Ivory Tower

As tuition spirals upward and student debt passes a trillion dollars, students and parents ask, "Is college worth it?" From the halls of Harvard to public and private colleges in financial crisis to education startups in Silicon Valley, an urgent portrait emerges of a great American institution at the breaking point.


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  • ★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    The senior who first scrawled the words “Thanks Wikipedia!” on their graduation cap in sparkling silver glitter probably intended it as a silly bit of fun. And yet, by the time their take on the tradition appears in Andrew Rossi’s Ivory Tower, it reads less like a cheeky kiss-off to his formative years than it does a damning critique of higher learning as it exists in America today. The student’s joke, of course, is at their own tremendous expense—they’re openly admitting that they spent six figures to learn things that anyone with an Internet connection can learn for free. But Rossi’s scathing (yet seemingly fair) documentary doesn’t just illustrate the institutional ironies of modern education. It also strives to understand why tuition is at an all-time high when knowledge is practically free.

    FULL REVIEW ON THE A.V. CLUB: www.avclub.com/review/ivory-tower-weighs-value-college-against-its-incre-205587

  • ★★★½ review by Am Y on Letterboxd

    This was an eye-opener, though not very balanced in presenting both sides of the picture. The only interviews from pro-college people come from college staff themselves, who of course would support college education wouldn't they? How silly is that. They should have interviewed college graduates whose lives have benefited from their college education. Still, informative, nicely presented, and easy to process, especially for those outside America not aware of how serious the US student loan debt crisis is.

  • ★★★½ review by Jason Panella on Letterboxd

    I think this is a well-made, intelligent primer on the current crisis in American higher education. This is a subject especially important to me—I've worked in higher ed for almost eight years (as both a staff member and instructor), and I have a master's degree in Higher Education (yes, that is a field).

    Thing is, this is a 90-minute film on a subject with enough complexities to fill a Ken Burns series. I love how director Andrew Rossi resists giving any clear answers or solutions—it's like he's saying "this is really complicated, go learn more on your own"—but I have a feeling many viewers aren't going to do that. That's not the film's fault, of course. Rossi also focuses almost exclusively on larger research schools (private and public), or more elite liberal arts schools. While those institutions are the models many other schools try to copy, there're enough unique aspects and challenges for regional and "heritage" schools that get passed over. Oh well.

  • ★★★½ review by WreckItDee on Letterboxd

    As a parent of a toddler now, I am wondering with the escalating trend of putting my child in college in another 15 years time, how much it would set me.

    Andrew Rossi's "Ivory Tower" gave a factual insight of how college educations cast a smothering debts to the average middle class American families these days, yet could not guarantee the graduates the glistering job prospects at the end of it.

    It was incredulous how the extravagant tuition fees were used to fund amenities that had little effect on the general education of the students and worst still become a platform for the students to indulge in parties.

    With the recent Frat house-flamingoes fracas from University of South Mississippi, it was certainly showed that those crazy antics shown in movies about Greek fraternities are authentic and galling.

    The explorations of the self sufficient Deep Springs College in the nether end of California in which an all-male student body strive to embody education with the means of building a character as well as the fiasco with regards to implementing tuition fee for the otherwise fully-free Cooper Union which led to an "occupy" protest from the students, gave an insight of the myriad of educational systems and the mentality of education seekers in America itself.

  • ★★★★ review by Luke Thorne on Letterboxd

    Andrew Rossi directs this documentary about the problems facing higher education in the United States of America. As costs go up and access is going down, growing numbers of people are asking whether it's even worth going to university.

    As schooling goes right on an upward curve and student debt passes tons of dollars, this documentary written and directed by Andrew Rossi sees students and parents start to doubt if college is worth going to it.

    Tuition Fees and University seem to be a continuing problem here in the UK and it seems like America is no different – people just aren’t able to go to college and/or university because of the costs – and I unfortunately believe this downward spiral is going to carry on unless something can be done about it.

    Ivory Tower explores the four different types of higher education and whether students can afford to go there, including community colleges, vocational courses, less traditional forms of education and online courses.

    The direction from Rossi is very good because he allows decent facial expressions to be seen, while also keeping a tense atmosphere happening on occasions, particularly with one part involving protests, and the script is written to a decent standard by the director as he makes the movie easy to follow.

    Overall, Ivory Tower is a very respectable and educational documentary from writer-director Andrew Rossi.

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