Phi Beta Cons

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

degrees.

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.
 

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

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