Phi Beta Cons

The Standard Line on Higher Education

Today’s USA Today has a column by Julianne Malveaux that echoes the standard line on higher education–namely that it’s getting too costly and therefore (by implication) the government needs to do more to subsidize it. Otherwise, “Students of color and those of modest means will most likely be the ones left behind.”

Malveaux writes that “education is supposed to be an equalizer,” but doesn’t grasp that the attempt to make college education nearly universal will only exacerbate the problem of credential inflation.  We can’t educate ourselves to equality, but the attempt to do so will feed the expansion of the education establishment and depress academic standards.
We’re already past the point of diminishing returns on higher education when many graduates end up taking “high school” jobs that don’t call for any large degree of intellectual acumen.  Instead of more “investment” in higher education, we need educational reforms that will enable students to master–and demonstrate their mastery–the basic language, math, and reasoning skills that are the building blocks to success. 
There’s no reason why that should take 16 years of formal schooling.

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

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