Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

Is the long-cycle “higher education boom” now beginning to go bust?

Like financial bubbles fed by subsidy and the Federal Reserve’s limbo-low interest rates, American colleges and universities are plagued with too much government attention —particularly by policy that says “everybody should go to college.”

But common sense tells us that not everybody profits by going to college, that sending ill-prepared, unqualified and even uninterested young non-scholars to college, largely so they can “earn higher incomes” is absurd. Pushing the vast majority of American humanity through the university mill cannot ineluctably yield increasing returns. With diminishing returns, increasing government attention can only feed a dangerously unsustainable bubble.

And once it bursts, Americans will demand explanations.

Look to the theory of “signaling,” which posits that a (or the) chief use for schooling is not learning but a demonstration: Getting a college degree shows (“signals”) employers that the persevering student possesses virtues useful in “the real world.”

We’ve come to rely on those crude signals, but as economist Bryan Caplan argues, businesses could adapt to a very different information market: “Ending government subsidies for education wouldn’t create a new working-class generation; it would lead businesses to massively expand the employment of interns to take advantage of the large pool of talented, young people who can’t afford tuition.”

Gee, learning one’s trade for free sounds better than going into debt to “signal” employers that one would likely be able to produce for them.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Drik says:

    If we had to rely on folks who were not long on education and short on practical experience, we would lose 92% of Presbo’s cabinet.

    And THEN where would we be?

  2. CLOVA says:

    Everyone should go to college is one of the biggest misquotes I can think of. Most educators that I know would suggest everyone should be educated AS IF they were going on to college. The problem with education as it stands now is that you really do have to go to college at least two years because that is equivalelnt to what used to be a high school diploma. If it weren’t why is sooo much being spent on remedial education? The plumber, the auto-repairman, etc. need to know how to read and so math just as the degree bound student does. Everyone going to college is just like everyone should be a homeowner. Not everyone wants the responsibility and not everyone can afford the upkeep. What everyone should aspire to is being a citizen of this country who treats it like they were a homeowner. Most people would agree that the responsibilities of a homeowner are greater than someone who has not invested anything where they live. Someone thought they could make money by using the college education and homeowner quotes. Now you see how bubbles come about.

  3. Shelley says:

    Unfortunately the mentality of too many employers, they want their staff all college educated, even if their pay does not cover cost of living and paying student loans. It is usually posted in their ad for a job opening as one of the requirements. I have met job seekers in their forties with plenty of job experience and the employer turned them down for a job due to lack of a college education. So, good luck turning that attitude around with employers. That leaves those job seekers w/o a college degree out in the cold in this tight job market.

  4. Kenneth H. Fleischer says:

    I was booted out of college (Biology major) in my junior year. That same year, I was hired by Hughes Aircraft, to an apprenticeship that was the beginning of a 29-year career in electronics, and turning a hobby into a career, the last fourteen years of which were as a consultant electronics engineer. I am a firm believer in apprenticeship programs.

    There are those of us for whom college/university is just a waste of time, not because we wish to go into the “trades,” but because we don’t wish to be held back. I can learn things hugely faster on my own than through any courses.

    It was not at any college or university that I studied electronics, philosophy, or psychology, but I did, indeed, study those things, and I studied those things well.

    I like to quote Mark Twain: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” One should never confuse the two.

  5. Roger says:

    Paul, I wonder if the reason for “universal” college education isn’t simply the wish/need to further socialist indoctrination begun in public schools. Of course, more and more, community colleges must finish the basic teaching that the high schools have failed to do, making them remedial high schools, while providing more jobs for teachers (hopefully more competent than those in public schools).

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