The Education Department intends to look at the earnings and debt of college graduates by major to help students compare schools and programs (“Will Majoring in Psychology Make You Better Off? The Government Wants to Know” (The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 2.) I support the move, but I hasten to point out an important caveat.
The value of a college degree should not be weighed solely in terms of its market value. There are benefits that go beyond salaries earned. These non-pecuniary rewards will be given short shrift under the proposed Education Department’s plan. Nevertheless, I believe the intent is admirable. The reality is that too many students are going into heavy personal debt to earn a degree in a field for which there is little demand. Decades ago when tuition was a fraction of what it is today, students had the luxury of studying whatever happened to catch their interest. That is no longer the case.
I’ve written often about the harm being done to students by the sheepskin obsession. The oft-quoted wage premium attached to a college degree is substantially reduced when the major studied is factored in. It is further diminished when loan repayment is included. Yet we persist in the fiction that college is for everyone. It is what Charles Murray correctly calls “educational romanticism.”
(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)