The Corner

The Great College Scam (cont.)

Heavy reader input on this one. Many of these:

Mr. Derbyshire:

Greetings. In regards to your comments, I couldn’t agree more. I’m an academic advisor in natural sciences at a 4-year state school; day after weary day I advise students with bad grades who have unrealistic expectations and cannot accept the fact that — contrary to what they’ve been told all of their lives — they cannot be a dentist or doctor. Virtually every day I advise one or more students with “D” averages in math, chemistry, and biology who persist in the belief that they will get into medical school; all the while accumulating debt and wasting time. I don’t even really have the hope that one day they will wake up; I forget who said that “most people can’t stand too much reality.” [It was this dude — JD]

I also see student after student who has finished one expensive degree and immediately started on another — often requiring 60+ hours to finish. Also, a great many — indeed, most — have no idea what they will do with the degree; indeed, the utility of the degree is a secondary consideration to having the degree itself. What do you say to a student finishing a BA in Earth Science when she asks what kind of jobs are available? I’d get called on the carpet if I said “Deliver pizzas, or nothing.” I usually tell them to check with career services — knowing full well that no company is posting anything whatsoever for soft degrees.

I made the same mistake myself: a BS in Geography is worth nothing on the job market. If I had it to do over again, I’d have taken shop classes in high school (assuming that they existed) and gotten a 2-year blue-collar technical degree. Other than engineering and business degrees, most college BSs and BAs are worthless.

But also many of these:


Hey, Derb — Loved your “College is for suckers” post. I was a reluctant college student and grad many years ago. I dutifully went to a public university on my parents’ dime post-high school, but never graduated and entered the workforce after four years (about a year short of graduating credit-wise). I worked in TV weather, radio news, elective politics and as a legislative aide without the benefit of a BA or BS.

It was only when I decided I wanted to work in the private sector that I realized I had to go back to school to finish my degree. No one would even INTERVIEW me for a writing job without a “BA” behind my name — despite my lengthy and wide-ranging career cred. It took me three years at part-time to finish the degree (worked a full-time job and paid as I went — no loans), after which I landed a job as a copywriter at a major direct merchant.

At the end of my collegiate experience, I was no better writer than when I went in — but had spent several thousand dollars to tack the “letters” behind my name. Along the way, I actually taught my professors a thing or two about how their theories regarding persuasive speech worked in the real world.

Higher education is the biggest scam going. I don’t think that’s news to you (or Charles Murray). What’s really disheartening is that the business world plays along — demanding four-year degrees for positions that shouldn’t require them. It’s just a lazy way for them to make their “first cut.”

In fairness to the business world, I should say that most businesses would probably be happier just to give aptitude tests to applicants, as they used to when I entered the labor force. Alas, our judicial Solons put the kibosh on that — mustn’t have any “disparate impact,” must we? — so now employers want a college degree as evidence of aptitude. What a degree in, say, English makes one apt for, I leave you to discuss among yourselves.


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