Viable Alternatives to College

In this Freeman piece today, Jeff Tucker examines our mania for pushing most young people into college, and he looks at the alternatives.

He mentions a conversation he had recently with a young man in graphic design who said, “In my field, the employers regard college as evidence that you are willing to waste lots of time and money doing not much of anything productive. I decided to gain the competitive advantage and jump into the workforce at 20, get experience, and start climbing the ladder.”

That’s very interesting. It used to be the case that earning a college degree was a mark of distinction that gave you an advantage in the competition for jobs. Apparently, the pendulum is swinging back — getting a degree is now so easy that there is little distinction in it and the advantage goes to those who are willing to forgo the “five year party” (that’s the title of a recent book on college) and start working.

I agree with Tucker’s conclusion: “The path toward a freer educational market will be paved by private entrepreneurial efforts to meet the human needs that government programs leave unserved.”

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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