More Evidence against College for Everyone

Here’s a datum:

My eldest grandchild is 23 years old. He’s a bright, articulate lad, but far more interested in doing than in reading. He has been working since he graduated from (home) high school, but not without a purpose in mind. Last fall, he enrolled in a course to learn a trade that he has always wanted to pursue. He passed the course with flying colors, quickly got a good job as a result, and from that job moved into the kind of job that he has long sought. He is happy, and I am happy for him.

But that’s not all. His job, though technically demanding, is “blue collar”. When I was his age, freshly equipped with a B.A. and some graduate school, I moved into the world of “white collar” work as an entry-level analyst at a government-sponsored think-tank in the D.C. area. Hot stuff, right?

Well, converting my starting salary to an hourly rate and adjusting it for inflation, I was making just about what my grandson is making now. But since graduating from high school he has been earning and saving money instead of cluttering a college campus. And he owns a pickup truck. When I started at the think-tank, I might have had a few hundred dollars in a checking account. And I couldn’t afford a car until I had worked for several months.

Will my grandson eventually make as money as I was able to make by feeding at the public trough? Given his ambition and foresight there’s no reason he can’t make a lot more than I did — and by doing things that people are actually willing to pay for instead of siphoning the U.S. Treasury.

College not only isn’t for everyone, it’s for almost no one. As I said seven years ago,

[w]hen I entered college [in 1958], I was among the 28 percent of high-school graduates then attending college. It was evident to me that about half of my college classmates didn’t belong in an institution of higher learning. Despite that, the college-enrollment rate among high-school graduates has since doubled.

Which means that only about one-fourth (or less) of today’s high-school graduates are really college material. That’s not a rap against them. It’s a rap against the insane idea of college for almost everyone. That would be a huge burden on taxpayers, a shameful misdirection of talent, and a massive drain on the economic potential of the nation.

Related posts:
The Higher-Education Bubble
Is College for Everyone?
The Dumbing-Down of Public Schools
College Is for Almost No One
About Those “Underpaid” Teachers

3 thoughts on “More Evidence against College for Everyone

  1. Long ago, in the mid-1950’s, I read somewhere that success in college required an IQ of approximately 115. That meant that only 15-16 percent of the population could successfully complete the requirements for a college degree. This assumes, of course, the 1950’s configuration of college curricula and grading standards, something entirely different from the academic smorgasbord offered today.

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  2. I started college in 1972 and graduated in 1975, and in the years since then, I have always found it amusing how few of my classmates ended up in jobs or careers that had anything to do with what they went to college for. Because it was a fairly selective and rigorous school, the majority of people who graduated with me ended up doing well; but in the vast majority of cases, that’s entirely due to who they were, not because of anything that college did for them. Most were from intact families, and were raised to work hard and get good grades in school and obey the rules and stay out of trouble, and such people are more likely to end up doing well whether they go to college or not. The claim that people who go to college end up making more money (on average) than people who don’t is one of the most misunderstood and deliberately misrepresented statistics in existence. If there’s one situation where correlation is NOT causation, this is it.

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