Pandemic can be blessing in disguise for colleges

The pandemic has merely intensified the precarious financial situation that colleges and universities find themselves in (“Cuts Hit Bone As Pandemic Saps Colleges,” The New York Times, Oct. 27). Even before, shrinking state support, coupled with concerns about skyrocketing tuition, meant that only the heavily endowed would be able to survive.

But the situation that is widely depicted as a catastrophe has a bright side.  For too long, the mantra has been that without a bachelor’s degree young people have a bleak future.  The alleged evidence is the wage premium attached to a degree compared with a high school diploma.

A new study by the Manhattan Institute, however, found that the lowest 25 percent of college graduates made less than the top 25 percent of high school graduates.  When debt is figured in, I question if college is worth the money and time involved. That’s particularly so when wage data are broken down by major. 

I think we’ve been wildly oversold on the value of a degree.  College is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn.  It is not an absolute determinant.  It’s time to give vocational education in high school the respect it deserves.

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