Phi Beta Cons

The Degree Obsession Gets Another Boost

Ho, hum. There’s another new report out saying that the US has to graduate more kids from college. IHE has the story here.
This one attempts to quantify the “shortage” the US faces. It reminds me of the old Soviet planning system where the government decided on the optimal quantity of steel, cars, etc.
The trouble, of course, is that we already find that many college grads end up doing “high school” jobs that call for nothing more than simple trainability and if we “produce” more graduates, they will overwhelmingly come from the ranks of academically weak students. Putting them through college just means more bodies for the lower tier schools with low standards. We won’t get more scientists, mathematicians and engineers, but more overcredentialed customer service reps, loan processors, theater ushers and so on.
American prosperity does not depend on the quantity of people holding various education credentials. It depends on the extent to which our economy remains free. If people are free to invest and produce without the strangling effect of governmental mandates and prohibitions, they will figure out on their own how best to maximize their investment in skill and knowledge. Formal educational coursework isn’t necessarily the best way of doing that. On the other hand, if we continue to slide into the kind of regulated and controlled economy where capital and talent flees (e.g., Britain before Thatcher), putting more people through college will do nothing to increase prosperity.
I made the case that we have oversold higher education here .

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.