Too Much College

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In President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address, he said that “higher education can’t be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.” Such talk makes for political points, but there’s no evidence that a college education is an economic imperative. A good part of our higher education problem, explaining its spiraling cost, is that a large percentage of students currently attending college are ill-equipped and incapable of doing real college work. They shouldn’t be there wasting their own resources and those of their families and taxpayers. Let’s look at it.

Robert Samuelson, in his Washington Post article “It’s time to drop the college-for-all crusade” (5/27/2012), said that “the college-for-all crusade has outlived its usefulness. Time to ditch it. Like the crusade to make all Americans homeowners, it’s now doing more harm than good.” Richard Vedder — professor of economics at Ohio University, adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of The Center for College Affordability & Productivity, or CCAP — in his article “Ditch … the College-for-All Crusade,” published on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog, “Innovations” (6/7/2012), points out that the “U.S. Labor Department says the majority of new American jobs over the next decade do not need a college degree. We have a six-digit number of college-educated janitors in the U.S.” Another CCAP essay by Vedder and his colleagues, titled “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart,” reports that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.” More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, such as flight attendants, taxi drivers and salesmen. Was college attendance a wise use of these students’ time and the resources of their parents and taxpayers?

There’s a recent study published by the Raleigh, N.C.-based Pope Center titled “Pell Grants: Where Does All the Money Go?” Authors Jenna Ashley Robinson and Duke Cheston report that about 60 percent of undergraduate students in the country are Pell Grant recipients, and at some schools, upward of 80 percent are.

Pell Grants are the biggest expenditure of the Department of Education, totaling nearly $42 billion in 2012.

The original focus of Pell Grants was to facilitate college access for low-income students. Since 1972, when the program began, the number of students from the lowest income quartile going to college has increased by more than 50 percent. However, Robinson and Cheston report that the percentage of low-income students who completed college by age 24 decreased from 21.9 percent in 1972 to 19.9 percent today.

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  • mrbean

    The problem is that the trades and appreticeships have almost gone south. The Obama Adminstration is letting multi-billion dollar contracts for major bridges to Chinese contractors owned by the Chinese Government because the US firms cannot deliver the number of skilled and certified welders required. The major bulk of the workers are all Chinese. We once built things like the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam. etc… Look at who is replacing us at:

    That's okay we will all send our kids to college so they can be diversified and save the earth, save the trees,save the bees, save the whales, and save the snails, and promote social justice through distribution of wealth to the hard core unemployables.

  • Elliott

    BS= bull s_it, MS=more of the same PHD= piled higher and deeper to quote one of my professors

  • bubbaland1

    The situation will not change until it collapses. I teach at a large public university in the southeastern USA. I am amazed how the company/university is always cycling through prospect students on tours in order to lure them to our institution. It kinda of reminds me of the high pressure environment of time-share sales event. The problem with higher education in the USA is that it is a business selling credentials. Furthermore, the general public at large has no idea what higher education is about. Witness the governor of Florida stating that they do not need "more anthropologists", which was in part a refer to the fact that his daughter with a B.A. could not get a job. If he wanted his child trained for a vocation, when why let her major in the Liberal Arts??

  • Lyone

    I taught in Colleges and Universities for 18 years before calling it quits. And the author of the article is 100% correct. Only about 7% of students in college can read and write at a college appropriate level. The majority are still operating at a 9th or 10th grade level, and a good 10% are struggling at something even below that. We consistently give BA's to students who do not know how to write a grammatically correct sentence in the English language, and who have no sense of a work ethic with which to improve on these things.

    Whether or not we "need more anthropologists" is not the issue. Students are supposed to learn critical thinking skills at liberal arts institutions, no matter what their majors are. *That* is supposed to the major job skill that they take with them out into the market place. But if they cannot even read the course material, how can they think about it? In the absence of teaching how to think, most instructors now teach what to think. And this is why higher education has now largely become an institution of liberal and radical indoctrination. It is the easy path path for professors, and it gratifies their egos. Plus, you don't have to worry about pesky things like wondering whether or not your students are actually learning anything that matters in the real world. As long as they agree with you, they get a good grade.

  • Schlomotion

    This article is written with the heart of an embezzler. The elites have ruined the economy of the United States, therefore we should cheat Americans out of a college education because they are going to take stupid people jobs anyway? Tar and feathers for you, sir. Tar and feathers. You are saying that if these modern day black and white negroes and shopkeeps had only realized how low achieving they are by nature, they would have simply joined the menial labor force earlier and not wasted money on trying to educate themselves. You are certainly no W.E.B. DuBois. You are actually calling out to the Untalented Tenth to give up on life so that some sniveling fat-faced caucasians can chuckle a little harder through their goatees at the sports bar and order more plates of nachos. What cheaply bought lower middle class superiority you espouse!

    • Enojado

      No education in the world is going to do a shtunk like you any good because you are rotten to the core, your brain is curdled and your heart beats hate.

  • ebonystone

    Back in my high school days, occasionally graduates from a year or two before would return to tell what it was like in college. At that time in my state, the state universities were obligated to admit any high school graduate who was in the top 1/2 (or maybe 1/3) of his h.s. class. Many of them were clearly not college material, and to deal with them, the state universities had a number of required "freshman flunk-out" classes. One of my friends, a couple of years older, reported that in his freshman math class, the professor told them straight out that 1/3 of them would not be there second semester, and over 1/2 would not be there the next year. The rooms at my friend's dorm were designed to be two-man rooms, but in the fall semester many of them would have third beds crammed into them to accomodate the numbers. In the second semester, many students would have a room to himself.

  • Lady_Dr

    Well said. I have been an adjunct and a tenure track assistant professor at various colleges and universities. At one college the chairman complained that while we turned out graduates with 4 year degrees, many of the jobs were being taken by those with 2 year degrees. I said nothing but the reality is that we required many unrelated, unnecessary courses which kept faculty in other departments employed. This policy stole time and money from our students (and the taxpayers as many had financial aid). It is difficult to teach students who are not up to par, but the whole thing is about numbers, and money. The government is providing the money, and the school provides the numbers – by hook or by crook. I'm totally opposed to 'higher education' for everyone – in large part because it is no longer higher, the 'education' part is now indoctrination and/or warehousing, and it is totally useless in the long run for most people.