Steve Jobs, billionaire co-founder of Apple and Pixar; Bill Gates, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corporation; Walt Disney, billionaire animator; and Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and the youngest billionaire in the world.
These are the names of four of the richest men on the planet and not one graduated college with a degree in hand. Andrew Rossi’s documentary Ivory Tower – featured in the Human Rights Arts Film Festival contemplates the real value of an American college education and ponders this question, is it worth it?
Student debt in the United States ticked over one trillion US dollars in 2014, as some students are forced to pay tuitions of USD$100,000; graduates are struggling to find jobs cleaning toilets, let alone their dream jobs.
We are shown how pass rates at the California State University plummeted to 15 per cent because the majority of students are failing to graduate.
Ivory Tower highlights this counterproductive cycle: students pay thousands of dollars to get a college education, get a degree, and get a job just to pay off their debt.
The film looks into the true stories of students suffering from the capitalist enterprise which has become college education in the United States. Some argue it’s ultimately “riskier” to go to college as they face the risk of being jobless and broke. “I majored in debt,” one student says.
Taken on a tour of colleges across the United States we see the range of education options available to American students, from Harvard to Stanford to community colleges and online courses.
Rossi paints college education as a death trap masked by “prestige” campuses appearing like “mini cities”. These are cities with everything from swimming pools to frat houses, everything but a place to learn.
The documentary argues how these corporatized academies care more about having pristine walls than a flawless education, even though it’s the inside that counts.
Ivory Tower forces us to ask if college education in the United States and the world has a cultural assumption of being a modern necessity. It’s challenging, eye opening and a stark reality to students and parents considering higher education, which comes at a sky-high cost.
3 / 5 stars.
The Ivory Tower is screening at the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival in Melbourne on May 19, more information available via the website. We have two