Archive for May, 2011


Higher Education: College Degrees Increasingly Worthless

by: John Tamny, Economist Editor of www.realclear-markets

Orange County Register, Apr. 24, 2011.

“If an equal proportion of people were educated at the public expense, the competition would soon be so great, as to sink very much their pecuniary reward.”   Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations”

An all-too-predictable headline blared recently from the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Though the article was titled “India Graduates Millions, But Too Few Are Fit to Hire,” it would be easy to substitute “U.S.” or some other country with a politically correct worship of the college degree.

The opt-cited correlation between a college degree and higher income has driven politicians on the left and right to make attending university a “right” for everyone.   The fact that knowledge gained in college, on its very best day, has little to no relationship with the work performed after graduation has not deterred a mad political rush to make a college education as universal as health care.

Though politicians, educators and their media enablers would have us believe that the act of earning a college diploma makes short people tall, reality, happily, is intruding.  What’s going on in India is a good example.

As Geeta Anand reported in the Wall Street Journal, though call-center company 24/7 Customer Pvt. Ltd is eagerly searching for “recruits who can answer questions by phone and email,” it’s found that “so few of the high school and college graduates who come through the door can communicate effectively in English, and so many lack a grasp of educational basics such as reading comprehension, that the company can hire just 3 out of every 100 applicants.”

This is our future.

Indeed, with politicians aggressively promoting advanced education with the tax payers’ money, the inevitable result will be universities handing out more and more worthless diplomas to marginal attendees who will enter college with no skills and depart without the skills prized by employers.  Worse for the victims of this supposed compassion, many will emerge with a great deal of debt as their reward for having wasted four years.

Those who emerge debt-free won’t be much better off.  Having spent four years daydreaming through classes on Greek mythology and feminist art history, they’ll have lost four years of real work that actually teaches them how to get by in an advanced society.

Taking nothing away from the fun that is college, if it does, in fact, serve a purpose, it’s as a source of talent for private companies eager to grow.

Importantly, there’s not much learned in college or graduate school that is applicable to what’s done in the working world, so their real purpose is as a signaling device.  The thesis written senior year at Harvard is not what appeals to Goldman Sachs, Google and Microsoft, but the fact that the student got into Harvard means this person is most likely both hardworking and smart.  Companies figure they can train such individuals to do any number of productive, wealth-creating activities in the real, working world.

Some students, of course, take accounting and finance classes, for example, with an eye on working in those areas.  True, but if so, it would be even more worthwhile to skip the nosebleed tuition and simply get to work on passing the CPA and CFA exams.

Back to college education, just as over-issuance of a currency relative to demand ultimately reduces its value, the drive to make college a pedestrian right has made the diploma increasingly worthless.  Soon enough , if not already, the wage disparity between those with and without degrees will be hard to discern.

As for India, the story of untalented college graduates is a reminder that, rather than something that makes us smart, college is at best what smart people have traditionally aspired to.  Try as we might to make everyone above-average, these attempts, as revealed by the Indian experience, are vain.

End of Register Article

Maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions such as….

Was higher education set up for every single individual to increase knowledge? 

Is this our future in higher education? 

Are we spreading ourselves too thin?

Does everyone, although entitled, belong in higher education?

If everyone was a college graduate with a BA or BS and the majority of those are not fit to work in the field in which they majored, what is the purpose for this student or students to spend time in the classroom wasting teachers time?  Are they taking a seat that a deserving student should have?  It is things like this that causes dumbing down of the system.  

Why is the college system admitting students who need remedial classes?   They are not prepared nor ready and to provide these classes is a waste of tax payers funds that could be used for students who worked hard to prepare themselves and are qualified  to be there.    

If a student does not pass the SAT test, why pass him on, that is, until he can pass?

I do believe higher education should be available to all but the student must meet the requirements to attend these classes.  They must come prepared.  Would we allow a student to fly an airplane just because he has a dream to be a pilot but he can’t pass the entry test to take the course? 

We should have measurements to determine the ability for all students to go beyond the 12th grade….many of those may pass then there would be another test to go beyond the community college.  Along the way there could be tests to find different kinds of jobs for these students.   Many of them could be successful in sales such as real estate, loans, investors…the point I’m making is not everyone belongs in a classrooms for a degree that is worthless to the student once he graduates or worth the taxpayers funds.  There are many people into internet marketing who make more money than PhD’s.   This is what we need to think about.  We also need mechanics, housekeepers, maintenance, janitors and the list goes on and on.  Not everyone is qualified to be an M.D., a pilot or even a teacher.  According to the report on community college that has a 70% dropout rate and they accept students who need remedial classes.   My question is why are we accepting students who are not qualified for this level of education?   It makes sense to send them back to adult education to learn the skills needed. 

Bobbi Barras, educator


» recent comments

  • Bobbi: You are absolutely corre...
  • Bobbi: The problem according to...
  • Bobbi: Is that "ah"! or do yo...

» archives

» meta