The overhyped bachelor’s degree

It’s good to know that someone finally sees through the claims made about the pecuniary value of a four-year degree (“The Overhyped College Dropout ‘Scandal,” the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Dec. 6).  George Leef exposes the truth about what goes on in higher education today, refusing to accept the claim that colleges aren’t doing enough to get students “across the finish line.”

The fact is that far too many young people are not college material.  They lack the intelligence, motivation, and study habits to handle real college-level work.  They’ve been misled by just about everyone in their lives.  The wage premium attached to a degree depends on the major for the most part.  Even those who graduate don’t earn as much as many high school graduates when the cost of paying back loans is factored in.

But because students are seen as consumers, colleges lean over backward to push them through.  As a result, a sheepskin today doesn’t mean what it did decades ago when we were more realistic about higher education.  For most high school students, vocational education, coupled with an apprenticeship, is a better choice than incurring heavy debt in the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

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2 Replies to “The overhyped bachelor’s degree”

  1. Society imposes often irrational — but nevertheless real — economic and social penalties on those who do not have a college degree, including on those who have several years of college but no BA/BS.

    Many jobs and/or promotions w/in jobs implicitly or explicitly require a BA/BS. Often this is unrelated to the actual work to be performed, but is used by the employer to screen out applicants the employer believes — rightly or wrongly — to be less mature, committed, intelligent, etc..

    Many prospective spouses (and their families) when considering whom to date with an eye towards marriage likewise view a date’s lack of a college degree as a major negative.

    This, of course, generates a self-fulfilling cycle.

    Most parents, when their teenage kid is weighing college vs. apprenticeship options, will give significant weight to the above economic and social penalties imposed on those who do not have a college degree. At the individual level, it would be irrational to ignore those penalties. Not saying that the prospect of those penalties will always dictate sending the kid to college — as you argue, many people will have a better life in all respects if they go the apprenticeship route. But, the penalties for not having a college degree are real and it would be foolish for any individual (or parent) to ignore those penalties entirely.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: In the final analysis, a young person’s interests and abilities need to determine if a four-year degree is worth the time and cost. I submit that for many an associate degree, coupled with an apprenticeship, makes more sense. We have been wildly oversold on the value of a bachelor’s degree.

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