REVIEW: Ivory Tower

11 12 2014

Ivory TowerFull disclosure: I watched “Ivory Tower” fully hoping its thesis was wrong, for my and my parents’ sanity.  I have one semester left in college, and had Andrew Rossi’s documentary proven that it was not worth the price tag … well, finish that sentence as you will.  (And I attend a private university, so the cost is considerably steeper.)

Still, it is nonetheless a topic that needs debate and discussion.  Costs have really spiraled out of control, and the college education that serves as the cornerstone of the American dream of self-advancement may eventually grow out of reach for many families.  Frighteningly, the price of college tuition has increased more than any other service in the United States.

There are plenty of threads a documentary on the contemporary university could follow, and Rossi really makes an attempt to follow just about all of them.  This proves somewhat detrimental to “Ivory Tower” in the long run as it provides a broad overview of the problems at the expense of a pointed conclusion.  Such an approach increases knowledge but discourages action.

Some topics, like the newly imposed tuition at the previously free university Cooper Union, receive an unduly amount of attention.  Since this is such an isolated case, too, it seems like an ill-advised use of precious time.  Issues like the impending student debt bubble collapse, or the false promise of supplemental online education, or even the rise of successful entrepreneurs without a college diploma feel like far more pressing concerns.

Still, this documentary packs enough punches to prompt some decent thought afterwards.  While “Ivory Tower” may lack the streamlined clarity of Rossi’s last non-fiction film, New York Times inside-look “Page One,” it raises many valid concerns that are likely to resonate with a much larger group of stakeholders.  B2halfstars

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