College: Will it be the new wealth-class divider that it was in the 1950s and before?

By College Advice

Harry Sedgwick spent his last years in Old Lyme.  A successful businessman but perhaps better known as the father of Kyra Sedgwick or for those who are keep tabs on “old money” families part of the Sedgwich clan that has been here since the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Through a friend, I got to know Harry a bit.  At our first lunch, he mentioned that he went to Harvard and then continued but I was a terrible student.  I believe he said he had undiagnosed dyslexia.  Regardless, his high school grades were terrible and even though he attended Choate, he was clearly not Harvard material based on merit.   But back in his day, the wealthy attended top colleges and so he did.

My note about the dividing line that may be occurring today does not related to admission to top colleges through connections but rather just attending college.

It’s become fashionable to bash college and for all sorts of good reasons.

The main good reason: it’s too expensive.


But… as I have now developed our high school to college (or not college) to career programs and am working with numerous students who have tried alternatives to college (often a mixed reason related to cost and motivation), I can say with absolute certainty that the work world is not kind to 18-22 year olds.

Those rare outliers who start successful businesses instead of going or finishing college are so rare that outside of those in news stories I can’t think of anyone I know – and I know a lot of 18-22 year olds through my work! – who have done so.

The better options – the trades (particularly plumbing) and the military – are often dismissed when I suggest each route to our suburban Connecticut clientele.

So what has college become? In addition to the many legitimate good things (meeting new people, career development, an experiential process that  turns adolescents into adults), it has also created a not so good development: instead of the equalizer that it has been since perhaps the 70s giving the middle class a chance for upward mobility, it has also become a class divider: “could your parents afford sending you to college?”

I hope this trend does not continue.