Young adults who question the myth that college is a guarantor of success, will be encouraged by the “success sequence.”

The phrase was introduced by Isabel Sawhill and Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution and has lately been reinforced with a study by W. Bradford Wilcox and Wendy Wang of the Institute for Family Studies.

What the Sawhill and Haskins research revealed is that students have it within their power to virtually guarantee a middle- or upper-class income if they follow three steps.

Those three basics are 1) finish high school, 2) get a full-time job and 3) get married before having children.

Young people who follow all three steps have only a 3% likelihood of living in poverty when they reach young adulthood. And 86% of millennials who put marriage first had incomes in the middle or upper third, compared with 53% who had children before marriage.

The success sequence works for those born into poverty, too — 71% of Millennials who grew up in the bottom third of the income distribution were in the middle or upper third by young adulthood if they followed the three steps.

Among African-Americans, 76% who followed the success sequence achieved the middle class or above, and among Hispanics, it was 81%.

A recent study from the Lumina Foundation ( indicates that among Americans aged 25-64, 52.4% have no more than a high school diploma (though 15.4% of them attended college for a while), 5.2% received a certificate of some kind, 9.2% obtained an associate’s degree, 21.1% received bachelor’s degrees and another 12.2% also earned graduate degrees.

College is not for everyone.

Even Americans who graduate with valuable STEM degrees have found their jobs shipped off to places like India.

The same cannot be said for those smart enough to develop skills in well-paying and much-needed skilled trades like plumbers, electricians, mechanics and truck drivers.

In his book, How Rich People Think, researcher Steve Siebold writes, “Many world-class performers have little formal education, and have amassed their wealth through the acquisition and subsequent sale of specific knowledge.”

Given the evidence that college is not necessarily the key — much less the only key — to a viable and financially rewarding career, parents and other caring adults would do well to encourage young adults to consider all of their available options.

That said, as a society, we are still left with the need to address the pressing issues inherent in Leftists’ overwhelming control of most of academia.

In a recent article titled “From Icon to Just a Con” (, retired professor Victor Davis Hanson eloquently chronicles the overall transformation and decline of the collegiate culture and outcomes — specifically as it relates to non-STEM subjects — as Leftists gained control and rapidly lowered both educational standards and content.

He wrote, “Politics increasingly infected courses as competence eroded …. Across the curriculum, race, class and gender studies found their way into art, music, literature, philosophy and history classes.

“Deduction now replaced the old empiricism. Grades inflated; the therapeutic triumphed over the tragic as how students felt was almost as important as what they learned and knew.”

As a direct result of the resultant academic degradation inflicted by Leftist control of colleges, Hanson observed, “When old rules and norms could not be met, they were eroded on the principle that such discriminatory constructs should never have been established ….”

Leftists fundamentally transformed colleges from institutions of relatively objective higher learning that taught students to think rationally and prepared them for productive careers into anti-conservative bastions of intolerance.

Hanson wrote, “New progressive doctrines insisted that because the traditional elements of American society and culture — the family, church, community and government — were biased, the university was needed as a counterweight to these nefarious conservative forces.

“Thus, the university could and should itself become prejudicial and openly propagandistic — a legitimate way of offering “balance” to the various institutional forces that brainwashed young Americans with conservative doctrines.”

He observed, “Universities emulated the ethos of loan sharks and shake-down businesses ….

“The federal government backed student loans. That guarantee greenlighted cash-flush universities to pay inter alia for diversity czars, assistant provosts of “inclusion” and armies of woke aides and facilitators, to reduce teaching loads, and to open more race/class/gender “centers” on campus — by jacking up college costs higher than the rate of inflation.

“Student debt soared. Almost anyone could be admitted to college on the assurance that loans and “assistance packages” would allow 18-year-olds soon to become university graduates — and not worry about paying for their new noncompetitive majors until later.

“In a just world, the exempt university would have been subject to the same rules of lending forced upon car dealers, credit card companies and mortgage lenders.

“That is, teenagers would have been apprised in writing of exactly what their monthly loan payments would be upon graduation, what were the exact rates of graduation from a particular school and at what total cost and in what typical time frames.

“The employment rate of various majors and the resulting average compensations would have been available to students to weigh carefully before they signed their 20s and 30s over to the universities.

“Students would be given a break-down of university expenses and itemized bills on a per capita basis.”

When assessing the current state of academia, Hanson concludes, “… In sum, the damage that the modern university has wrought has now outweighed its once-positive role ....

“One’s 20s are now redefined as the lost decade, as marriage, child-rearing and home buying are put off, to the extent they still occur, into one’s 30s.

“Bitterness abounds when graduates gradually learn that their liberal anti-capitalist professors and administrators were part of a profit-rigged system by which peasant students became financial cannon fodder ….”

Hanson’s prescription for curing the ills of academia includes mandatory exit standardized tests to calibrate and verify the value of college degrees; get government out of the college student loan business and make colleges responsible for ensuring repayment;

Require colleges provide incoming students with full financial disclosures; enact taxation of colleges’ mega-endowments; replace tenure with contracts of performance;

Enable teacher credentials based on subject matter expertise (e.g., math, history, English) versus education department; minimize administration; and redirect a large percentage of students to apprenticeships and vocational training.

Hanson is pessimistic real solutions are forthcoming as he states, “The chance of reform? Zero.

“Indebted students, many with largely worthless degrees and few employment opportunities sufficient to repay their loans, have become a loyal progressive constituency.

“How odd that an entire generation, in psychologically and financially suspended animation, is seen as useful by the very politicos who created this labyrinth of exploitation in the first place.”

Though Hanson may well be correct in his prognosis for success, Americans should not just roll over and cede Leftists free rein to continue to use academia as the devil’s playground.

We must push back against the Leftist lies, warn students who do choose the college option of the hazards they will face, and work with our elected representatives to curb and defund Leftist abuses.

It will be a long battle, but one worth the fight.

In the meantime, we would do well to remind the younger generations of Siebold’s conclusion, “Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.

“Decide today to become a lifelong student and take control of your own self-education.”


ARTHUR SMITH of Paris is a member of the local Volunteers for Freedom Tea Party. His email address is

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