Phi Beta Cons

Many Americans are Undereducated, But College Credentials Won’t Fix That

In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I analyze the recent paper published by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, “The Undereducated American.” It is an attempt to regain momentum for the More People Must Go to College crusade, but it fails to do that.

There are more problems in the paper than I had space to address, but I’ll tack on one more here. The country doesn’t “produce” college graduates any more than it produces accountants or oboe players. Individual decisions are determinative here. So why is it that, despite entreaties from leaders from Obama on down, copious subsidies, and repeated admonitions to students that college will give them a big earnings premium, the college-enrollment stats have been flat for some 15 years? I think it’s because lots of marginal students doubt that they will benefit from college. Maybe they’ve heard from friends or family members that many graduates wind up with low-level jobs anyway. Even if they believe that college might eventually help them earn more than average as a cashier or dishwasher, it’s not worth the time and expense.

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

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