The Corner

The Credentialed Society

Leave it to John Stossel to bust up another perfectly good shibboleth: that college graduates will make oodles more moolah than their down-market coevals by the simple act of going to college. He writes:

Hillary Clinton tells students: “Graduates from four-year colleges earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates, an estimated $1 million more.”

We hear that from people who run colleges. And it’s true. But it leaves out some important facts

That’s why I say: For many people, college is a scam.

I spoke with Richard Vedder, author of “Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much,” and Naomi Schafer Riley, who just published “Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”

Vedder explained why that million-dollar comparison is ridiculous:

“People that go to college are different kind of people … (more) disciplined … smarter. They did better in high school.”

They would have made more money even if they never went to college.

True, that. But that’s not the way things work in Liberaland, a cargo cult that firmly believes in the totemic value of parchment — preferably, parchment with an Ivy League patrimony. That’s why self-made people like Sarah Palin, with her crummy journalism degree from Dogtooth State Teachers College, drive them crazy: Their only definition of “smart” has to do with school and GPA. By their lights, someone like Andrew Lloyd Webber, who dropped out of Oxford after one term in order to become a composer, is a complete failure. (And he is: just ask Frank Rich.)

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who got rich helping to build good things like PayPal and Facebook, is so eager to wake people up to alternatives to college that he’s paying students $100,000 each if they drop out of college and do something else, like start a business.

“We’re asking nothing in return other than meetings so we make sure (they) work hard, and not be in school for two years,” said Jim O’Neill, who runs the foundation.

For some reason, this upsets the left. A writer called Thiel’s grant a “nasty idea” that leads students into “halting their intellectual development … maintaining a narrow-minded focus on getting rich.”

Or fail utterly. Or live a meaningful, fulfilled life. Or go back to school some day in the future, when you can afford to tend to your “intellectual development” as an adult instead of a hormonal post-adolescent. Or for no reason at all. Anyway, I thought Hillary’s argument was that you got rich by going to college, not by spurning it to invent some cockamamie thing or other.

But in the zero-sum game that is life to the Left, there’s only one way to play. After all, just look at the chief: Occidental, Columbia, Harvard Law… what could possibly go wrong?

Michael Walsh — Mr. Walsh is the author of the novels Hostile Intent and Early Warning and, writing as frequent NRO contributor David Kahane, Rules for Radical Conservatives.


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