Phi Beta Cons

Re: Lips Service

I second John’s recommendation of Dan Lips’s article. It does a good job of explaining why Obama’s evident belief that we need to make college “more affordable” won’t succeed and how the education market is creating better, less expensive post-secondary options for students.

I’ll just add this point. Even if Obama’s higher-ed initiative were to make higher education somewhat more affordable, that probably wouldn’t make the slightest difference with respect to his announced goal of substantially increasing the percentage of Americans with college degrees (to No. 1 in the world by 2020, whatever that figure might be). That’s because many individuals conclude that the benefits of going to college are not worth the time and money.

The U.S. has been on a plateau of college completion since about 1995, despite all the pressure and inducements to attend. Why? I think that the best explanation is that a lot of young people (and their parents), seeing that many college graduates end up in jobs like theater usher and aerobics trainer, figure that borrowing money to spend four or more years of their lives in college doesn’t make sense.

Politicians with a central-planning mindset may believe that there is some need to process more students through college, but the people who can actually weigh the costs and benefits of that are saying otherwise.

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


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