Less College for All

As I frequently write on this blog, college education isn’t what it use to be because of the heavy government subsidies. Just a few days ago I wrote:

College degrees no longer signal intelligent self-starters with moxie. Now degrees are signals risk averse, color-by-numbers people. Bureaucratic employers value these people for their conformity and aversion to risk.

Robert Samuelson agrees in the Washington Post. He wrote:

The college-for-all crusade has outlived its usefulness. Time to ditch it.

The real concern is the quality of graduates at all levels. The fixation on college-going, justified in the early postwar decades, stigmatizes those who don’t go to college and minimizes their needs for more vocational skills. It cheapens the value of a college degree and spawns the delusion that only the degree — not the skills and knowledge behind it — matters. We need to rethink.

Thanks to Mark Perry of Carpe Diem for the link.

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One thought on “Less College for All

  1. Hi Seth – I wasn’t sure where to post this, but this looks like as good a spot as any:

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/17/emory-university-discloses-it-sent-false-data-sent-to-rankings-groups/?test=latestnews

    Basically, the report describes Emory University’s admission that they have been purposely misreporting the SAT scores and class ranks of their enrolled students for more than a decade. No surprise as many of the “top” schools have done the same in the rankings game.

    But isn’t this ranking system all backwards anyway? Why do we rank a college based on its inputs rather than on its outputs? After all, when we invest in the stock market, our goal is not to purchase the stock with the highest price, but to purchase the one that will appreciate the most. So, why don’t we rank colleges by the value they add or at least by their outputs instead of putting so much emphasis on the inputs?

    After reading the article, I decided to do a little research and see what goes into the rankings. Here’s what I found:
    Peer assessment, i.e. what their buddies at other “prestigious” schools thought of them. In other words, you rub my back and I’ll rub yours and we’ll both make a lot of money.
    Freshman retention and graduation rate. Translation: If you make it easy enough for more kids to pass and graduate, you’ll get a higher rank. Any wonder that professors are encouraged to inflate grades?
    Faculty resources. This combines a number of factors such as class size, faculty salaries, etc. OK, I can see the theoretical correlation that says higher salaries should bring in “better” professors, but better at what – research, teaching, or do they just have a famous name? And is it more important to have small class sizes – which means that some of those classes have the below average professor teaching or to have better professors teach bigger classes?
    Student selectivity, e.g. their high school SAT scores, class ranks, etc. I think we’ve already addressed this!

    In 2007, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute reported on a study they did where they gave incoming college freshmen and graduating college seniors a test in US history/civic literacy. They found that many of our more prestigious universities had “negative” value when it came to advancing civic knowledge.

    So, what are we paying for when we send our kids to high ranking colleges? It sounds more like the prestige of getting to rub elbows with other kids that either had high SAT scores or have enough money to go to the prestigious school (in other words, allowing them entrance to the good ole boys club) than actually gaining knowledge or wisdom.

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