Robert — Point well taken. I appreciate your response to my post, especially because you are forcing me to clarify my own argument. In reading your reply, I see more that we agree upon than disagree. It appears that the major disagreement is with the credibility of the study itself.
I agree with you that the college-for-everyone crowd has every right to use that study to support their stance. My goal was not to cry deception; I only aim to stir up debate on whether the metric (“was college worth it?”) is a weak statistic to validate government support for higher education — I urge readers of such data not to agree with me, but to ask themselves that question as well. To that end, I found myself agreeing with most of your second paragraph.
To draw an analogy to this issue, let’s say that a college wanted to increase enrollment by stating: “We have great teachers. When students are asked if their professor taught their course well, 90% of our professors scored 3.75 or higher (out of 5).”
This school is certainly justified in doing this, but how many people would ask for more information concerning the measure vs. take it (i.e. great teachers) as a fact? I hope many would probe further, because such a measure has many different interpretations, some of which have nothing to do with good teaching.
As a tangential point, on your post, commenter NauticalBear presents an example of one type of person who really does appear to get the most out of higher education — this person took an unconventional break from college and then went back to finish the degree. From experience, in my classes I have found that such people are a joy to teach because they are more serious about their education.
It’s “worth it” to encourage more people to take time off before college, even if it is just one year.