Phi Beta Cons

Overselling of Higher Education Gives Us Credential Inflation

Today’s Wall Street Journal includes this letter of mine:

Soon You Will Need a Master’s Degree to Wash Dishes

Eric Felten’s excellent “Now College Is the Break” (Postmodern Times, Feb. 11) leaves an apparent paradox hanging in the air. If large numbers of college students are studying little and learning almost nothing of lasting benefit, how can it be that “the reward for the collegiate credential has been going up”?

Many politicians and the higher education establishment keep saying that college is a “great investment” because, on average, college grads earn significantly more over their lifetimes than do workers without degrees. They attribute that to the advanced skills and knowledge that college supposedly imparts. The trouble is that large numbers of college graduates are perilously weak in basic skills. They don’t read well, don’t write coherently and can’t handle simple math problems. It is hard to believe that employers are paying premium salaries for workers with such limited human capital.

The explanation, I submit, is that the earnings disparity is not due to the high skills of college graduates (although some certainly do have them), but rather that over the last several decades good opportunities for people who don’t have college degrees have been vanishing. Fifty years ago, hardly any career paths in the business world were foreclosed to people without a college degree, but today we find that few career paths remain open.

That is because credential inflation has set in with a vengeance. Many firms now require that applicants have college degrees, even for work that calls for nothing more than basic trainability. Those who don’t have college credentials are confined to an increasingly narrow segment of the labor force where the prospects for great advancement are bleak.

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

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

The Last Trusted Prosecutor in Washington

John Durham may be the most consequential and least known figure in Washington right now. In May, U.S. attorney general William Barr selected Durham, a longtime prosecutor with a résumé so sterling it nearly glows, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Last Trusted Prosecutor in Washington

John Durham may be the most consequential and least known figure in Washington right now. In May, U.S. attorney general William Barr selected Durham, a longtime prosecutor with a résumé so sterling it nearly glows, to investigate the origins of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More
World

WHO Failed

Since its inception 72 years ago almost to the day, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has been credited with the eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of other devastating illnesses, including leprosy and river blindness. This record of success makes the current corruption of the organization ... Read More
Health Care

The Experts Lied to Us about Masks

When the stakes are highest, the truth counts the most. Or maybe when things get really serious, that’s when the people really can’t be trusted with the truth. It’s pretty clear which of these two ideas is the one that has been guiding elite medical, political, and journalistic institutions, isn’t it? ... Read More
Health Care

The Experts Lied to Us about Masks

When the stakes are highest, the truth counts the most. Or maybe when things get really serious, that’s when the people really can’t be trusted with the truth. It’s pretty clear which of these two ideas is the one that has been guiding elite medical, political, and journalistic institutions, isn’t it? ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More

The Trail Leading Back to the Wuhan Labs

It is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered by some documentary filmmaker who used to live in China. Matthew Tye, who creates YouTube videos, contends he has identified the source of the coronavirus — and a great deal of the information that ... Read More
World

A Curious Report from ABC News

Josh Margolin and James Gordon Meek of ABC News reported earlier today that the Trump Administration was warned in November 2019 about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan: As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing ... Read More
World

A Curious Report from ABC News

Josh Margolin and James Gordon Meek of ABC News reported earlier today that the Trump Administration was warned in November 2019 about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan: As far back as late November, U.S. intelligence officials were warning that a contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More

The Eeyore Syndrome

In A. A. Milne's classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen. Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist ... Read More