kitchen table math, the sequel: Chron: too many students going to college?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chron: too many students going to college?

The push for defining a better K-12 education for our individual children should properly value what comes after. What is our goal?

The Chronicle of Higher Ed asks here whether too many students are going to college, and what the point is. Lots of answers. To the question who should and who shouldn't go to college, here are a couple of answers:

Richard K. Vedder: A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense. The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.

Bryan Caplan: There are two ways to read this question. One is: "Who gets a good financial and/or personal return from college?" My answer: people in the top 25 percent of academic ability who also have the work ethic to actually finish college. The other way to read this is: "For whom is college attendance socially beneficial?" My answer: no more than 5 percent of high-school graduates, because college is mostly what economists call a "signaling game." Most college courses teach few useful job skills; their main function is to signal to employers that students are smart, hard-working, and conformist. The upshot: Going to college is a lot like standing up at a concert to see better. Selfishly speaking, it works, but from a social point of view, we shouldn't encourage it.

Vedder and Caplan are econ professors.

My favorite response, though comes from Charles Murray. Of course, you knew that I agreed with him already.

Murray: We have a moral obligation to destroy the current role of the B.A. in American life. It has become an emblem of first-class citizenship for no good reason.

Would that more professors admitted what they saw in their own college students. Read the whole thing.

One issue missed, though, by all of the responses, is the extent to which college is for assortative mating. As long as that's the way to produce good grandchildren, parents will still pay for their kids to go to college, regardless of what appears nonsensical from a career standpoint.


Crimson Wife said...

You're the first person I've seen to bring up the issue of meeting a suitable spouse. My grandparents, parents, and my DH & I all met while we were students at the same college. My brother also became engaged to a fellow classmate, though they later ended their relationship.

Anonymous said...

That idea has been around since the 50s, at least. My sibling started college in the mid-50s and I remember hearing at that time about girls being sent to college to get their "Mrs." degree. for some, finishing college was secondary to that, providing that their husband graduated.