Babies and the University
I hate to agree with Scott Galloway. Not because Galloway isn’t smart, provocative and always interesting. Mostly because Galloway says lots of things about higher ed that are smart, provocative, interesting—and almost always wrong.
In this case, Galloway wrote a piece called “More Babies” that is both not wrong and not about higher ed. However, as a clinical professor of marketing at NYU, Galloway could have argued that colleges and universities need to care about babies, or the lack thereof.
In his piece, Galloway details the causes and effects of declining fertility in the U.S. Put simply, the reason for fewer babies is that kids are super expensive, supports for parents are few and wages have not kept up with housing costs.
Galloway writes, “We need to make a staggering investment in younger generations to provide the means and motivation to have kids.”
Currently, the total fertility rate (TFR) in the U.S., which measures the average number of children women will have in their lifetime, stands at 1.64. Women need to have at least two kids to keep the population from shrinking (net of immigration), as men don’t give birth.
A TFR of 1.64 means fewer workers do all the jobs needed, fewer consumers to keep the economy moving and fewer taxpayers to fund Social Security and Medicare for an aging population.
For all sorts of reasons, I agree with Galloway that the U.S. needs more babies. Or, at the very least, I think people should be able to meet their family goals. It should be possible for all of us to have the family size we desire, be that zero kids or many more.
You may argue with my pro-natalist leanings. It is possible to argue that fewer children are better for society. I’d disagree, but we can have a good conversation.
What can’t be argued is that babies are good for higher education. Babies grow up to be applicants, matriculants and hopefully graduates. Today’s baby is tomorrow’s college student.
Perhaps we can find replacements for the missing babies who will not turn into our future students. Working adults, retirees and global learners come to mind. And we will need to create universities that serve these populations.
But the fact is that fewer babies are bad for the prospects of higher education. The irony is that colleges and universities do too little to encourage the production of our future students. Quality childcare for most university employees is prohibitively expensive. Parental leave is too short. Tenure clocks are inflexible and unforgiving.
Everyone on campus seems to want to talk about artificial intelligence. I want to talk about babies.