As we read in this Inside Higher Ed piece, the White House is pulling out all the stops to get more students from lower-income families into college.
This has that warm and fuzzy feeling, but what if many of those students who will be lured into college with these pledges would have been better off not going to college and instead learning a trade? America is graduating large numbers of students (plus many students who drop out) who find themselves unable to obtain employment that calls for anything beyond basic trainability. Whether a student comes from a wealthy background or a poor one doesn’t matter in the labor market. Even if college were entirely free to the poor students, it is still four years of time that might have been spent more productively in learning and working in the areas of the market where demand for labor is strong. It’s possible that a few of these students will benefit — those who study something that truly enhances their human capital — but for many others college will be a dead end.