Dicta

The home of “things said” by the National Association of Scholars.

Defending a Debased Version of the Liberal Arts

Peter Wood

The AAUP and AAC&U issue statement in support of a hollowed liberal arts.

Students Are Not Customers

Peter Wood

Peter Wood argues that higher education entails a hierarchical relationship between students who seeks knowledge and others who teach knowledge, as opposed to a consumer relationship.

Dear Future Philosopher

Robert Koons

NAS member Robert Koons gives advice to those pursuing philosophy.

Wharton School Professor's Book Supports Case that College Has Been Oversold

George Leef

In his new book, Peter Cappelli argues that college is not always a good investment.

The Value of College Degrees Is No More Settled than Is Global Warming

George Leef

George Leef writes for the John William Pope Center on why recent job data does not prove that higher education is a "good investment."

Welcome to My World

Jason Fertig

Jason Fertig writes on his first three months in the position of Faculty Senate Chair, where he has straddled the awkward fence between administration and faculty. 

Peter Wood on Bias in American Universities

Peter Wood

The College Fix posted an article, drawing heavily on an interview with Peter Wood.

Assigning Blame for the Degradation of Higher Ed

George Leef

Establishment voices blame critics and innovators for the degradation of higher ed.

How America's Colleges Compare Internationally

Ashley Thorne

Americans tend to see U.S. colleges and universities through rose-colored glasses while bemoaning the state of our schools. Kevin Carey writes that higher education isn't doing any better than elementary - and may even be worse.

Are young Americans who don't go to college "penalizing" themselves?

George Leef

College degrees aren't becoming more valuable, but their glut is confining those who don't have them to a shrinking, low-pay sector of the labor market.

Educators vs. Employers

Marilee Turscak

A new Gallup survey shows a wide gap between the perspectives of business leaders and higher-education leaders on how prepared today's college graduates are for the work force.

Celebrating 2013 in Education

Peter Wood

In another top 10 list, Peter Wood remembers people who did something original, creative, noteworthy, or surprising in 2013.

One New College That's Praiseworthy

George Leef

UMR is a no-nonsense institution where the students want to learn and the professors want to teach them.

Michelle Obama: "Get Thee to College"

Peter Wood

In a striking policy shift, First Lady Michelle Obama is now pushing for more college graduates in the U.S. Peter Wood explains why this idea is misconceived.

The College Board's Irresponsible Cheerleading

George Leef

The new "Education Pays" report inflates the benefits of going to college, even as the college bubble begins to collapse. 

Desperate Attempt at Keeping the College Bubble Inflated

George Leef

George Leef argues that the messages in the College Board's 2013 report "College Pays" don't fit well with the evidence that large numbers of students are rethinking the value of a college degree.

Our two bubbles: housing and college

George Leef

George Leef writes that the housing bubble and the college bubble both stemmed from an entitlement mentality fueled by government programs.

The Daily Show on Going to College

Jason Fertig

There's more than one way to scare kids straight. 

An Embarrassing Portrait of a State Flagship University

George Leef

Paying for the Party confirms many of your worst fears about big state universities.

What if the Best College for You is UnCollege?

George Leef

Dale Stephens answers ten questions about his new book Hacking Your Education.

It's Almost As If We'd Remained British

George Leef

In Britain too an obscenely large number of young people with a university education will not be able to find a job that matches their expectations.

More of That Silly "We've Gotta Put More People Through College" Research

George Leef

Leef and Jenna Robinson take a critical look at the SHEEO study and find that its conclusions do not logically follow from its premises.

Elite Colleges and the Coming Apart of America

George Leef

Charles Murray's new book argues that our elite colleges and universities are partially responsible for what he sees as America's unraveling. Is this true?

College Degrees Aren't Umbrellas

George Leef

George Leef critiques a recent report that argues that in a recession, people who have degrees are less likely to lose their jobs than those who don’t have degrees.

Doubting College’s Worth Beyond Jobs and Earnings

Ashley Thorne

When Americans today ask, “Is college worth it?” they are not just asking whether they will earn more than most high school graduates.

College Education Is Not a Public Good

George Leef

College education is not a public good and "society" shouldn't subsidize it.

Samuelson versus Kirwan -- No Contest

George Leef

Robert Samuelson's column arguing that we've oversold college is far more convincing than Maryland chancellor Brit Kirwan's attempted rebuttal.

President Obama's Graduation Delicacies

Daniel Asia

Comments on the President's graduation remarks at Barnard College.

College Degrees Versus Savoir Faire

George Leef

College degrees will become less and less important as people turn to other means of showing their abilities.

Where the Job Growth Will Be

George Leef

Most of the job openings in the labor market in the next decade won't require college education.

College Pays! -- Don't Bank on It

George Leef

Students should not leap to the conclusion that a college degree will be worth the cost.

Education vs. Training at Community Colleges

Jason Fertig

Jeff Anderson, dean of humanities, fine arts, and social sciences at Illinois Valley Community College, argues for the many benefits of great books courses, even for community college students.

The Worst of Both Worlds

George Leef

Federal student aid programs have given us the worst of both worlds -- rising costs and falling student learning.

Overinvesting in Higher Ed

Richard Vedder

Should nearly everyone go to college? No, says Richard Vedder.

After College, What?

George Leef

That’s the question I look into in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call.

Universities and Income Equality: New Evidence and Conjectures

Richard Vedder

Richard Vedder discusses new research suggesting that a greater proportion of degree-holders lowers income equality.

“Harvard and the American Dream”

George Leef

Comments on the definition of the American Dream. Hint: It doesn't necessarily include a college degree.

The “Marriage Premium”

George Leef

Mr. Leef makes fun of the concept of a "college degree premium" with a parallel to marriage as an earning stimulant.

College is a Risk, Not a Guarantee

Jason Fertig

We need to help prospective students better understand the costs and risks of going to college, argues Jason Fertig.

Caveat Emptor

Glenn Ricketts

That's the gist of this piece in yesterday's Washington Post, at any rate. The writer argues, as others have done recently, that if you're in higher education for the money, watch out. It may well cost you a pile, but if you're counting on instant remunerative employment when you graduate, no soap. Check out consumer labels carefully before you buy, he advises, or you might discover too late that you've bought a pig-in-a-poke.

Three Cheers for Useless Education

J.M. Anderson

A community college dean argues that the value of a liberal arts education is not primarily monetary or vocational, and that's just fine.

No Undergrad Degree Is Worth $250,000

Ashley Thorne

So says financial expert Dave Ramsey to a woman whose stepdaughter wants her parents to finance her $250,000 private college education.

 

Collegiate Press Roundup

Glenn Ricketts

Student news beats sound off on Thanksgiving, the budget logjam in Washington, the fallacies of population control and the wrong way to stop internet piracy.

The Merchant of Zuccotti Park

Peter Wood

Peter Wood argues that the Occupy Wall Street movement is helping Americans realize that college is not necessarily an “investment.”

Fast-Growing Jobs that "Require" College Credentials

George Leef

Here is an informative piece on seven jobs that are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. All "require" college credentials even though it's hard to see why a moderately intelligent high school graduate couldn't learn to do any of them. Also, they all offer low pay. I think this is strong evidence that the US has a serious case of credentialitis.

Ready or Not, Here They Come

George Leef

About half of the students who enroll in college every year are not regarded as “college ready.” 

Twenty-Six Year Olds in Diapers?

George Leef

David Bass of the John Locke Foundation argues that the mania for putting as many people as possible in college has given us 26 year-olds in diapers (figuratively speaking). 

Video: Is Higher Education Worth the Money?

Andy Nash

CollegeNET president Jim Wolfston discusses the question with Andy Nash.

The Mirage of Accountability at the University of Texas

Robert Koons

"The fundamental problem in American higher education is not that we award too few B.A.s: it is that too few of these degrees correspond to any objective and verifiable standard of competency."

Cost Versus Enrollment Bubbles

Andrew Gillen

We should carefully consider why Americans

Video: Richard Shavelson on How to Rate the Quality of an Education

Andy Nash

Richard Shavelson joins Andy Nash for a conversation on measurements and metrics in figuring out the quality of an education.

Disrupting the Textbook Machine

David Clemens

The higher education bubble was inflated by various pumps and gases:  expensive but useless degrees, an ideological straitjacket, grade inflation, administrative bloat, and proliferating programs, centers, and offices of enigmatic, malign, or Kafkaesque purpose. 

Too Much For Too Little

Peter Wood

NAS President Peter Wood offers observations on the diminishing value of a college degree.

Serve the Diversity of Adolescent Interests

Ashley Thorne

Does our society devote too much time and money to education?

Subway Ride

Peter Wood

Peter Wood comments on colleges’ hard sell to underprepared students.

Talented, Intelligent British Woman Doubts College Will Do Her Any Good

George Leef

Here is an excellent piece in the Guardian by a young British woman, obviously very talented and intelligent. She is resisting pressure to go to college because she doubts that it will do her any good. She cites statistics showing that Britain also suffers from credential inflation -- "by 2017, 56% more jobs will require people to hold graduate-level qualifications." I suspect that very few of the jobs requiring such qualifications are really beyond her capabilities. I also suspect that she will find one of those niches where a degree isn't a prerequisite to trying and succeed very well.

Tipping Point: Student Loan Debt and the Higher Education Bubble

Peter Wood

How insupportable debt is making Americans ripe for cultural defection from college.

Doug French on the Higher Education Bubble

George Leef

Doug French, president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute argues that much of the apparent increase in the “need” for people with college degrees was due to the growth of employment in government since 1990 and growth in the finance industry, fueled to a large extent by federal interventions to keep interest rates artificially low. French also disputes the notion, recently pushed by David Leonhardt of the New York Times, that college is a good investment even if you wind up washing dishes because you’ll enjoy an earnings boost.

Some Praise for Carnevale's Latest Study

George Leef

I haven’t read it yet, but Neal McCluskey finds the latest study released by Anthony Carnevale’s Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce to be valuable. Neal’s take on it is here. The reason for his praise is that the study demonstrates that college credentials aren’t necessarily like winning lottery tickets and the failure to get those credentials is not a guaranteed trip to the poorhouse. Some individuals who never went to college do very well and some individuals who went to college for a long time don’t do well at all. That makes you suspect that innate personal qualities count for more than formal education does. Nevertheless, the study concludes, “No matter how you cut it, more education pays.” That’s clearly not the case. Education (which is now largely the quest for credentials rather than learning) is a positional good. If everyone gets more of it, that won’t make every job pay more. Workers are paid on the basis of the value of their production and “more education pays” only to the extent that it raises a person’s productive capability. Sometimes college work does that, but not often.

Many Americans are Undereducated, But College Credentials Won't Fix That

George Leef

In last week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I analyze the recent paper published by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, "The Undereducated American." It is an attempt to regain momentum for the More People Must Go To College crusade, but it fails to do that. There are more problems in the paper than I had space to address, but I'll tack on one more here. The country doesn't "produce" college graduates any more than it produces accountants or oboe players. Individual decisions are determinative here. So why is it that, despite entreaties from leaders from Obama on down, copious subsidies, and repeated admonitions to students that college will give them a big earnings premium, the college enrollment stats have been flat for some 15 years? I think it's because lots of marginal students doubt that they will benefit from college. Maybe they've heard from friends or family members that many graduates wind up with low-level jobs anyway. Even if they believe that college might eventually help them earn more than average as a cashier or dishwasher, it's not worth the time and expense.

The Grad School Decision

George Leef

In today’s Pope Center piece, Jenna Ashley Robinson considers that question. Years ago, most students considering grad school had clear academic interests and career goals, but today we find that quite a few go to grad school just because it prolongs the period of time in the academic cocoon and delays the onset of student loan payments. For many students, it will be a long time before the cost of the degree is recovered, even assuming that they’re able to land jobs in the field they’re studying. Since we know that many law school grads can’t find law jobs and many Ph.D.s can’t find anything other than adjunct teaching, the grad school decision is all the more problematic.

Prescient

George Leef

"The widespread use of high school diplomas and college degrees as employment screening devices by employers has led to a belief that increasing education will increase opportunities, and/or that the reason for escalating educational 'requirements' is a corresponding increase in the knowledge necessary to perform a given job. The well-organized education lobbies exploit these beliefs to the fullest. In fact, however, educational 'requirements' are often used by employers who are wholly unconcerned about the specific content of the education, but who regards a diploma or degree as an indication of the job applicant's willingness to persevere and his grades as a rough index of his mental capability. The educational requirements are a hurdle which eliminates enough job applicants to narrow the employer's choice down to manageable proportions. By making it possible for more young people to go over a given hurdle, society also makes it necessary for employers to raise the hurdle in order to weed out the same proportion of applicants. The result has been an upward spiral of credentials and requirements with more and more young people being forced to endure more and more years of education that they do not want in order to qualify for jobs where the education is not needed. As more and more jobs have been put beyond the reach of those without the necessary credentials, whether or not such individuals can do the work itself, those ethnic minorities who are not traditionally oriented toward formal education are particularly hard hit." Thomas Sowell, Race and Economics, 1975, pp.231-2. America's mania for educational credentials has been accelerating for quite a long time.

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel for Students

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the new book In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by "Professor X." He's an adjunct who teaches English at two lower-tier schools and the book is highly revealing. Many of his students are barely literate and can't write coherently, but there they are in English 101, having gotten through the remedial filters. They have little interest in learning and are in college just for the credential. If we try to expand higher education the way President Obama and many in the higher education establishment want, the increase in student numbers will come almost entirely from students like these -- and even weaker ones. The author sees the parallel to the housing bubble. We already have lots of "students" who are very dubious candidates for mortgages; next we'll have to go to the college equivalent of "liar loans." College education still has a mystique for many people. Supposedly it does much to impart needed knowledge and skills. It's said to be our "best investment." Read this book and you'll find out it ain't necessarily so.

Video: Higher Education an Anti-Thrift Institution?

Peter Wood raises the issue of universities' bad stewardship at a recent event in New York.

On Cashiers and College Degrees

Jason Fertig

A New York Times article doesn't convince Jason Fertig that nearly everyone needs to go to college.

Another Skeptic on the "Need" for More College Degrees

George Leef

In this Atlantic column, David Indiviglio argues that the "need" for college has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He understands that for many students, the value in the degree is only positional, indicating that they're better than individuals without the credential. If we reach the point where almost everyone has a BA, then it will be necessary for those who want to set themselves apart to obtain a more advanced degree. Of course, there will be institutions eager to sell them the credentials. In his book How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning, Professor David Labaree nailed this point, writing, "As each level of education in turn gradually floods with a crowd of ambitious consumers, individuals have to keep seeking ever higher credentials in order to move a step ahead of the pack. In such a system, nobody wins. Consumers have to spend increasing amounts of time and money to gain additional credentials because the swelling number of credential holders keeps lowering the value of credentials at any given level....Employers keep raising the entry-level education requirements for particular jobs, but they still find that they have to provide extensive training before employees can carry out their work productively. At all levels, this is an enormously wasteful system."

No, the "College Could be a Waste of Time" Stories Aren't Always Wrong

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I take issue with the piece Kevin Carey had published in The New Republic several weeks ago.

In essence, Carey’s argument is that college will nearly always prove to be a good investment because it has in the past and because skill levels across much of the workforce are rising. I dispute the first point by noting that the phenomenon of large number of college-credentialed people having to take work in fields that call for no academic training has been with us for decades. As for the second, there is no reason to believe that whatever skill increases may be needed throughout the labor force are such that people who have not been to college are incapable for mastering them. The military is a good example. The sophistication of the equipment, weaponry and otherwise, used in the military has been steadily increasing, but it trains its personnel — very few of whom have any college coursework — so that they have the skills needed.

Another Glaring Flaw in Leonhardt's Article

George Leef

There are many more flaws in his article. Here’s another that really bothered me.

One of the glaring weaknesses in the “College is good for everyone!” case is the mounting evidence that many students learn little or nothing. Leonhardt tries to escape that by noting the recent conclusion by Arum and Roksa that a large percentage of college students they sampled made scant academic gains, then writing, “But the margin of error was large enough that many more may have made progress.”

Yes, but it’s equally likely that the margin of error could go the other way and that “many more” may have been wasting their time and money. Leonhardt knows what “margin of error” means, but he’s writing an advocacy piece, so he evidently feels justified in slanting the data his way.

Then he tries to blow off the entire matter by writing, “The general skills that colleges teach, like discipline and persistence, may be more important that academics anyway.” Small problem here: there is no evidence that colleges are better at teaching discipline and persistence than they are at teaching about math, history, or how to write a good paragraph. Lots of students manifest the same aversion to work, to deadlines, to personal responsibility as seniors that they had as freshmen.

Fraud Up and Down Our Education System

George Leef

So argues Professor Herbert London in this Minding the Campus essay.  Starting from the earliest years, teachers (later professors) often pass along students who haven’t learned much just because it’s the easy and supposedly compassionate thing to do. Thus we wind up with kids in college who are barely literate and can’t do simple math.

Why? It’s because there is no penalty for acting that way. The money keeps flowing in and the teachers and professors keep their jobs despite the educational fraud.

Bryan Caplan Counterattacks Against David Leonhardt

George Leef

I suspect that there will be quite a few posts regarding David Leonhardt’s NYT hit piece on those of us who argue that we have oversold college and ought to stop promoting the notion that it’s a good "investment" for almost everyone.  Bryan Caplan takes issue here with Leonhardt’s closing line about the supposed evils of “elitism.”

Arnold Kling Versus David Leonhardt

George Leef

My friend Arnold Kling takes issue with several points in Leonhardt’s piece, especially his supposition that when people with college degrees who do work that doesn’t call for academic training earn more than people in the same field who don’t, it’s because going to college gave them more skills. Kling argues that it’s mistaken to assume causality. He suggests that if we could randomly put individuals who have college capabilities and those who don’t into various jobs, we would find that college coursework matters little.

The Push to Put More Students in College Ignores Human Uniqueness

Ashley Thorne

I posted this as a comment on Richard Kahlenberg's Innovations blog post, "The College-for-All Debate"

Peter Wood and I debated Education Sector's Kevin Carey last week in a four-day online debate through Minnesota Public Radio. The assertion was: The drive to increase college enrollment threatens to lower academic standards.

More Options Needed for the Academic Middle

Jason Fertig

Jason Fertig comments on Other Ways to Win, a precursor to today's Academically Adrift that argues we need to recognize forms of success other than getting a college degree.

Changing the Incentives in College Teaching

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I continue with the topic that took center stage at our event on May 10 — the low quality of many college courses.

The Weak Incentives for Good College Teaching

George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I discuss our recent event on the convergence of criticism of higher education from the right and the left.

Two Canadian Profs Turn Thumbs Down on Their Higher Ed System

George Leef

In today's Pope Center article, I review the new book by sociology professors James Cote and Anton Allahar (University of Western Ontario), Lowering Higher Education.

College Degree Holders: Flat Earnings and Less Learning

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Jenna Ashley Robinson continues examining the case that higher education is a bubble that may burst or at least deflate. Among other evidence she presents, long-term average earnings for individuals with BA degrees have not risen much and the the last few years have dipped.

College: Luxury, Investment, or Insurance Policy?

Ashley Thorne

Daniel B. Smith explores this question in New York magazine in a sobering, clear-eyed look at the problems with going to college, "The University Has No Clothes."

Video: George Leef on Higher Education - Oversold and Underperforming

George Leef warns that Americans will soon realize they are paying too much for too little education at our colleges and universities.

Taking Books for Granted

Ashley Thorne

The author of Fahrenheit 451 gave up a college education to keep his job and learn in the library, after realizing that going to college could ruin his life. His story may have relevance for many young people today.

Telling It Like It Is

George Leef

Professor Christina Hoff Sommers has written a wonderful review of Andrew Ferguson’s new book Crazy U. 

College Degrees: Neither Necessary Nor Sufficient for Success

George Leef

So argues William Cohan in this NYT Opinionator blog post. He focuses on a number of highly successful people who made it without college credentials. This is the point of Peter Thiel's entrepreneurial grants -- young people who have intelligence, ideas, and ambition ought to be able to get started right away rather than taking a long college detour.

If Even Krugman Says It...

Peter Wood

Peter Wood weighs the liberal commentator’s view that American higher education is no longer the path to prosperity in America.

Paul Krugman: "Education Isn't the Answer" for American Prosperity

Ashley Thorne

Today both Peter Wood and Jason Fertig observed that Paul Krugman, whom Peter calls one of the "stalwarts of the left,"  has gone on record to doubt the value of the college degree as the best path to prosperity for the majority of Americans. Krugman began his recent op-ed:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. That’s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that “If we want more good news on the jobs front then we’ve got to make more investments in education.”
 
But what everyone knows is wrong.

Krugman goes on to argue that more education does not necessarily lead to a stronger national economy, an argument that NAS and our friends at the Pope Center and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity have been making for some time. Peter and Jason note that when someone as prominently on the left as Krugman acknowledges that the value of the college degree is weaker than it's cracked up to be, we must be nearing some broader consensus about higher education's worth.

The Sad Effects of Mass Credentialization

George Leef

In today's Pope Center piece, Tulane University sociology professor Carl Bankston writes about the important new book Academically Adrift in light of his own experiences with college students. Do managers of waffle houses really need to have earned college degrees?

My Top Ten List

George Leef

Top ten books about higher education, that is. In today's Pope Center piece, I give my picks for the books people should read if they want to understand American higher education, and invite readers to suggest others.

Higher Education's Role in Coarsening Popular American Tastes

Peter Wood

Peter Wood has an interesting couple of articles on the Chronicle's Innovations blog this week. He compares Lily Bart, a fictional character in the 1905 novel The House of Mirth with Lady Gaga and talks about how higher education is responsible for giving "trash culture a veneer of respectability" and how it "encourages students to open themselves to many of their worst impulses" (Lily Bart vs. Lady Gaga).

How Do North Carolina Schools Do on General Education?

George Leef

That's the subject of today's Pope Center piece by Jenna Robinson. Most are rather weak when it comes to requiring a broad education.

Oh, But There IS a Debate Over That!

George Leef

Inside Higher Ed ran a story  on an AEI conference where the subject was the “completion agenda.” That is, do we really need to get lots more young people into and through college as Obama says we should? After the presentation of a paper by Arthur Hauptman that was skeptical, Lumina Foundation’s Dewayne Matthews commented that “there’s no real debate here that more people need college degrees.” Sorry, but there IS a great debate over that.

A Comment on My WSJ Letter

George Leef

A reader  sent me an email about my letter in the Wall Street Journal on the inflation of job qualifications.

Overselling Higher Education Gives Us Credential Inflation

George Leef

Today's Wall Street Journal published George Leef's letter:

Soon You Will Need a Master's Degree to Wash Dishes Eric Felten's excellent "Now College Is the Break" (Postmodern Times, Feb. 11) leaves an apparent paradox hanging in the air. If large numbers of college students are studying little and learning almost nothing of lasting benefit, how can it be that "the reward for the collegiate credential has been going up"? 

Alternatives to College?

George Leef

James Altucher suggests eight.

Is College the Only Pathway to Prosperity?

Ashley Thorne

A new report advocates embracing career training as a viable alternative to college. The AAUP, on the other hand, asserts that college is the best option we can give the next generation.

NYT's Room for Debate Looks at the Results of Higher Education

George Leef

In today's New York Times Room for Debate feature, the topic is how much college students learn. It was prompted by the furor over the recent book Academically Adrift in which the authors conclude that many students learn little or nothing. 

Rich Vedder Responds

George Leef

In this extensive Inside Higher Ed piece, Rich Vedder responds to criticism by Anthony Carnevale, who takes issue with Vedder’s argument that many college graduates derive no financial benefit from their degrees. 

Peter Wood on ABC News: "Going to College is a Gamble"

Video: NAS president Peter Wood talks about the risks of sending students to college at a time when they can be assured neither that they will learn much nor that they will be better positioned to secure a good job.

Rich Vedder on the Overproduction of Advanced Degrees

George Leef

At The Chronicle's Innovations blog, Rich Vedder discusses the overproduction of advanced degrees in the U.S. 

Surfeits of Certitude

Peter Wood

Should we approach higher education with more skepticism?

Ask a Scholar: Time for Business School?

Jason Fertig

Jason Fertig argues that the MBA is not the golden ticket it once was.

College for the Credential, Work for the Education

George Leef

David Bass decided on getting his college degree entirely through online courses. His college classes, just as he had thought, did little to advance his capabilities in comparison with all the on-the-job training.

Re: Value of the College Degree

George Leef

A figure of 85 percent agreeing that their education adequately prepared them for their job certainly doesn't mean much.

The Value of the College Degree

Ashley Thorne

Is college worth it just because recent grads say it is? There's more to it than the study shows, writes Jason Fertig at NAS.org.

More Fuzzy Math: Alumni Satisfaction

Jason Fertig

Is college worth it just because recent grads say it is?

"Mindless" Pursuit of College Degrees Comes at a High Cost

Ashley Thorne

Approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers relatively low skilled.

What's the Value of Freshman Composition Courses?

George Leef

Here's an essay about a composition course at UNC that was a waste of time.  No student, who wanted to improve his writing, would buy a course like this in a stand-alone, free market transaction.

Kaplan Job Cuts - First Indication of the Burst?

Ashley Thorne

Chicago Business reports Kaplan Higher Education’s announcement that it is cutting a total of about 770 jobs. This may be nothing, but it may also not be -- is this the first indication that the higher ed bubble is starting to burst? Guest post by Ed Cutting

Prison Education: Can the Liberal Arts Liberate?

Ashley Thorne

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "Doing Time, With a Degree to Show for It," discusses the value of higher education for prison inmates. The author is a distinguished fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative. I was especially arrested by this excerpt from the author's conversation with a former inmate:

As I pressed him to explain, he talked of growing up in Harlem, where his friends in the street always wanted to know "who was putting us down." Bard taught him, he said, to think critically about statements like that. His classes in history and anthropology had enabled him to understand his situation in a social context. "Now," he said, smiling, "I know life is more than 'us versus them.'"

 Life is more than 'us versus them.' I'm glad that history and anthropology classes are teaching this to the incarcerated. But for most students, liberal arts classes teach just the opposite - that history is the history of identity-group-based oppression. Just look at Howard Zinn's textbooks. It sounds as if colleges and universities have something to learn from programs such as the Bard Prison Initiative. To read further on prison education, check out this article from the NAS:

Inmates in liberal arts programs frequently invoke the language of inner freedom to describe their experience.  The irony, of course, is that so many students who are on the outside attending elite four-year colleges and universities adopt the pretence that their freedom is phony and that they are victims of an oppressive society.

More Higher Education for More People: Good for the Country?

Ashley Thorne

Do we finally have a national higher education agenda in the U.S.? Inside Higher Ed suggests we're close. The "now widely held view that the country must in the next 10-15 years significantly increase the number of Americans with a quality postsecondary credential," advocated by President Obama and numerous large foundations has its critics, IHE says. But "few strongly dispute the basic premise that more higher education for more people will be good for the country, its economy and its citizens." This is one of those times where NAS belongs to the "few." We  vigorously dispute the premise that assumes that expanding enrollments will expand national prosperity. The fallacy behind this idea is mistaking most-educated for best-educated. Those terms don't mean the same thing. By 2020, or 2025, or whenever we finally reach the big goals set by President Obama, the Lumina Foundation, and others, we may have the highest percentage of college-educated people, but will we be the world's best-educated? A commenter on the IHE article, Burke Smith, articulates skepticism along these lines:

For instance, without objective standards of educational quality (which higher education does not currently have), incentives for degree completion could very easily lead to a cheapening of the degree. The nationwide growth of grade inflation and corresponding reduction in the amount of time spent studying is one example of such a possibility.

Smith is the CEO of StraighterLine, a company that helps students transfer college credit. We at NAS agree with Smith that incentives for degree completion could very easily lead to a cheapening of the degree. A lot of people with mediocre education won't aid our country in innovation and international competition. And as George pointed out today, more college degrees do not equal economic growth. Check out the full list of NAS articles on higher ed expansion here.

Another Dissent on the Idea that Economic Growth Depends on Having More College Grads

George Leef

In this LA Times op-ed, economics professor Shirley Svorny (Cal State Northridge) argues against the idea that if a state puts more kids through college, that will provide it with an economic boost. While the bigwigs in California's higher ed system want people to believe that, she says that "the state's prosperity rests on public policies that encourage economic activity, not on heavy subsidies to higher education." But won't the added knowledge from college make workers more productive? Svorny rebuts that notion, observing that "artificially low fees attract some students who simply aren't suited to the academic rigors of a university. Ultimately, the presence of these lower-achieving students hurts those who are more academically inclined, as they end up in watered-down courses in which professors have to focus on bringing the low achievers along." I would add that even for students who do study diligently, getting a college degree may be of little economic value. There is no automatic link between the number of sharp and highly educated people in a state and the creation of high-skill jobs.

MyFuture.com: A Good Resource for Young Adults

Ashley Thorne

I recently discovered MyFuture.com, a website for high school students to help them decide what to do as they begin adulthood. It has three branches: career, college, and military, and it has clear information and step-by-step guides for each. I appreciate its inclusion of military and career as viable options next to college - which makes sense given that MyFuture.com was developed by the Department of Defense.  Most of the time, the only option recommended to high school students is college. The easy-to-use website is something I'd recommend to all my high school friends and their parents. I'm glad to know about this good resource.

The Glut of College Graduates

George Leef

Writing at the CCAP blog, Christopher Matgouranis shows how badly the U.S. has oversold college. He gives some Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the prevalence of college degrees among those working in occupations that most high school students could easily learn. It's worth mentioning that this is not a recent phenomenon either. College grads have been spilling over into "high school jobs" for many years. See, e.g., Pryor and Schaffer's 1999 book Who's Not Working and Why. Obama wants to substantially increase the number of Americans who get college degrees, but what does he think they'll be doing?

A College Course on What Fictional Characters Wore?

Ashley Thorne

I just read an article in the University Daily Kansan linked in Glenn's Collegiate Press Roundup this week. The article, "Women, Take Back Halloween" is written by a male student whose characterization of slutty Halloween costumes on campus echoes that of Nathan Harden in Proud to Be Right. He urges women at U Kansas to cover up this Halloween and dare to dress goofy instead of sexy. I'm heartened to hear this plea, especially from a male student, for sexual dignity, but what most caught my eye was his reason for entering a costume store: research for his class, "What Fictional Characters Wore: Jesus to Jacob from Twilight." First of all, why is Jesus being called a "fictional character"? Second, why is this a college course? The author is a in the film and media studies and journalism programs. His mention of the course is the only place it exists on the internet, and it's not included in the film and media studies course list. But if this really is a course at the U of Kansas, how is it justified as advancing higher learning? Is this what college level academic work has come to?

A Canadian Columnist Sees Through the College Hype

George Leef

David Warren writes for The Ottawa Citizen and has a firm grasp on the reality of higher education. Consider this column published Oct. 12. Is higher education a great, crucial investment in human capital? Here's what he says:

The great majority of the universities -- founded since the Second World War to bureaucratically process and credentialize a large part of the general population, as a matter of 'right' and regardless of their intellectual capacities -- are in effect 'community colleges' or trade schools. Many of the trades being taught are perverse and wouldn't exist without further government subsidy ("women's studies" for instance, to produce professional feminist agitators). But most are the commonplace trades, and the colleges only provide incredibly inefficient and ineffective ways to replace the older apprenticeship arrangements, while cosseting the young from demands of the job market until they are thoroughly spoiled.

Read the whole, wonderfully iconoclastic thing. If you can stomach pure bile, read the comments too. I'll be on the lookout for more of Warren's columns. Hat tip: Geoff Hawkins.

Jobs for College Grads

George Leef

Michael Mandel notes in this post that among recent college grads who have employment, the greatest number have government jobs. They probably produce little or no value; what they do may in fact impede the creation of value by others -- but they have what they probably consider "good" jobs. Another large category is the hospitality industry. Some 33,000 more grads are working in restaurants and hotels. Their jobs probably don't pay very well and could be done by most high school grads, but they ARE producing value.

Lumina Foundation Pushes a Higher Ed Great Leap Forward

Ashley Thorne

Another report out this week is the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation's 116-page account of how far the U.S. must go to meet the Foundation's goal of "increasing the proportion of American adults with a college degree to 60 percent by 2025." There's been a lot of goal-setting of this kind lately. President Obama, the Carnegie Corporation, and the College Board have all set their own goals for higher education attainment in the next decade or so. The rationale is that we want America to be the most-educated nation in the world (right now we're eleventh or twelfth). But being the most-educated nation isn't likely to make us the best-educated nation. Here's why. (See especially "American Character, the Remix: How College is Shaping Us Now")

College Board Reports, "Education Pays," But Others Aren't Convinced

Ashley Thorne

This week the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a new study by the College Board that offers evidence that the more educated you are, the more money you're likely to earn over a lifetime. Quoted in the article are Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and Charles Miller, former chairman of the federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education, who both raise some tough questions about the report's findings. Peter Wood also answered the hypothesis that a college degree is still the best investment in his recent article "The Bubble: Higher Education's Precarious Hold on Consumer Confidence."

"I Regret Taking Gender Studies Courses"...No Comment

Ashley Thorne

An NYU gender studies grad wishes she'd taken politics, history, and literature courses, and learned "more about the world in general, rather than one tiny little sliver of the world." She now realizes, "There

Strippers with College Degrees

George Leef

If this is accurate, about 25 percent have college degrees. I'm not aware of any college courses that teach this particular field of endeavor, but that will probably happen in time.

Comment from a Reader about Credential Inflation

George Leef

Your op-ed relating to credential inflation is on point.  Beyond college credential inflation there is another "credential" inflation virus that has infected the US.  It is the license or certification credential.  No longer are 10 to 20 years in a field enough for an individual's worth or contribution.  Individuals are now required to be certified or have credentials.  Certifications that go beyond passing the bar, CPA, MD etc.  Certifications such as black belt 6 sigma, AIPCS, PPM, CFA,  CIA, CMA, etc.....  Credentials that mean nothing more than the holder of the credential passed an exam.  Again business assigning magic powers to an individual with credentials versus real world experience.  It has created an entire industry on certification test prep, test taking etc.... while contributing nothing to the work environment. Even worse, relating to credential inflation, I have seen job ads, especially government job ad, that require a certain amount of real world experience, yet they also require college transcripts/grades regardless of whether the individual has been out of college for a period that makes transcripts/grades irrelevant. P.S.  My background is 15+ years in finance, operations and project management,  in manufacturing, hi-tech, telecom and cpg industries, complimented by an MBA/JD.

Liberals Begin to See the College "Bubble"

George Leef

Writing for Huffington Post, Anya Kamenetz compares the huge level of student loan debt to the housing bubble. I'm glad to see understanding that we have oversold college spreading, but Kamenetz misses the role of the government in the college bubble, just as leftist writers turned a blind eye to the role of the government in the housing bubble. There would have been no housing bubble if it hadn't been for federal policy pushing home-ownership as if it were a good investment for everyone and making unrealistically cheap loans available. Similarly, government officials, starting with Barack Obama, keep telling young Americans that they need to go to college (otherwise, they're letting not just themselves but the nation down, says BHO) and enabling even the most academically weak, disengaged students to get into college with financial assistance from Uncle Sam. Kamenetz makes it sound as though the bad actors are all in the for-profit sector: "Someone with experience in the for-profit college marketing business told me that the same online sales geniuses who used to work for mortgage brokers are now employed by for-profit colleges. Their business is the same: fill out the forms, get the money, consequences be damned. Will we stop them this time?" Ah, but you'll find lots of kids drowning in their student loan debts who went to public colleges and universities as well. Those schools are just as eager to lure in warm bodies to fill the dorms and school coffers, just as eager to keep them enrolled even if they are learning little, and just as eager to slap educational credentials on them and send them into a job world that many will find as hospitable as Antarctica. The trouble is not the profit motive; non-profit institutions are no less hungry for revenue than proprietary ones. The trouble is that government policy makes it easy for people to misjudge the ratio between costs and benefits, leading to a profusion of decisions that borrowers later regret. Letting students escape from their debts in bankruptcy, which Kamenetz favors, only deals with the symptoms. I say we should attack the underlying pathology.

Wanted: A College Degree and the Ability to Lift 50 Pounds

Jason Fertig

Must employers require a college degree? Jason Fertig argues that not only is a college degree not necessary for many jobs, but also that college grads may be less qualified for certain work than others with real world experience.

My Critique of "Help Wanted" Part II

George Leef

Today's Pope Center piece is the second part of my critique of the recent paper from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce. It focuses on the prevalent notion that much of the labor force in the future will demand workers with "higher skills" and that going to college is the only way for someone to acquire such skills. It's almost amazing that the authors of the paper never pause to consider the impact of credential inflation when they write about the increasing numbers of jobs that "require" a college education. Nor do they ever tell us exactly what knowledge an intelligent high school graduate is lacking that would make it impossible for him to learn and perform most of the jobs that are available.

Another Higher Ed Establishment Paper Fails to Make Its Case

George Leef

The paper in question is the latest from the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce and the case, naturally, is that America needs to get lots more people through college or else the economy will suffer from a shortage of skilled workers. In today's Clarion Call, I take a look at one of its major arguments -- that college is "worth it" because of the alleged "wage premium" that those with college education enjoy. The trouble is that those average earnings statistics tell us nothing about individuals at the margin. There are lots of college grads these days who work at pretty mundane, low-pay jobs, and the evidence in the paper even shows that considerable number of people in the lowest two earnings quintiles have college degrees. Alas, the authors entirely overlook the significance of those data. That's why I entitled my piece "This Paper Refutes Itself."

People Need Skills; College Degrees Aren't the Same Thing

George Leef

Blogging at Harvard Business Review, Michael Schrage makes a strong case that higher education has been oversold. What people need to succeed are skills and college is neither necessary nor sufficient for that. He calls higher education "a misleading-to-malignant proxy for economic productivity or performance." Very well put.

The Growing Realization that the Higher Ed Emperor is Wearing No Clothes

George Leef

The careful image campaign that the higher ed establishment has conducted for decades seems to be wearing off, if this Washington Examiner piece is any indication. The writer observes that lots of American students now get their high-cost college degrees, but can't even do basic math. Many of them can (and will!) hector you about "sustainability," their concerns about social justice, institutional racism and so on -- but they can't work out the simplest of numerical problems. A large number of jobs now "require" college degrees, but that requirement rarely has anything to do with actual knowledge. It's a screening device to keep out supposedly less prepared and trainable high school graduates, but it's becoming clear that many college graduates are no better.

You'll Never Be a Success Without a College Degree

George Leef

That's what most people say, but the truth of the matter is that quite a few highly successful individuals never earned college degrees. Some of them have created great companies that ironically demand college degrees for jobs far less demanding than that of their non-college CEOs. In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jenna Ashley Robinson writes about people who are very successful but who don't have any college credentials. Maybe a future piece should be about people who have college degrees but can hardly even keep a low-skill job.

Do Higher Education "Investments" Boost the Economy?

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin takes a look at the conventional wisdom that a sure-fire way for states or countries to boost their economies is by putting more resources into higher education. He concludes that the conventional wisdom is mostly wrong. Education, like everything else, is subject to diminishing returns and we're probably well past the point where additional benefits are less than additional costs.

College Degree No Guarantee of Prosperity

George Leef

This piece in The Chronicle reveals what many higher ed critics of known for years -- getting a college degree is no guarantee of prosperity. In fact, many Americans with degrees live in poverty. Those who keep saying that the nation will get a huge productivity boost by putting more people through college ought to consider the possibility that we've already oversold higher ed. The glut of people with degrees who can't find jobs that pay even moderately well is good evidence that we have. Conversely, I wish I didn't have to wait days to get someone to work on my malfunctioning air conditioning here in hot and humid North Carolina.

10 Reasons Not to Go to College

Ashley Thorne

A sampling of arguments for the idea that college may not be for everyone.

America Has Always Had a Rather High College Dropout Rate

George Leef

In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, I comment on the recent AEI paper by Professor John Thelin, in which he shows that there was no "golden age" of higher ed in America when most students who enrolled completed their studies and received their degrees. Even elite schools had fairly high dropout rates a century ago and hardly anyone thought that college dropout rates mattered -- except insofar as they hurt school finances. Thelin accepts the standard view that today's high dropout rate is "troubling" but doesn't make a case. Many of those who drop out are students who won't benefit much from college coursework. They're cutting short their losses on an "investment" that probably won't pay off.

Why College Education Is Becoming Obsolete

Ashley Thorne

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting opinion piece by Seth Godin called "The Coming Meltdown in Higher Education (as Seen by a Marketer)" [subscription required]. Godin suggests alternatives to the four-year college, such as "gap years, research internships, and entrepreneurial or social ventures after high school," and believes that "There are tons of ways to get a cheap liberal education, one that exposes you to the world, permits you to have significant interactions with people who matter, and teaches you to make a difference (see DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, by Anya Kamenetz)" without going to a mainstream college. Godin argues that from a marketer's point of view, the typical American college is headed for obscurity for these reasons:

  • Most undergraduate college and university programs are organized to give an average education to average students. [See "Seven Imaginary Curricula"]
  • College has gotten expensive far faster than wages have gone up.
  • The definition of "best" [college] is under siege.
  • The correlation between a typical college degree and success is suspect.
  • Accreditation isn't the solution, it's the problem.

Duncan Donuts

Ashley Thorne

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan insists that “a college degree is still absolutely worth it.” Is he right?

WSJ Review of Jackson Toby's Book

George Leef

The Wall Street Journal ran a review of Professor Jackson Toby's book The Lowering of Higher Education in its December 23 edition. The reviewer, Ben Wildavsky, unfortunately buys into the standard line that college studies are highly beneficial and the country needs to encourage more students to enroll and graduate. Wildavsky asserts that keeping ill-prepared students out of college is "one trade-off we should not make" because "the indisputable benefits of college should be spread more widely, not less." Nonsense. The supposed benefits of attending and (maybe, eventually) graduating from college are highly questionable. Toby shows that many students enter college with feeble intellectual background and learning tools, then coast through without learning much of lasting benefit. (As I argued here, it's doubtful that students have any human capital gain from their college experience.) Moreover, there isn't necessarily any financial benefit from going to college, even graduating. Unfortunately, Toby didn't mention the mountain of evidence that college graduates often end up working in "high school jobs" that don't pay very well no matter what your educational credentials. (That's a point I have been making for years, for example, here.) Perhaps if he had, Wildavsky's belief that going to college confers indisputable benefits would have been shaken. In any case, it's hard to see how you could read Toby's book, which makes a strong case that many students graduate from college with an education in name only, and yet maintain that it's so beneficial that we must not cut back.

Arne Duncan on Student Lending

George Leef

In today's Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan contributes a piece entitled "Banks Don't Belong in the Student Loan Business." What he opposes is federally subsidized bank loans and I'm with him on that. Subsidizing student loans is no better policy than subsidizing home loans. Where we part company is in his approval of direct government loans, which he wants to increase so that more students can "realize the dream of getting a college education." As I have frequently pointed out, a college degree is what many students want. Relatively few dream of education. Low-cost loans entice large numbers of young people who gain little if anything in the way of lasting knowledge and skills into college, where they pile of debts they'll have a hard time repaying once they get into the labor force and get a job that most high school kids could do. Besides that, nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to lend money for this or any other purpose.

The Spirit That Makes a College

Ken Daniszewski

Given the problems facing higher education today, this speech on the purpose of college delivered by Justice Wendell Phillips Stafford at the Sesqui-Centennial of Dartmouth College in 1919 seems as timely as ever. Here is an excerpt:

(The spirit of college) has shown itself in men who never knew how the inside of a college looked. When Lincoln jotted down the main facts of his life for the Congressional Directory, he wrote: "Education defective." And yet, tried by the test we are applying now, he was college-bred. The question is not, whether you studied Euclid in a classroom or stretched out on the counter of a country store. The question is, whether you mastered it. Lincoln did. And the thews and sinews of his mind, which he developed so, stood by him in the day when he threw Douglas down. John Keats was as innocent of the Greek language as the new curriculum assumes all men should be; yet out of some stray book on mythology the " miserable apprentice to an apothecary " contrived to draw into his soul the very spirit of Hellenic art, until he left us poems which Hellenists declare to be more Grecian than the Greek. He, too, was college-bred, as we now mean it, for he was impelled by that determination to subdue and fructify his powers, with the aid of all the past has left us, until they yielded something glorious and undying for his fellow men. His spirit was not the spirit of the dove, but of the eagle: "My spirit is too weak! Mortality Weighs heavily on me, like unwilling sleep; And each imagined pinnacle and steep Of godlike hardship tells me I must die, Like a sick eagle looking at the sky." If I am right, there lie wrapt up in this determination those three aims: (1) to discipline one's powers and make them fruitful; (2) in order to accomplish this, to make use of all that men have gained before us; and (3) to devote these powers and acquisitions to the common weal. The advantage the college has is this: that here the determined spirit finds the tool-shop and the arsenal. That spirit itself the college can foster and encourage but cannot create. It can and does lay open to its use the weapons and the tools. It can and does teach, in a fair, general way, what men thus far have done. It leads the newcomer to the point where they left off, and says: "Begin here, if you would not waste your time. This territory has been conquered. Go forth from this frontier." It also shows the worker of the present day what other men are doing. It brings him into touch with them, that he may put his effort forth where it will tell the most."

Stafford's entire text can be found here.

Are We Sure That Students Add to Their Human Capital?

George Leef

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading the new book Crossing the Finish Line, which purports to make the case for getting a lot more young Americans not only into, but through college. Almost immediately, I got stuck on the authors' assumption that college does much to increase the human capital of students. That assumption is crucial to their case, but I think it's highly questionable. Many colleges and universities are chiefly interested in processing through as many bodies as possible and have therefore watered down their standards to the point where students can pass courses with only the mental toolkit they had in high school. In athletics, the saying is "No pain, no gain." To keep weak and indifferent students happy, a lot of schools make it possible to get through college without any pain. Whether college adds to human capital or is just a costly period of marching in place is the subject of my Pope Center Clarion Call piece today.

What Makes College Worth the Cost?

Ashley Thorne

Expected future earnings? A rigorous and complete education?

Do Too Many Students Go To College?

George Leef

The Chronicle Review recently ran a lively discussion on that question, featuring nine people with widely divergent views. In today's Pope Center piece, I comment on it and offer my own answers to some of the questions posed.

Liberal Education vs. Liberal-Arts Education

Ken Daniszewski

Maurice O'Sullivan has an excellent article in the latest issue of Change magazine, (subscription required), on the shortfalls of the current liberal education movement.  He argues that the liberal-education movement rests upon several myths, such as a spurious belief that a narrow focus on processes such as "critical thinking" can somehow take the place of the rich content found in the traditional liberal-arts curriculum. Sullivan writes:

For those of us who believe that success in business and the professions will come relatively easily to students who have been well prepared to engage in all the dialogues of life--an engagement that requires a broad range of historical and contemporary knowledge; the ability to reflect deeply on that knowledge and to evaluate it critically; and the ability to present informed opinions orally and in writing in a clear, powerful, and sophisticated way--the relentless movement toward narrower and narrower career education is disconcerting. And claiming that the smattering of knowledge provided by a liberal education component offers an adequate balance to narrow majors seems both disingenuous and dangerous.

Readers unfamiliar with the current state of the liberal-education movement might also want to browse through this issue of the Association of American Colleges and Universities' publication Peer Review which, we are told,  "illustrates the potential for public health education as a vehicle for liberal learning".

Should Everyone Go?

Ashley Thorne

President Obama's goal - that by 2020 America would have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world - will require a huge expansion of higher education. But is that wise?

Teaching Can Be Dangerous

Ashley Thorne

Cross-posted from NAS.org, "An Unsuccessful Education Can Ruin You": The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article, "Course Reminds Budding Ph.D.'s of the Damage They Can Do," about a seminar taught at the CUNY Graduate Center on the ethics of teaching. Steven M. Cahn teaches the class, and he seeks to dispel the notion that all education is innocuous:

"People often think that education works either to improve you or to leave you as you were," Mr. Cahn says. "But that's not right. An unsuccessful education can ruin you. It can kill your interest in a topic. It can make you a less-good thinker. It can leave you less open to rational argument. So we do good and bad as teachers—it's not just good or nothing."

Cahn discusses with his small class the meaning of academic freedom ("How free should instructors be to proclaim their beliefs in the classroom? And how sensitive should they be to their students' personal commitments?") and the question of university neutrality ("Do colleges have an institutional duty to stay out of certain public debates? Or is that kind of neutrality actually undesirable or impossible?"). His students enjoy tackling these issues; as future professors, the subjects they consider in Cahn's seminar will soon become very real for them. This course covers the very same fundamental higher education debates in which the National Association of Scholars has found a voice for the last twenty-two years. These are conversations well worth having - they ponder "What does it mean to be a university of integrity?" The existence of the CUNY seminar is encouraging. Now if only all faculty members and administrators took this course, perhaps we'd have a better foundation for teaching the next generation.

Do We Need to Put More People Through College?

George Leef

Last Thursday, NRO published an article that took me aback, "Send More Students to College" by Marcus Winters of the Manhattan Institute. I have been arguing for years that we have oversold higher education and was surprised to see the title. Had I overlooked something important demonstrating that, to the contrary, we haven't done enough to promote it? Without having read it, I posted a brief skeptical rejoinder and after having read it, this lengthier counterattack. If you don't want to take the time for the posts, here's my key argument, as I wrote at the John Locke Foundation's blog: The central difficulty in the Winters article (and many others like it) is the assumption that because, on average, college educated people earn more than those who don't have degrees, college is responsible for adding the "human capital" that makes them more productive. Although it's true that on average the college educated earn more, that is in large measure due to the fact that over the last few decades, opportunities for people who ended formal education with high school to get into entry-level jobs that lead to high-paying positions have been steadily decreasing. That's because of credentialitis: employers screen out the presumably less reliable and trainable people who don't have degrees. Some young Americans go through college, learning a great deal, and augmenting their knowledge and skills considerably, but we also know that many others just loaf through college, taking easy courses that require little intellectual exertion and graduate with very weak skills in reading, writing, and math. If they get jobs that pay above average, is it due to the "human capital" they gained in college, which is awfully hard to discern, or is it due to the fact that they have benefited from the way employers use credentials as a raw screening mechanism? I think my argument better accounts for the facts.

The Quick Path to a Graduate Degree

Ashley Thorne

The remarks below were sent in from Dr. Jeremiah Reedy, who serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Scholars and was the founding president of the Minnesota Association of Scholars. Dr. Reedy taught Classics at Macalester College from 1968 to 2004.

The daughter of a friend from South Africa just earned an M.D. degree from a medical school in England.  It only took her five years---that is five years after graduating from high school.  Last summer a former student who lives in Cyprus introduced me to her brother who had just finished law school in Athens.  It took him four years, and again it was four years after graduating from high school.  I know that medical and law faculties in the U.S. want students who are broadly educated and have read widely.  Given the fact, however, that many students today are not getting what has traditionally been known as a liberal arts education but are instead being indoctrinated with radical politics, wouldn’t it be a good idea for U.S medical and law schools to accept students immediately after completion of high school?  This would be an especially good idea in medicine since, if Congress passes a bill that provides universal health care, there is going to be an acute shortage of physicians.  Not only will there be a huge increase in the number of people who want to see doctors, but many physicians have said they may retire early if we have government health care.  A possible by-product of what I am proposing could be that students and teachers would begin taking high school more seriously.  Any reactions?

Higher Education and Economic Growth

Tom Wood

Tom Wood makes the case that higher education is worth public support.

The Sheepskin Effect

Tom Wood

Does a college degree mean anything to employers? What intrinsic value does higher education have?

Is America Losing Its Innovative Edge?

Peter Wood

Is American innovation declining because we fail to send enough kids to college? A new report casts doubt on higher education's expansionist rationale.

American Character, the Remix: How College is Shaping Us Now

Peter Wood

A nation's manner of educating shapes the character of its people.

Tuesday Tirades

Peter Wood

Science, Victimology, Grrr, Includer-in-Chief, Liberal Ed on the Brink, Lessons

Charles Murray and Progressive Education

Tom Wood

On doubting the liberal arts and learning transfer.

Education and Intelligence-A Response to Charles Murray

Tom Wood

Formal education actually improves intelligence, and we have the data to prove it. Should anyone be surprised?

Asking a Lot

Peter Wood

A broadly advertised appeal for higher education's share of the bailout falls apart upon close examination.

Is the B.A. degree meaningless?

Tom Wood

There's new evidence that B.A. degrees have economic, non-economic, and even educational value.

Cold Brine: The College Board Loses Its Senses

Peter Wood

The College Board recently unveiled a new goal for America - that by the year 2025, 55% of Americans should have a college degree. But is that achievement the right solution to save America's place in international competition?

The Sweet Lemon Effect: College Grads Doubt Value of College Degrees-Except Their Own

Ashley Thorne

The American Council on Education released a survey showing that, although most people think that colleges in general charge unfair prices, most people also believe that their own alma mater charged them fairly. Whence the self-confidence?