“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, April 6, 1816
Sunday, May 18, 2014
When college is a waste of time and money...
What follows is my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel. I hope you enjoy it. I will be taking a break from blogging and pretty much everything else until August. Have a great summer and be well...
Over the next few weeks
approximately three million young people will graduate from America’s public
high schools.Of that number, according
to the National Center for Education Statistics, over 68 percent will enroll in
college next fall, bringing the total number of college attendees to nearly 22
These numbers would, on the
surface, seem to be a source of hope and optimism for America’s future.After all, if two out of every three high
school graduates are ending up in the halls of higher education, wouldn’t that
necessarily translate into a better educated, more productive labor force to
compete in the global economy?
Well, no, it does not.In fact, these numbers represent one of the
biggest and most unfortunate lies in America.That lie is that a college degree is the path to economic prosperity and
A few decades ago, it was largely
inarguable that a college degree was the ticket to the good life.Today a four-year degree is often a waste of time,
money (see taxpayers) and energy and is, in essence, no better than a high
school degree from our parent’s generation.
Consider this.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than half of all college graduates
are working in a job today that requires a college degree.Meanwhile, welders, pipe fitters, crane
operators and field workers in our petroleum industry routinely pull down
earnings in excess of $100,000 per year.
I cannot count the number of
students I have run into over the past decade or so, who passed through my
college, went off to a university somewhere,who are now working at coffee shops, restaurants or in low-paying retail
sales jobs.At no coffee shop is a
degree in English or Psychology required – but at every university, debt often
Graduates from America’s colleges
this spring have an average of over $29,000 in student loan debt.Many of those graduates have selected majors
that the laws of supply and demand are going to punish severely.
It is a fact of our economic
system that if you pick petroleum engineering, pharmacy, mathematics, computer
software engineering, economics or other rigorous majors, you can expect to
earn a good living over time.That is
because people who can handle the work in these areas are scarce, while demand
World-renowned education expert,
Charles Murray has shown that in order to master some of the aforementioned
disciplines, an IQ of at least 120 is necessary.The problem, his research shows, is that
roughly 10 percent of the population has an IQ this high.Therefore, if 68 percent of our high school
grads are going off to college, they are either going to have to major in
something easy – and less valuable to employers – or they are going to most
likely end up with debt and disappointment as they realize college as not for
Compounding this problem is
taxpayer-support for college education.Every semester I ask my students who is paying for their attendance in
my class.I have noticed over my 23 years
as a college professor that students who are paying out of their own pocket
usually survive with at least a passing grade.Students who are taking up seats on the income taxes of other working
Americans almost always fail or drop my class by the middle of the
semester.Thomas Paine once said, “That
which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem to lightly.”He was right.
If we really cared about young
people in America, we would consider a radical change in our education
philosophy.My home country of Germany
is a good model.
There, children are identified
early in their lives for the potential to study at the university or to learn a
trade.Political correctness and
delusions of grandeur are replaced with a realistic view of aptitude,
intelligence and the probability of success.This is what we need here.
It is morally wrong to keep
bilking the taxpayers and lying to young people about their chances of success
in college when we could help millions get into apprenticeships and trade
schools to fill jobs where shortages – and high earnings – abound.
It is no disgrace to not attend
college.It is a disgrace to encourage
people to waste four years of their lives doing something they will ultimately