as proof of the competence of their valuable graduates.
Private and online venues will also meet a national need to teach courses in Western civilization and humanities – by unenlightened professors who do not institutionalize bias.
More students will continue to seek vocational training alternatives. Some will earn their degrees online for a fraction of the cost.
Alumni will limit donations, place additional restrictions on their donations, or disconnect.
Eventually, even elite schools will lose their current veneer of prestige. Their expensive cattle brands will be synonymous with equal-result and overpriced echo chambers of indoctrination, where therapy has replaced singular rigor and their tarnished degrees become irrelevant.
How ironic that universities are rushing to erode meritocratic standards – history’s answer to the age-old, pre-civilization scourge of tribal, racial, class, elite and insider prejudice and bias that ultimately insure poverty and ruin for all.