Episode #45: Seth Forman on the Middle Class

Peter Wood

Is college a springboard to the middle class? Does student debt make a middle-class lifestyle unreachable? Seth Forman, the managing editor of NAS’s journal Academic Questions, joins Peter to discuss the relationship between higher education and the middle class. (To subscribe to Academic Questions, become a member of NAS here.)

They also touch on the New York Times’ 1619 Project—and Peter asks Seth to comment on what makes a good article for Academic Questions.

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Seth Forman.

2:09 Did Seth grow up with the expectation that he would go to college and join the middle class—and is he one of the “everywheres” or the “somewheres?”

7:30 Seth suggests college is not a springboard to the middle class but a life-preserver for those who are already middle class.

8:52 When did it become an expectation that everyone who wants to be middle class needs to go to college?

14:35 Seth teaches at a community college, and his students face some unique challenges.

22:00 Housing, healthcare, and higher education have become more expensive—the things that the middle class expects to have.

35:00 Seth notes that those who default on their loans after failing to graduate from college have home ownership rates of 3%.

38:19 NAS has advocated for “skin in the game” – that colleges should be partly responsible when their students default.

41:10 If college is just a signaling mechanism, can’t other institutions fill that role too?

48:03 Peter and Seth pivot to the New York Times’ 1619 Project and its fatalistic view of race.

53:58 What is the value of AQ, a quarterly journal, in this fast-moving cyber age?

57:14 What does good academic writing look like? And what makes a good article for Academic Questions?


Anthony Esolen, “Shedding Humanity, Shredding the Humanities,” Academic Questions, Volume 31, Issue 3, 2018.

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