Today’s Wall Street Journal includes as its “Notable & Quotable” feature several paragraphs from an interview Nick Schulz did with George Mason University economics professor Alexander Tabarrok. Tabarrok argues that our policy of encouraging almost every kid who graduates from high school to pursue a college degree is wasteful, leaving many of them with fancy pieces of paper but no real skills. He thinks that the apprenticeship model of countries like Germany, Finland, and Sweden is far more sensible.
But if kids don’t go to college, how can they become “well-rounded”? He replies that getting a college degree is not the only way for young people to get a “well-rounded” education. Indeed it’s not. Those who don’t go to college have other (and far less costly) ways of getting that well-rounded education — if they want it. Alas, many of them don’t, and making them sit through a few courses in literature, philosophy, and the fine arts in college is unlikely to have any impact on them.
Tabarrok also says that college degrees are more about signaling one’s employability than about adding to human capital.