Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

The Dismal “Report Card” on Higher Education


The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has just released
its annual “Report Card,” ranking states as to student preparation for
college, participation, affordability, completion, benefits and learning
(although they admit that they don’t really have information as to the last
category).  Inside Higher Ed has the story

Most states are given an F on affordability, even heavily subsidized North
Carolina. One has to wonder what it would take to get an A — completely
costless school? (Costless to the student, anyway.  What the National Center
is saying is that it’s good for most of the cost of going to college to be
dumped on the taxpayers.)


The report also makes a big deal about falling participation and degree
completion in the US compared to some other nations. We’re told, for
example, that the US is 5th in the world in the percentage of young adults
who enroll in college, but only 16th in the percentage who actually earn

That statistic is probably supposed to scare us into thinking that our
prosperity will be in jeopardy unless we somehow manage to get more kids
into and through college — as if there was some direct connection between
that educational credential and productivity.  But there isn’t.  Alison Wolf
crushed that notion in her book Does Education Matter? (My review of the
book is here.)

In his excellent book The Joy of Freedom, economist
David Henderson asked why it is that if education in America is so poor (as
he had argued), our economy is so strong? His answer was that people learn
most of what they need to know outside of formal education settings.  Often,
students goof around for 4, 5, or 6 years while obtaining a college degree
and then go off into the job market and succeed in their field of work while
putting to use just about nothing they may have learned.  

Let’s stop fretting over percentages of people with various educational
credentials.  It just doesn’t matter.



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