Harvard Study: Maybe Everyone Shouldn't Be Going to College


All the kids accepted to their school should be going to college (or so they think), so Harvard's bottom line won't be affected if graduating high school students heed the advice of their own study. The Christian Science Monitor explains the predictable results of a Graduate School of Education's "Pathways to Prosperity," something viewers of have long understood: the traditional, four-year college experience isn't for everyone:

Despite a clear message that college is important – and a pervasive desire among young students to attend college – only about 30 percent of Americans complete a bachelor's degree by their mid-20s, with another 10 percent completing an associate's degree by then. A massive effort in recent decades to increase those numbers has improved them only slightly.

"It would be fine if we had an alternative system [for students who don't get college degrees], but we're virtually unique among industrialized countries in terms of not having another system and relying so heavily on higher education," says Robert Schwartz, who heads the Pathways to Prosperity project at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

Emphasizing college as the only path may actually cause some students – who are bored in class but could enjoy learning that's more entwined with the workplace – to drop out, he adds. "If the image [of college] is more years of just sitting in classrooms, that's not very persuasive."

We could have told you that:

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  1. I note the study leaves aside the fact that some people are just too stupid to get anything out of college.

    1. Or too smart.

    2. Both the high schools and the colleges dumb things down. The high schools, with no accountability, water things down while they engage in grade inflation, deleting both content and rigor from courses. Colleges create lower and lower classes, and find ways to nurse people through. But then colleges can collect tuition from student loans which cannot be excused. There is no incentive for colleges to discourage low performing students.

    3. Both the high schools and the colleges dumb things down. The high schools, with no accountability, water things down while they engage in grade inflation, deleting both content and rigor from courses. Colleges create lower and lower classes, and find ways to nurse people through. But then colleges can collect tuition from student loans which cannot be excused. There is no incentive for colleges to discourage low performing students.

  2. “If the image [of college] is more years of just sitting in classrooms, that’s not very persuasive.”

    Higher education advocates such as Girls Gone Wild have been working for years to change this image of the college experience.

    1. “Higher education advocates such as Girls Gone Wild have been working for years to change this image of the college experience.”

      Is that the marketing combine for east coast schools?

  3. We don’t have an alternative track because Leftists intentionally destroyed such tracks back in the 1970s.

    Back in the day, minorities got disproportionately shunted into vocational education in high school (largely because of parental income.) This was considered a great tragedy by Leftists because every once in a great while some minority kid who might have become a Leftists intellectual instead ended up earning a good living at a trade they learned in high school.

    To prevent the 1 in a 100 incipient Leftists from suffering the indignity of skilled manual labor, the Leftists sought to shutdown all high school tracks except college prep regardless of whether that actually benefited minority students or not.

    Yeah, I’m exaggerating but not by much. Go read the arguments against vocational education back then. The end result is that high k-12 drop out rates and a large population of minority youths who don’t go to college but who have no marketable job skills otherwise.

    The great tragedy here is that vocational education used to be the generational stepping stone for a families success back in the day. Generation 1 came to the country as illiterate peasants, generation 2 went to vocational high school and earned a middle-class income which allowed them to send generation 3 to college.

    Today, businesses struggle to find enough skilled technicians to make our advanced systems work. Sometimes the lack is so bad it is a major driver of outsourcing.

    Yet another example of the failure of narcissistic, elitist, top-down social engineering. Poor and working class parents would have made better decisions for their children than egomaniacal elites.

    1. Yet another example of the failure of narcissistic, elitist, top-down social engineering. Poor and working class parents would have made better decisions for their children than egomaniacal elites.
      reply to this

      How does your example support this conclusion? The loss of vocational education is, indeed, one of the more common problems faced by local school districts. But those vocational education programs were, largely, Federal programs…they were at their core an example of the social engineering you are decrying.

      After federal education priorities shifted, many local school districts kept these programs going. Their loss, over the years, was not the result of some centralized decision that prevented them…but centralized Federal support for them went away.

      It is almost like you have it backwards.

      1. But those vocational education programs were, largely, Federal programs…they were at their core an example of the social engineering you are decrying.

        Nope, you are completely wrong. Prior to 1957 there was virtually zero Federal input into education. Education was viewed as a State and Local responsibility. Back then vocational education was very significant. In large urban areas, as many as half the high schools were dedicated to vocational training (something like how we have magnet schools today.)

        The Federalization brought about a decrease in relative support for vocational education because the Feds were interested in producing elite scientist and engineers, not machinist. In the early 70s, social issues of race and ability began to dominate Federal education spending, usually directly. For example, the school lunch program is held hostage by hundreds of additional education requirements wholly unrelated to feeding poor children.

        The end result is the spending pattern we see today were the majority of spending goes to the 20% best and 20% worst students with the 60% in the middle ignored. That is were most vocational students came from.

        The real end of vocational education came from a spate of Federal civil rights lawsuits that claimed that vocational education was discrimitory since minorities recieved vocational education at higher rates than whites. To protect themselves from lawsuits and a loss of federal funds, schools shut the programs down.

        There never was at any time a widespread, bottom-up movement to end vocational education. It was destroyed from above.

        1. Sorry Shannon,

          That is not an accurate version of the history.

          C.F. Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917 and follow the subsequent legislation creating the vocational education system nationwide…

          Vocational education was implemented nationwide due to federal actions, for the most part. While opposition to the separate “tracking” of certain students did change the landscape, to claim that this opposition came from “elites” is getting the story backwards. Those federal civil lawsuits were brought by parents of students, not by some cabal of leftish intellectuals.

          1. Just to put some numbers on this…

            Prior to Federal involvement in vocational education, the US had less than 200,000 students in vocational education programs. Smith-Hughes and the significant federal dollars that went with it brought that number quite quickly up into the 3-4 million student range. The wide spread vocational education Shannon cites (pre-1957) was the result of a federal program to promote vocational education. When he says that prior to 1957 there was little federal money going into education, he is essentially correct only if he qualifies it to say “little federal money went into non-vocational education programs.”

          2. In other words, the Federal opposition to vocational education was a matter of solving a problem it caused.

            1. There was never federal opposition to vocational education. What Shannon is describing is a reform of the way that vocational education was provided. Due to the law suits mentioned, and other factors, there was a shift in how vocational education was funded at the federal level, as well as a shift in how it was conceived (stand alone shifted to “integrated into the curriculum”).

              1. Importantly for Shannon’s point. The Federal shift was away from central control (the stand alone programs that Shannon prefers) to more local control…which led to the demise of these stand alone programs as local school districts phased them out.

            2. They were for it before they were agin it.

              Guess they figured out what was in it after they passed it.

        2. This is a very good point. If we offered more vocational training thorugh secondary schools some schools with a focus on art, some with a focus on techincal jobs, some with a business focus, these schools could not only provide more people with marketable skills wiothout going to college it could also improve those who do go to college. Vocational schools could offer mechaics classes and calculus classes, and engineering classes wich could help students get inot a co-op program and be better engineers.

          Another problem is licensing which makes the workplace less flexable and which makes it so that a portion of those people in tech school are working to get a licence not because it improves their workplace skills.

    2. Once again, Shannon gifts us with a made-up-from-whole-cloth TEAM RED narrative about how everything was better “back in the day” until TEAM BLUE ruined it. Is there nothing, nothing in this world, Shannon, that isn’t the fault of TEAM BLUE? Is there any narrative, any narrative at all, that isn’t a story of TEAM RED vs TEAM BLUE?

      1. OMG, Epi was kidnapped by aliens and his implant has taken over…I can’t think of any other reason you make sense.

      2. Once again, Epi gifts us with an ad hominem attack rather than addressing another commenter’s arguments.

        1. Once again, Tulpa’s response is to gift us with some nagging. Don’t you have a husband somewhere to do that to instead?

          1. Once again, both Epi and Tulpa fail to rise to the humor level of Big Bang Theory.

            1. Once again, Hugh Akston barges in with a non sequitur that is amusing only to him.

            2. I’m not here to entertain, I’m here to edify.

            3. And that’s a pretty low bar …….

        2. Which arguments would those be?

        3. I’m rubber, you’re glue!

          1. Super Glue in your condoms again? My condolences.

            1. That’s actually not a bad idea.

      3. Episiarch|2.4.11 @ 6:40PM|#
        “Once again, Shannon gifts us with a made-up-from-whole-cloth TEAM RED narrative about how everything was better “back in the day” until TEAM BLUE ruined it…”

        Dunno what your gripe is. I’ve seen voc classes shut down over the years, and it seems to be the result of increased admin (fed tracking) costs and other forces that are certainly not generated by the parents or kids.
        The result is a population of college-preped kids, a population of kids going to college for which they are neither prepared, nor capable, and drop-outs.
        The kids who historically got jobs from the voc classes now have to pay Heald or other ‘tech schools’ for the education their parents have already paid for, and didn’t get, in public schools.

        1. Not to mention that the first two years of college have largely become remedial training for the basic skills these kids should have been taught in high school.

    3. “Today, businesses struggle to find enough skilled technicians to make our advanced systems work. Sometimes the lack is so bad it is a major driver of outsourcing.”

      Citation, please. I do not believe this a whit. The industries I am familiar with have laid off all sorts of “skilled technicians”, and the only job offers they can find pay little better than a McJob.

    4. Go read the arguments against vocational education back then.

      No need, I remember this one: That the world was changing so fast, it didn’t pay for people to learn a trade that could quickly become obsolete, but rather to learn how to learn so they could keep adapting to the changes. I heard a lot more of that than what you’ve written above.

    5. Shannon has this mostly wrong. Lawsuits did pretty much stop vocation schooling, but it was suburban school districts and suburban parents who filed the suits.

      In rural areas, agricultural vocational training was the norm and there wasn’t much complaint from those who wanted training in other vocations – but there was also less competition and blockage for rural teens who wanted to, say, learn HVAC from local businesses who needed the part-time kids in the summer anyway.

      In larger cities, there was plenty of school choice and enough transportation that most students had doable options for vocation schooling – but there was discrimination an those suits did change things but that was more in the area of school busing than anything else. (For example, going to the “computer school” required over an hour of commute time from the poorest neighborhoods.)

      Suburban schools districts had fewer schools and couldn’t offer the same smorgasbord of vocational training options as urban school districts – and the few programs that did exist were either fought because of students getting “tracked” into them or students not having any option for them other than “general studies”. In the suburban school I went to, the vocational programs my older siblings (10 years older) went into did not exist when I went. The expectation in my era was vocational training was post-high school courses at the community college (which originally included high school students but eventually excluded them).

      Although I don’t know this for a fact, I’d also suspect that teachers unions had a lot to do with this as teachers without education degrees were systematically removed from high schools.

    6. The analogous case, is of course, that the 1 in 100 idiot born into the right family can still walk right into Yale, only just manage to get an MBA and then become president…

      Rich Daddy is an Americaner kind of entitlement…

  4. Please change “effected” to “affected” in the first sentence.

  5. No shit, Spurlock. Sorry, had to do it.

    1. So did I, but on the right thread.

  6. I agree with the premise of the article, and have been saying so for years.

    But the video is pretty unenlightening in regards to the title and outline of the article.
    They ask one guy, who gives one opinion (the BA is irrelevant)….though true, this is the one opinion they just couldn’t live without? The one quote that would change everyone’s minds? The irrefutable evidence, the smoking gun of higher education?

    I mean, would you really send this video link to somebody on the fence (let alone the other side) hoping to sway them?

    I wish the video had expounded on the article, and had provided some kind of evidence, maybe more domestic studies or international comparisons?
    Either that or maybe just titled the whole thing something else, like “The federal government shouldn’t pay for college.”

    This whole article is kind of a mess. Which is too bad because it deserves to be addressed in an articulate manner. Well, I guess what can we expect from a guy with a B.A.?

    Guy with a B.A.

  7. “Effect” is a noun, “affect” is a verb. (usually, and in the first paragraph of this article)

    Something that is “entwined” is tangled around itself. You mean “intertwined”.

    1. Sorry to be a prig, but I just got an email from my university’s Vice President for Somethingorother about preparing for possible riots after the Super Bowl that was riddled with misuse of big words, almost as if the author was trying to impress me with his good vocabulary despite not having a good vocabulary. Remember kids, “any vandalism or disorderly conduct is intolerable.”

      1. Dude, I did NOT have anything to do with writing that memo. Really.

      2. Riots after the Super Bowl? Is Hosni Mubarek playing?

      3. Are the Lakers in the Superbowl?

    2. “Effect” can function as a verb too: e.g., to effect (bring about) change.

      1. True. Indeed, “affect” also can be a noun meaning the outward display of an emotion, but both of these counterexamples are relatively rare.

        1. relatively rare due to poor vocabulary of the average college graduate

          1. That too…but it’s probably better not to have those exceptions proving the rule in normal discourse.

        2. No, it’s vice versa: emotion is the physiologic concomitant of (i.e. outward display of) affect.

  8. Hahaha…paul ryan…does he still get his social security checks?

    I wonder if he’s even gone half his life without being on the government dole…since birth…someone figure it out for us…

    1. SM|2.4.11 @ 9:02PM|#
      “Hahaha…paul ryan…”

      Hahaha…SM…does he still pretend to have a brain?

    2. I wonder if he’s even gone half his life without being on the government dole

      Don’t worry, you’ll be finding out about that soon enough when you’re forced to take a part-time job washing trash cans for the city after college, you dumb striver.

  9. I knew a guy, an Objectivist, who dropped out of the University of Chicago in his sophomore year because he had a personal realization that there was no reason to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to major in classics. It’s too bad 99.9% of college students aren’t mature enough to come to this conclusion, and their parents are blinded by the “my child is a failure if he doesn’t go to college” mindset.

    1. “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

      1. SM|2.4.11 @ 9:33PM|#
        “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged.”

        There are several novels that can promote stupidity such as evidenced by SM, but they’re not worth listing.

      2. I read both. And liked both. I think you maybe misunderstand Tolkein.

    2. Watch it and weep, dude:


      1. WTF.


        Why are we paying for the most retarded ads ever made?

    3. I notice you didn’t tell us what happened to the guy after he made this decision.

      1. I don’t know, I haven’t been in touch with him. He wanted to do normal part time jobs while writing last I heard.

      2. He ended up as undersecretary to the department of defense.

        I learned that from Ravelstein.

        1. Honestly, if that comment was made by someone who hasn’t read, “The Closing Of The American Mind” (by allen bloom, of UoC fame)… the lost irony is screaming for attention.

          1. I was really looking forward to reading that book (Closing of the American Mind) so I went out and bought it as soon as it was available. I read the Intro. and it had some really good points in it. Then I read the rest of the book and it completely sucked. Boring, pretentious, very few new or even interesting conclusions.
            I’ve never been more disappointed in my life (in a book, that is).
            I remember he went on and on about how the song Mack the Knife was some kind of horrible indictment on how society had evolved because somehow the melody had come from some bar song that anarchists used to like (or something equally ridiculous, since I don’t remember the exact point he was trying to make). And the book came out about 1980 and he is talking about some 50’s song as if it was the latest cultural example of something or other. If it is not clear yet, I hated the book.

    4. He could have changed his major instead of dropping out. That is a mature decision. (I majored in classics and then got a law degree – not the worst approach to education.)

  10. Gotta refrain from commenting on this one, as I’m probably biased, being that my only direct experience with Harvard was a drive up from Southern VA to show a student of the Kennedy School of Government Course for senior level executives where to plug in the CAT V cable so his laptop could access the Harvard Internet access, after trying to talk him through it for about an hour was unsuccessful, to the tune of about 1500 bucks in travel and perdiem pay, with myself never having matriculated, although I’ve taken several Tuition Assistance funded course over the year, to accumulate credit hours and chase coed poon-tang, but mostly poon-tang. Yeah, Jesuit sponsored college girls are easy.

    1. Run-on sentence ride the wind away…

      Did I read that correctly that you got paid $1500 to plug in a CAT5 cable in another city?

      1. Yeah…one would think that there were some people in Massachusetts who were qualified to perform that service.

        Of course, never underestimate the money-stupidity of the extravagantly wealthy.

        1. Yes, you read that correctly. The travel voucher settlement was about that much. The money was ok, and financed a trip to see one of my kids graduate AF Basic, which was cool. It was also a chance for an out-of-towner to drive cross the Brooklyn Bridge, just for kicks. It was the weekend by then, so traffic was tolerable, even though the NYC marathon was going on, and streets were blocked all over Manhattan. One of the downside/instructive events was having to stop for gas on the NJ turnpike. Caused quite the disturbance and incited a lot of fear with the Jerseyites when I actually got out of my car to check the oil because the homeless guy they hired to pump gas couldn’t figure out how to open the hood (or gas cap) on a 280ZX. Explained quite a bit about New Jersey – before that I had unrealistically high expectations about people that in truth can’t even pump their own damned gas.

          1. Im more interested in the Jesuit college-girl stories…?

  11. I like to think that the college education I am currently obtaining is not completely worthless. I go to an engineering school :D!

  12. I’ve been saying the world needs ditchdiggers for 30 years!

  13. I certainly agree with the premise of the author. I attended a college as a pre-engineering student, 2 semesters. After a stint in the USAF, I changed my major to physics. In the end, I dropped out of university, and had a fine career as a professional civil engineer.

    It is tragic that high schools dropped courses in craftsmanship in “the trades”. Many, if not most, have not the intelligence to gain from education at the university level, and all to many people having procured bachelor degrees obtained employment which could have been accomplished by a high school graduate with some training on the job, a common practice in my days, and led happy and well paid productive lives working in a job they would have enjoyed doing.

    Social elitism has done much to destroy this nation as a nation of happy productive people.

    1. Similar here. I have no degrees – although enough course work over the years to have earned several degrees (I also have five professional certs).

      Yet, I am a sub-grade moron, an auto mechanic, to people who have a piece of paper, but can’t accurately locate nations on a map.

      Social Elitism it is. When the piece of paper has become more important than knowledge and expertise – however it was obtained – then we are about finished.

    2. My father had me take 2 courses in HS that I didn’t want to but that turned out to be very useful: typing and computer programming. But good thing we both had the sense not to waste time & money on driver’s ed.

  14. Wait! You’re telling me that a component of the American education system consists of a bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all approach that fails to meet the needs of its customers, is obscenely expensive, and places the interests of the institution ahead of the needs of students? NEVER!

    1. Much like ObamaCare.

  15. I don’t get tired of talking about this. My grandfather quit high school, joined the Army Air Force, fought in the Pacific theater in WWII, came home, married his high school sweetheart, and got his high school diploma. He didn’t go to college. He could read, write, and do figures, though I doubt he knew anything about Foucault, or ever paid a grad student $500 to write a 10-page essay about it. He joined a large company, which quickly figured out he was intelligent, and they moved him into a clerk position. His wife never worked. He sired five children, all boys, bought a nice house in a small town, took vacation at a lake house, retired, moved to Florida, lived another 15 years, and died just shy of his 80th birthday of colon cancer.

    Today, his job title instead of Clerk would be something like Managing Purchasing Coordinator. He would have a Master’s degree in nothing in particular, probably from nowhere important, and have $50,000+ in student loans. His job today requires reading, writing, and doing figures, just like it did 50 years ago, but today he would have crippling student loans and 6 years of layaboutry.

    Sometime during the last 50 years, our society went Full Retard about schooling. I’ve yet to see anyone explain why.

    1. Credentials are easier to evaluate than individuals and the Armed Forces are about the only employer in the US allowed to give an objective intelligence and aptitude test.

      1. And thank whatever you believe in that they still are “allowed to give an objective intelligence and aptitude test.”

      2. Look back to where it started, the EEO made all non-black hiring suspious amd liable. The ACLU jumped in and made millions on companies who hired without credentials to prove that the black was less qualified. Hense paper proof…

        1. Spot on: worries about discrimination law suits mean using a different criterion. So, if a college degree signals competence, then require a college degree, whether it is needed or not. Simply affirmative action fears.

      3. NFL?

        The wonderlic is an odd test though.

      4. No, actually civil service tests are like that too, they just don’t call them that.

    2. Yes, but he died without a consciousness of the importance of historicity in contemporary philosophical thinking, or enjoyed my analysis of the Panopticon in modern concepts of Discipline and Punishment


      1. Plus how could anyone be happy without understanding the web of power or adopting a transgressive stance against hegemonic hetero-normative discourses or ridiculing to phallic conceptions of the author? My life was empty until I understood such deep mysteries.

    3. Jersey,

      It’s because of the Civil Rights Act.

      In the case Griggs v. Duke Power, the U.S. Supreme Court described what criteria can be used for pre-employment testing:

      ** A test where members of one race performed more poorly than members of another race ? demonstrating a “disparate” performance ? was assumed to be discriminatory with respect to race, even if that was not the intention of the test.

      ** Tests with disparate results are illegal unless the test has a direct business necessity.

      Since, most businesses weren’t interested in wasting money on tests that were not necessary to screening out unfit employees or identifying the most fit employees, they were stunned. The Supreme Court had a very complicated definition of what constituted “Direct Business Necessity”, one that was difficult to meet and gave considerable deference to the employee of the Equal Opportunity Commission who was deciding whether or not to accuse a company of illegal discrimination. Only the simplest tests, such as requiring a prospective driver to pass a driving test could reasonably pass muster. Other tests, which businessmen clearly felt were useful to reducing the risk of hiring the wrong person for the job, now could get them sued.

      Companies are using college degrees as a substitute for their judgement on who is a good hire and who isn’t, because using their own judgement can get them sued.

    4. “Sometime during the last 50 years, our society went Full Retard about schooling. I’ve yet to see anyone explain why.”

      “Affirmative Action” is why. The perversion fo Civil Rights from judging people by the content of their character, and their actual abilities, and instead judging them by the color of their skin, and judging employers based on the ALLOWED measures of employees.

      If you hire and promote people based on intelligence and ability, and your actions don’t meet some after the fact quota, then you will get sued for racial discrimination. If you hire and promote based on credentials, regardless of how relevant those credentials are, you’re on a much firmer footing.

      Blame it on the ability of the Left to take anything, no matter how good, and screw it up.

    5. And I bet he didn’t have to answer a page of questions about his race and gender, etc. on every job app.

  16. I just interviewed a kid for a job. He graduated last December from a big midwestern public school and told me it’s tough finding work. His major was communications and psychology and he volunteered (I was afraid to ask) that he has student loans that come due in about 6 months.

    The job I have available is a commish only sales job. College degreed folks do well at it, but it’s not needed and most don’t have loans to repay.

    By what he told me, he was the first in his family to have gone to college, but I felt like the system had let him down; or at least lead him astray. He didn’t want to end up in a factory like his dad. I can sympathize, but I’m not sure how well served he will be by his degree.

    He told me that if he couldn’t find good work, he’s considering going back to school (to defer loans, I expect). I get lots of resumes from people with ‘MBA’s from Keller, which is DeVry’s business school.

    The system has some major problems.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get why jobs like “administrative” whatever require a college degree but pay $10.00. It’s like college is supposed to teach you to do easy work for shitty pay.

      1. What the employers want is somebody with an IQ above room temperature. [Once upon a time, a high school diploma was enough of a guarantee that the holder was on the right-hand side of the bell curve: not anymore in the age of feelgood “education”.] Since they’re not allowed to take an IQ test or aptitude test as it supposedly has a “disparate impact” they use college admission as a proxy for SAT scores. Whether they majored in basket weaving, grievance studies, or tromboning they don’t care.
        Nowadays th

    2. By what he told me, he was the first in his family to have gone to college, but I felt like the system had let him down; or at least lead him astray. He didn’t want to end up in a factory like his dad. I can sympathize, but I’m not sure how well served he will be by his degree.

      He told me that if he couldn’t find good work, he’s considering going back to school (to defer loans, I expect). I get lots of resumes from people with ‘MBA’s from Keller, which is DeVry’s business school.

      This sort of thing drives me absolute batshit when I read about it–a bunch of average IQ-level striver poors that took on more debt then they could afford to pay (due both to their own lack of foresight fostered in no small part by being relentlessly indoctrinated that a degree is their guaranteed admission to the managerial class), who end up compounding the problem by going back for a Master’s and taking on even more debt. It would be one thing if they did this knowing that a graduate degree was necessary for entry-level work in the field, but 9 times out of 10 it’s because they found out their BA doesn’t mean shit in the real world.

      My best friend did this when he realized that his BA in French Business (yeah, I know) wasn’t going to give him an automatic “in” to his dream job of working in Paris. Now he’s back doing work for an MBA, with a baby on the way to boot. :facepalm: I wish I could have talked some sense into him, but he’d already signed up for the program when I found out–no doubt because he knew I would have convinced him to hold off until he got his debts paid down. It’s going to be interesting seeing what happens when the baby is born and his wife ends up leaving her teaching job to take care of the baby.

      Kids really need to be told to hold off on going to college full time unless they won’t have to take out ANY debt to pay for it. They’d be much better served going half-time and working instead. Ultimately, employers care a lot more about your experience than they do about your degree, at least from what I’ve seen.

    3. We act as if it’s the “system’s” fault, but what kind of job do you honestly expect to get with an undergrad degree in communications and psychology? I mean, come on! I hate to ask what this person’s GPA was. Certainly getting a non-demanding degree and incurring debt to do so doesn’t strike me as a well-advised strategy.

      You know who’s getting well-paying jobs, and getting them quickly? The folks who busted their butts in the hard sciences and engineering programs, and finished with above 3.0 GPAs. In fact, there aren’t US citizens getting these degrees so we have to import engineers and scientists from India, China, and elsewhere.

      The best favor you can do for your children is to INSIST they work hard at school. Everything else… sports, etc… comes afterwards. The best chance your children will have for a good life is to get into a hard science or engineering program, and finish it with as high of a GPA as they can. This doesn’t require genius, it requires some intelligence but mostly hard work.

      For those who can’t or won’t go to college, better picked up one of the skilled trades… or go thru a 2-year program to get some training in a medical-related field like hygienist.

      The folks who partied through high school with a B average or lower, who went to college for a few semesters and then dropped out… well, they’d better be smart, courageous, risk-taking, and lucky. Otherwise they’ll be scratching for pennies for the rest of their lives.

      1. You know who’s getting well-paying jobs, and getting them quickly? The folks who busted their butts in the hard sciences and engineering programs, and finished with above 3.0 GPAs.

        Been there, did that, and have virtually struck out in the job market for decades.

    4. Is he under serious consideration as a salesman?

  17. “AFFECTED”, Moynihan. What, you went to state school or something? Geez…

    1. Actually, last time I checked, the so-called elite schools let you rinse away any bad grades and retake classes as often as you can afford in order to puff up that GPA.. Also, they have more grade inflation than state schools.. So frankly, state schools are tougher, especially in the programs that tend to wash folks out (engineering, mainly) early..

      1. Absolutely true. I got higher grades, and learned far less, at the elite liberal arts school I first attended college (and got a History degree in), than I did at the state school I attended a few years later. At the state school, grades weren’t inflated, as our Career Services group was constantly having to explain to companies trying to hire. I got an engineering degree with a .75 point lower GPA, and had multiple job offers (whereas it took 6 months after graduation to get a job with the History degree).

        1. I dislike hiring even engineering graduates from the elite schools–too many seem to believe that their efforts in college justified a decades-long coast as they sneered at the hoi-polloi of state school graduates.

          Few of those “elite” graduates were of sufficient caliber to be great engineers–just good, competent ones. And someone without an attitude, willing to work collaboratively on a team, will kick the @ss of these genius wanna-be’s every day of the week.

  18. Also high on todays unacknowledged Irony Meter =

    The ad to the right of this article is from the University of Phoenix = “Find the degree that’s right for you! Bachelors? Masters? Doctoral? Associate? Nursing? Business? …”

  19. But if we didnt have college, when would we ever get 4 years to do nothing but get high, play video games, and bitch about things we know nothing about?

    1. Make that, “6 years.”

  20. If I had to compare the relative utility of the two major ‘educational certifications’ ive received (BA, CFA); one cost $200,000, and let me read books I would have read anyway…the other cost my employer maybe $5000, me maybe $1000, …and enabled me to do 6-figure salary work.

    If there’s a problem with colleges, its that they have relatively NO focus on *skills* versus *information*. They just shovel information at people. They dont make people write well, increase numeracy, or help critical thinking much. Nor do they have any connection to actual careers that exist. I am actually a fan of the Canon, and believe that any ‘educated’ person should be compelled to digest a wide range of material from across the liberal-arts spectrum.. Just that it should be done earlier in life, and not cost people freaking hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    1. Amen on the CFA. Having finished my exam requirements last summer and my work experience recently, I totally recommend it to people in finance, even those not involved in something like portfolio management where Level III is most relevant. However, keep in mind that a college degree is a de facto prerequisite for a CFA, as it’s required for a decent job in finance for kids like me.

      As a side benefit, I noticed myself critically analyzing the 18 or so books that comprise the curriculum, even after only a year on the job with Level I. Working brought a familiarity with basic economic and financial concepts that I never possessed after 4 years of higher ed. I graduated summa cum laude in finance (I’m proud of that, and ashamed of how little real knowledge it took).

      My degree was worth it, but only in the sense that it was a burnt offering to the Great Filtering Mechanism. Even at a state school with scholarships, there has to be a better way.

  21. Ha ha. Glibertarian douchebags have minds so tiny they never noticed the jobs for which “vocational education” suits a student have been sent overseas for decades by their beloved free market.

    This of course has them all concerned about corporate devastation of the society, right? Well, no, they’re glibertarian dimwits so they stand up against education, not economic terrorism. Ha ha.

    1. Hmm, haven’t seen plumbers, electricians, carpenters,… outsourced lately. Vocational service jobs, by their very nature, are a bit hard to export overseas…

      1. That reaction might have been a cause of the housing bubble. In order to avoid a job that could be outsourced, some people decided to get jobs fixing up houses on the grounds that house repair could not possibly be sent offshore. Some of them graduated to buying houses, fixing them up, and flipping them.

    2. “they never noticed the jobs for which “vocational education” suits a student have been sent overseas for decades by their beloved free market.”

      Vocational/Tech school jobs can’t be shipped over seas, idiot. The menial factory jobs to which you are referring (mashing them together, like a typical liberal, as all beneath a smart LA student’s dignity) do not require any education.

      Besides that, there is the more obvious point that has blown over your head: no one is saying we need more jobs that require less education, they’re saying we ALREADY HAVE jobs that require less education, for which we’re educating them – expensively and at length – anyway.

      1. Ha ha. You think the globalizing of the workforce that sends jobs, capital and capital improvements to distant outposts of multinational corporations has nothing to do whatsoever with the conservative / libertarian 30-year blood war on organized labor. Ha ha.

        Apparently, on Planet Libertaria, you can allow global capital to crush the trades through economic terrorism, then in the aftermath, retardedly blame the government for wanting people to learn skills that are less vulnerable to that terrorism. Pass the bong, genius.

        It was you free-market fellators who let these stateless leeches wipe out the country’s job base for decades – and you should take responsibility. Every factory they built in the Pacific rim is one they didn’t build here – employing electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc.

        Ha ha.

    3. Looks like one of the Balloon Juice ‘tards escaped its cage.

    4. Do you actually have some kind of argument or do you just think in buzz words?

  22. Why don’t employers test directly for the knowledge, intelligence, and qualities they want?

    Sorry to say, it has long been settled that most tests by employers are supposedly unfair. The law prevents employers from testing for general ability, and even discourages testing for job-specific knowledge. If sued, an employer must show that every test requirement is directly required to do the intended job and does not discriminate (even unintentionally) against protected groups.

    If employers could compile and give their own tests, then prospective employees could qualify by acquiring knowledge in any way they wanted, including self-study. There would be much less need to pay a college for its stamp of approval, a degree.

    Formal degrees and prior experience are highly valued as a way to validate a person’s knowledge without giving a specific test. Schools are specifically exempted from the rules about testing. They aren’t trying to make a dreaded profit (supposedly), so they can discriminate as they wish as they choose who will attend.

    I hired programmers as part of managing a software group. The HR department told me that I could ask technical questions, but to never write them down in any “formal” way. They were worried that someone would claim I was giving a “test”. Any test was illegal unless proven to be non-discriminatory in effect when applied to different races.

    James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal: [edited]

    === ===
    Most professional jobs require basic intellectual aptitude. Since the 1970s the Court has developed a body of law that prevents employers from directly screening for aptitude.

    In Griggs v. Duke Power Co. (1971) a black coal miner claimed discrimination because his employer required a high-school diploma and an intelligence test as prerequisites for promotion. The court ruled 8-0 in the miner’s favor. “Good intent or absence of discriminatory intent does not redeem employment procedures or testing mechanisms that operate as ‘built-in headwinds’ for minority groups,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote.

    This became known as the “disparate impact” test, and it applies only in employment law. Colleges and universities may use aptitude tests. Elite institutions lean heavily on exams such as the SAT in deciding whom to admit.

    For a prospective employee, a college degree is a very expensive way of showing that he has, in effect, passed an IQ test.
    === ===

    College is an Expensive IQ Test

    1. I found it utterly ridiculous that my father had a lot of trouble finding a job after his company was bought out by another company and everyone who worked for th old one fired. Why was it hard? He didn’t have a degree. He did have almost twenty years of experience in that retail market, 15 of them as a successful and well-liked manager. But for some companies, an expensive piece of stationery is worth more than a long history of skill and success in that type of work. Eventually, though, someone got smart and hired him in. At lower wages and with fewer benefits, but in 2010 you pretty much had to take what you got. I don’t understand why so many companies value partial evidence of ability over proof of it.

      The concept of banning screening does shed a bit more light on it, but there has to be more to it. That would explain why a degree is required in the absence of an otherwise strong resume. But why is it still required in retail work even when the applicant HAS a strong resume and several excellent references?

      Like him, I have a good history of experience – 14 years working, 7 in supervisory or management positions. I also have no degree and since I have a mortgage to pay, going back to college isn’t feasible. I hope I never lose my job or I’ll face the same bullcrap. “I’m sorry, sir, I know you have 4 letters of recommendation and 7 years of experience as a manager, but Billy over there has a bachelor’s degree in art history, so we’re hiring him as our new grocery manager for his first job instead.” Great.

      1. “But why is it still required in retail work even when the applicant HAS a strong resume and several excellent references?”

        Because the person doing the hiring paid for a college education that wasn’t needed, so there is no way they are going to hire someone to just “waltz in” and be qualified without a degree.

        I don’t have a BA degree, but all of my co-workers do. I attended college but dropped out. Everyone assumes I graduated from that university. I see no need to correct them…

  23. I recruit at major universities for a Fortune 50 behemoth. Some observations:
    1. In the so-called “professional” majors (Engr, Science, Business, IT), the quality of education and especially the availability of relevant project experience are superior to that of 10 years ago.
    2. Liberal Arts, Communications, Education, Arts, etc., have become so lax and so infected with politics and PC as to become value-destroying for all but the truly exceptional (not to be confused with those with the highest grades). Any 2-word major ending in “Studies” is like a grenade — destroys anything nearby.
    3. PC-isms are growing within the “professional” majors. Fortunately, many students don’t care.
    4. Scientific majors get virtually no useful business background, and thus often don’t understand market pressure to perform faster and cheaper. They are also taught to aspire to work at a large manufacturer or in academics. Entrepreneurship electives exist but are rarely encouraged.
    5. Business majors (who don’t want to work on Wall St. or Madison Ave.) are not encouraged to work on science/engr projects, so most have to learn basic technical concepts at work, and some have little scientific curiosity.
    6. Even the “professional” majors learn in college that it’s better to be connected than to be an expert. I don’t believe this is taught by faculty, but it IS the rampant culture on campus. Idiots like Keith Ferrazzi definitely promulgate this fallacy.
    7. Tuition costs have been growing faster than inflation since God was a child. Double-digit tuition rate increases DURING RECESSIONS are common. Colleges show zero interest in reducing or eliminating non-value-added programs. Public schools would rather whine about “only” receiving a 5% state funding increase than paring back 0.5% of their budgets. If Deans and university Presidents had to obey Sarbanes-Oxley, the whole house of cards would collapse.
    8. Accreditation boards own too much power. “Professional” majors must take at least 1 year of excess non-major classes which provide no value.
    9. Academic advising may as well not exist. Too many students do not graduate on time due to both poor faculty advising and lack of self-initiative in charting their courses.
    10. College career offices routinely pad placement stats. If you graduated last year with an Engr degree and are working 40 hrs/week at Starbucks, congratulations, you’re employed!
    11. Colleges for decades have preyed upon naive freshmen by offering them scholarships for the first 2 years, then locking them in at full price for the last 2 years — when they have too many credits to transfer.
    12. Pardon my cynicism, but does anyone doubt that Harvard will use this study to pressure other schools to drop programs, not do so itself, and thus boost Harvard’s importance?

    1. 6. Even the “professional” majors learn in college that it’s better to be connected than to be an expert. I don’t believe this is taught by faculty, but it IS the rampant culture on campus. Idiots like Keith Ferrazzi definitely promulgate this fallacy.

      You sure it’s a fallacy? Because my experience in recent years and what I hear from friends tells me that the division of labor is going away, and we’re headed back toward a society where personal trust counts more than impersonal details of the market. That is, great stock is now put in “knowing” the potential employee — not knowing what the potential employee knows, but knowing hir in some more general sense as related to trust. Nobody wants to hire strangers. Apparently they sense great danger in strangers.

      So it’s not that cx are a positive attribute intrinsically, just that they overcome inherent suspicion, allowing someone to get a good look.

  24. Jersey, you don’t have to go back to your father’s generation to see such success stories. Two of my sons enlisted in the Marines out of high school, saw action in Iraq, and are now in civilian life. One is a professional diver working in the oil business in Louisiana, the other is wrapping up his degree in accounting. Both are well-read, intelligent, well-informed young men; when my son the diver phones, we have chat about Herodotus and Jacques Barzun, while my son the accountant enjoys chatting about the biology of extraterrestrial life. There are many young people like them, who are learning useful, marketable skills, while acquiring an education through extensive reading. You don’t hear much about them because they’re not of the government/media/corporate/academia caste, but they’re out there. I am a lucky man to have such sons!

    1. Congratulations. My sons will never make the evening news, either.

    2. the biology of extraterrestrial life


      1. Obviously, “theoretical” ET biology.
        For the moment. 🙂

        (For the record, I believe that we will soon find that life is ubiquitous, if mostly very primitive)

  25. “TV Dinner by the pool, I’m so glad I finished school”

    — Frank Zappa, back in the Golden Age.

  26. “Hmm, haven’t seen plumbers, electricians, carpenters,… outsourced lately. Vocational service jobs, by their very nature, are a bit hard to export overseas…”

    Instead, we’re importing them. I had local guys put in a new bathroom for me, and they told me about Brazilians, who they said can do everything an American can, but are not particular about “meeting code”. So if they’ve flown the coop when your plumbing goes bad, the American who comes in to fix it has to start over, costing you big bucks.

  27. Obama keeps talking about putting people back to work and dramatically increasing the number of college attendees.

    He has it backward. Our problem isn’t too little eduction, it’s TOO MUCH education. Do you think companies relocate to China because they can’t find enough people with Masters degrees in the US? No, they go to China because the typical uneducated Chinese worker thinks making four bucks an hour is great. So if you want to bring industry back to the US, stop trying to turn us into a nation of 320 million rocket scientists.

    The world just doesn’t need that many rockets.

  28. I have a BS in Chemical Engineering from a no name school. I took over a job previously occupied by a PhD. I do more work and do it better than he ever did. I did not graduate from high school; flunked English. I got into college because of a high SAT. I have had high school graduates work for me who were smarter than the PhD’s down the hall. Most of the PhD’s I have met are bleeding heart liberals or Marxian socialists. And this is from a college professor’s son. An education is wasted on these people. Even after they have it it is useless to them as they don’t have a political or economic philosophy that works. They pass gas and think they are an asset to society. This is why the thugs take over the socialist governments, they can’t stand these intellectual gas passers any more than I can.

  29. Up until a year and a half ago, I spent 17 years as a software developer (with my Mass Communications degree). I had done about 5 years doing foster care and had a history of working with kids.

    I burned out on designing systems and writing code, and decided I would much rather teach…a goal I’ve always had to one degree or another but only recently began to think seriously about. When I looked into it, I found that I would virtually not be ALLOWED to teach, at any level, until I either went back and re-did college with a degree in education or took a Master’s course in education of a particular type that allowed people with other degrees to get their teaching certification. No possibility of bypassing paying a minimum of $20,000 to leverage my existing skills into a career teaching primary and/or secondary students. No way to “test out” of the requirement, or just show them you can do it. Oh, there’s a test…but in order to take it you have to have a degree as described.

    I now know EXACTLY why education is in such poorer straits than it was 30 years ago and why it costs so much more. They’ve put everybody in straitjackets and expect them to play a friendly game against the Knicks.

    Seriously, folks…I could run circles around damn near any technology teacher out there (and probably math and social), both in the subject matter AND the pedagogy not to mention just plain passion and EFFORT. If my classes are any indication, I did NOT need to spend over a year and a half on this online course…I could have done it in less than half the time and at much less expense, and I could be teaching now.

    1. Agoraphobic Plumber:

      Saw your post, and couldn’t resist commenting. I am a former high school science teacher who, after doing it for one year, fled into private industry where I have remained since. You are entirely correct – credentialism rules the roost in the American academic world. Actual abilities and demonstrated achievement aren’t considered when screening applicants for jobs teaching our young people – unless you have jumped through the required educational, credentialing and licensing hoops. I read once of a physician who wanted to teach high-school biology and chemistry; he couldn’t without possessing a teaching certificate. His application for a waiver was rejected.
      I would add that, as a biochemist and experienced scientist, I was – to be charitable – underwhelmed by the quality of instruction at the school of education where I got my license.
      In effect, we have made our educational institutions – colleges and uiversities – the gatekeepers to large portions of the workforce. Of course, they have no vested interest in making re-training cheaper or less-lengthy – and they do not.

      The system is broken; I for one will cheer when the whole corrupt house of cards collapses. There is talk of a higher education “bubble,” which like its real estate counterpart, will soon burst.

      1. We can only hope that math is the trailer park of the academy, then.

    2. Are you in NYS? I do remember the teaching certification system being totally byzantine (not that I was interested in teaching K-12, but I knew some who were).

      Of course, once you got certified, you could teach any subject. For instance, I would never be allowed to teach calculus in a NYS high school (despite my math PhD) due to my lack of certification, but a certified teacher with a BS in PhysEd would be allowed to teach it.

      1. Despite your experiencing teaching calculus at the college level, you dont know “how to teach”.

        The PE-ed major does though, so clearly they are more qualified.

        1. To be fair, teaching at the college level is quite different from teaching high school. The latter involves a lot more babysitting and disciplinarian skills.

          Thing is, from what I can tell from the tales of friends who got NYS teaching certification, the certification program doesn’t even address those aspects of teaching.

      2. About a decade ago NY got extremely desperate for science & math teachers, so they made it possible to get in there without quite the same hoops. After 2 years they were no longer extremely desperate, just ordinary desperate, so they slammed the lid back on.

        1. My cousin in NJ, recovering from a head injury, took up substitute teaching and asked why I didn’t do the same. Trouble is, in NY, without credentials you can do only “incidental” substitute teaching 60 hrs./yr. You can get credentials for substitute teaching for much less than a Master’s, but they make it hardly worthwhile for someone unless you really want to make a career in teaching or are a retiree looking to pick up pin money.

  30. Ah, some excellent comments in a (mostly) respectful environment. Read an interesting article in the Telegraph (UK) online to do with apprenticeships and the “high” > 25% drop out rate:…..-25pc.html

    Reasons cited: “too hard getting up on Monday”, “long hours”, “uniform”, etc. I don’t think that’s too bad. Means that 75% succeed at least.

    And I empathize with the Agoraphobic Plumber – I’d love to help kids by teaching, but apparently a few degrees in Physics isn’t good enough to teach kids, uh, Physics. Oh well.

  31. The teacher credentialing system is a teacher’s union protection racket. I spent 20 years in the Army and during that time, I earned a PhD in Psychology and spent 4 years as a professor in leadership at West Point. As I was approaching retirement I seriously looked into going in to teaching at the High School level. As others noted above, I soon determined I was “unqualified” to teach anything, including psychology, at the high school level (and I am quite certain that I have many more graduate hours of math, scientific methods, test and evaluation theory/methods, etc. than 99% of the math/science teachers in high schools today). I beat my head against that brick wall for awhile but after receiving several form letters saying I was unqualified, or would have to get an education degree while be mentored (or is it indoctrinated?) by another teacher in order to gain my teaching certificate I moved on. Sad, because I really wanted to do this out of a continued sense of service and felt I could make a difference. But I guess its OK since the teacher’s unions continue to reinforce the absolute necessity of having teachers who “know how to teach” even if they are woefully under-educated and, more importantly, under-experienced in what they are teaching. *snark*

  32. As some one who came out of industry to teach I worry that if the education community is allowed to direct technical education we will have the same 16 week courses filled with mind deadening useless class time. Give me 6 months, 40 hours a week and the young person can be in the job earning a salary and getting on the job training specific for their industry. Oh, but then what would we do with the Masters and doctorates? As it exists today education is a self promoting industry dependent on increasing the numbers and raising the length of time spent in school.

  33. LOL, well if Harvard says so, then surely it must be so lol.

  34. Credential-based hiring: the HR equivalent to defensive medicine in the face of the malpractice “lawsuit lottery”.

  35. If the number of matriculants were downsized to rational levels, what sort of spike would be see in unemployment levels?

  36. Good Article, though it should have also added the alternatives.

  37. lol…college..unemployment

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