With rising student tuition costs and student loan debt having just passed $1 trillion the documentary feature Ivory Tower comes at appropriate time to the Sundance film festival. Director Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) asks the question “is college worth it?” The film moves from the halls of Harvard college to a small private men’s only colleges in the middle of Death Valley to “uncollege” startups in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
The Ivory Tower makes for a great overview of the broken university system. Anyone reading the news will know that the majority of university students graduate in debt and cannot get a job or something more substantial than working in a coffee shop. Rossi displays the rough edges of the system as he gets point of views from protesting university students up to uptight university presidents.
However, the film fails to create any answers. Like a university education, a great documentary educates and empowers. Ivory Tower lacks both. It delves into many of the problems that both students (financial, social pressure, academics) and universities (lacks of funds, rising costs) face but never creates solutions or answers.
Like watching a dog chase his tail, Ivory Tower gets half way to the solution but no further. Seeing the film will undoubtedly convince viewers that the current university system remains unsustainable but leaves no solutions in how to fix the system.