Is education overhyped?
John Stossel, former anchor of 20/20 and current host of Stossel on the Fox Business Channel has a piece over at Real Clear Politics about whether college education is something of a scam. For people actually in college, this isn’t something they want to hear. For people who didn’t go to college or dropped out, it’s a different matter entirely. [Fair disclosure, I’m essentially a college drop out myself]
It’s a well known fact that those who graduate college tend to earn more over the course of their lifetime. Up to $1 million more. Study after study seems to show this, making it an inescapable fact, right? Well, Stossel doesn’t seem to be so sure of that:
I spoke with Richard Vedder, author of “Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much,” and Naomi Schafer Riley, who just published “Faculty Lounges and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For.”
Vedder explained why that million-dollar comparison is ridiculous:
“People that go to college are different kind of people … (more) disciplined … smarter. They did better in high school.”
They would have made more money even if they never went to college.
Honestly, it’s a fair point. Driven, intelligent people have a tendency to do more than folks who just don’t care, regardless of education. The idea isn’t exactly groundbreaking, is it? However, Stossel doesn’t just stop there. Of particular interest to me was this paragraph:
Also, lots of people not suited for higher education get pushed into it. This doesn’t do them good. They feel like failures when they don’t graduate. Vedder said two out of five students entering four-year programs don’t have a bachelor’s degree after year six.
This is completely true. I have ADHD and dyslexia. I am not the kind of person you want in a traditional educational setting, and yet I was still “strongly urged” to go to college. I blew it. I ended up on the verge of being booted out, so I went in the military. When I got out, the same thing. For years, I felt like a failure as well.
Of course, there is still the argument that going to college will get you a good job, right?
“There are 80,000 bartenders in the United States with bachelor’s degrees,” Vedder said. He says that 17 percent of baggage porters and bellhops have a college degree, 15 percent of taxi and limo drivers. It’s hard to pay off student loans with jobs like those. These days, many students graduate with big debts.
Of course, in all fairness, there’s a big difference between someone with a degree in electrical engineering having to take a job as a bartender and someone with a degree in philosophy doing the same. There are some degrees I’ve always referred to as “You want fries with that” degrees, because they don’t really prepare you for a real job. However, that tends to get left out of the college conversation a lot. Getting a degree isn’t what matters, but what that degree is in. That particular paragraph, and the piece as a whole, misses that.
The rest of the piece sort of questions whether colleges are educating people in the first place. Personally, I think they do provided the student opts to actually learn. Taking a class and passing the final only means the information was retained short term. I can’t help but feel that requiring students to take classes like British literature when their major is physics only encourages these students to slough off those classes after they’ve finished. No information is retained by choice, so maybe we should take a look at why we require some of them?
Honestly, it’s an interesting piece whether you agree with the premise or not. On one hand, it’s easy for me to agree with it. There are enough self made millionaires and billionaires out there who didn’t finish college, or even go, that it warrants some discussion at the very least. On the other hand, there’s a lot to learn and college is a great place to learn it. Personally, I think people get out of college what they put into it. The degree itself is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. What matters is the information one gains while earning it that counts. Knowledge is everything, paper is nothing.