Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe on the High Cost of College


Sallie Mae, a financial services company, is reporting that Americans are borrowing less and paying more out of pocket for college. USA today reports:

Sarah Ducich, a senior vice president at Sallie Mae and a co-author of the report by Ipsos Public Affairs, said tuition is rising but parents are keeping college spending nearly constant by cutting costs of things like housing and textbooks.

The article continues:

Ducich said Americans overwhelmingly agree that college is a good investment. This year, eight out of 10 families said they were willing to stretch financially to pay for college.

"They are very resilient and clever and determined to make college work," Ducich said. "We can have a lot of policy debates in Washington, but families are finding ways."

While college remains a priority for many Americans, many jobs that do not require a four year degree are left unfilled. Reason TV spoke with Mike Rowe last year about the high cost of college, and how he believes it's not worth it for everybody.  "Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe on the High Cost of College," produced by Nick Gillespie and Meredith Bragg. About 40 minutes.

Original release date was December 13, 2013 and original writeup is below.

"If we are lending money that ostensibly we don't have to kids who have no hope of making it back in order to train them for jobs that clearly don't exist, I might suggest that we've gone around the bend a little bit," says TV personality Mike Rowe, best known as the longtime host of Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs.

"There is a real disconnect in the way that we educate vis-a-vis the opportunities that are available. You have—right now—about 3 million jobs that can't be filled," he says, talking about openings in traditional trades ranging from construction to welding to plumbing. "Jobs that typically parents' don't sit down with their kids and say, 'Look, if all goes well, this is what you are going to do.'"

Rowe, who once sang for the Baltimore Opera and worked as an on-air pitchman for QVC, worries that traditional K-12 education demonizes blue-collar fields that pay well and are begging for workers while insisting that everyone get a college degree. He stesses that he's "got nothing against college" but believes it's a huge mistake to push everyone in the same direction regardless of interest or ability. Between Mike Rowe Foundation and Profoundly Disconnected, a venture between Rowe and the heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, Rowe is hoping both to help people find new careers and publicize what he calls "the diploma dilemma."

Rowe recently sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to discuss his bad experience with a high school guidance counselor (3:20), why he provides scholarships based on work ethic (6:57), the problem with taxpayer-supported college loans (8:40), why America demonizes dirty jobs (11:32), the happiest day of his life (13:14), why following your passion is terrible advice (17:05), why it's so hard to hire good people (21:04), the hidden cost of regulatory compliance (23:16), the problem with Obama's promise to create shovel ready jobs (33:05), efficiency versus effectiveness (34:17), and life after Dirty Jobs (38:24).

Aprrox. 41 minutes. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain. Edited by Bragg.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

Editor's Note: At one point, Rowe says that college costs have risen over 500 percent the rate of inflation. According to the Department of Labor, college tuition costs have increased over 500 percent in nominal dollars since 1985, not 500 percent the rate of inflation. Read more about the increase here.


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  1. Linda Greenhouse, the meticulously impartial Supreme Court reporter for the NY Times, is ecstatic that an federal trial judge and two federal appeal judges have put the constitutional right to abortion on the same plane as the right to bear arms and the right to be free of racial discrimination.

    I mean, we could no more put up with violations of the Constitution’s Abortion Clause than we could put up with disarming the population or discriminating on them based on race!


    1. Wait, her bio page says she was the Supreme Court reporter until 2008, and still writes about the Court. Sorry for the error.

    2. No Eddie, it’s Rowe not Roe.

  2. Leader of Satanic group (and registered sex offender) accepts legal limitations on the religious freedom of Satanists:

    “On its website, Dakhma of Angra Mainyu says the black mass at the Civic Center has been toned down to allow it to be performed in a public government building. “The authenticity and purpose of the Black Mass will remain intact while allowing for slight changes so that a public viewing can occur without breaking Oklahoma’s laws based on nudity, public urination and other sex acts,” the website says.”

    Also, “[Satanic high priest Adam Daniels] acknowledged in an interview with “The Oklahoman” news paper last month that he was a registered sex offender. He said he was convicted in 2009 for an inappropriate relationship with an inmate at a prison where he worked as a correction officer.”


    1. The event is being staged by the satanist group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu

      I think this would piss off Zoroastrians more than Catholics.

      1. They’re trolling pretty much anybody here.

        1. Satanic slap fight!*

          *Link for purposes of showing divisions between the OK Satanic group and other Satanists, I don’t know about the accuracy of the charges in this post.


        2. Eddie, I don’t understand why you don’t support their religious exercise here, I thought you were a big supporter of that?
          Surely you don’t limit your support to Catholics or Christians? We need religion in the public square, right?

          1. I’m not the one refusing to defend the Satanists’ right to engage in public urination, etc. It’s the Satanists themselves who capitulated on those issues.

            But let me explain it in terms you can appreciate:


            1. Did they capitulate because the law put them between forgoing their exercise of religion and coercion? If so, why not call for them to be exempted from those laws for the ceremony. Surely a more narrowly tailored less restrictive means exists for meeting these obviously compelling state interests? Religious exercise is being threatened here man and you sit idly by?

              1. Shorter Bo: “fap, fap, fap, fap.”

  3. I say we make a university education mandatory and charge with truancy anyone who skips out. Except for those accused of sexual misconduct. They can’t stay.

    We all know college costs so much now to pay for that collegiate bureaucracy needed to hear like real judges allegations of sexual assault and rubber stamp said claims as true as though they were no-knock warrants. And that cost should be gladly paid by future debtors and their parents as any college student with a cock is a rapist.

    1. We can set it up so that wealthy folks (even those without children) are forced to pay for someone else’s kid’s education because the wealthy will benefit from someone else’s kid being education. So…fair.

  4. Forget it. You ever try to convince a 20 year old that college is often a raw deal and that there could very well be better ways to have a good income? Doesn’t work. Either they’ve consumed so much of the Kool-Aid that they won’t acknowledge the problem until they’re in their late 20s and working a marginal job to make hilarious loan payments, or they’ve consumed ALL of the Kool-Aid and they think that making the system free to enter will resolve the problem. In other words, we’ll ALL have free law degrees and no jobs!

    1. My 18 year old nephew is delaying(possibly skipping altogether) college to pursue welding.

      1. GOOD DECISION. I have an MSc and I think I will pursue welding or petro engineering.

    2. Free law degrees that would be nice. Just kidding.

  5. College degrees fall into a small number of categories. There are the degrees that are official pre-requisites for certain careers (such as Law). There are degrees that signify technical competence in a technical or scientific field. And there are degrees that principally signify that you are qualified to start studying for the next higher degree. And the vast majority of degrees conferred belong to the last category.

    Colleges were originally intended as places where scholarship was fostered. To pay the bills they admitted the offspring of the Upper Classes, applying a thin veneer of culture and keeping them from spending ALL their time drinking, whoring, and bashing each-other with swords (or trying to, anyway). The problem is that, by medieval standards, we ALL belong to the Upper Classes. Therefore ALL our offspring are being sent to college to acquire that thin veneer of culture, at great expense.

    We need come up with some other way to occupy youth for four to six years after high school, when their hormones are in ferment and they aren’t good for much.

    1. Therefore ALL our offspring are being sent to college to acquire that thin veneer of culture, at great expense.


  6. OT: fun with health insurance. Received that letter you get every now and again clarifying/changing the contract. This one pointed out that my insurance doesnt cover elective abortions, only non-elective, which under KY law, means an abortion to save the live of the mother.

    Anyway, that is beside the point. The bigger problem is THAT MY POLICY COVERS ABORTIONS AT ALL. As of last year, it also covers pregnancies, so it makes sense. Thanks Obama. No way having a policy covering pregnancy and abortions for a single man raises my premiums at all.


    1. Come on, rob, you never know when you might get hit by a bus!

    2. It’s Kafka’s world, rob, we’re just livin’ in it.

    3. Note: single in that policy only covers me. My wife has her own policy.

  7. Am I the only one who sees even engineering schools are highly flawed in terms of their curriculum? I’ve always been extremely adept at STEM disciplines, know all the basic physics/chemistry, so I know whereof I speak. I COULD get an engineering degree, but that wouldn’t teach me the MAKER skills I would like to have.

    Engineering curicula seem to have an overabundance of calculus that few engineers actually do, with some, but minimal training in important stuff like solidworks/CAD or machining. Lots of “academic”, which has now become a word to signify everything non-practical, and very little skills.

    I wouldn’t want to go to college, just to learn basic physics and chemistry for the millionth time (how much you wanna bet that few if any schools will let you skip the class if you can show proficiency?), and jerk off to MATLAB.

    Any engineers want to weigh in?

    1. Few engineers use CAD or etc. There are $15 hr guys to do that.

      I wouldnt say the calculus isnt used, but that varies with the field. Yes, it is very academic, but its an important foundation.

      And it isnt basic physics you learn, its the higher order stuff.

      Note: as a NukE, I took more math/physics than other majors.

      1. Things like drafting and CAD were still barely taught when I was in school in late 80s. In fact, we were taught to free hand, as an engineer would be more likely to sketch in the field than at a drafting table.

      2. Things like drafting and CAD were still barely taught when I was in school in late 80s. In fact, we were taught to free hand, as an engineer would be more likely to sketch in the field than at a drafting table.

      3. “There are $15 hr guys for that.”

        So that’s why every sole-practitioner engineer I’ve met can’t draft for shit.

    2. I do think all that calculus gets you into a problem solving mindset that a vocational college will never provide you.

    3. One would hope that engineering degrees would cater to the needs of engineering firms. It’d be nice if the model was to hire a guy and then send him to school and graduating him when the needs of the particular company are met. That model, however, limits job mobility.

      Related side note: I have an Aerospace Engineering degree without ever having taken a Thermodynamics course. I switched schools/majors and had previously take a Heat and Mass Transfer course, which my advisor (wrongly, I believe) substituted for the Thermo requirement. So the “required” courses aren’t written in stone.

      1. Really good inguneers visualize the load/temp/fail curves and then justify them with math.

  8. It really depends on what you want to do. Right now because it’s an employers market, HR departments can afford to be picky. A large of large organizations are demanding sheepskins and certifications just to get in the door and also for advancement or salary increases. Even over skills, knowledge, and experience in many cases. Which is why HR should go back to being administrative only and not be allowed to set corp policy.

  9. It really depends on what you want to do. Right now because it’s an employers market, HR departments can afford to be picky. A large of large organizations are demanding sheepskins and certifications just to get in the door and also for advancement or salary increases. Even over skills, knowledge, and experience in many cases. Which is why HR should go back to being administrative only and not be allowed to set corp policy.

  10. Yes, college remains a priority for many Americans and grades for the tests are priority for many students while knowledge and skills must be priority instead! Today’s education process turned into ‘grade hunt’ and it’s not a surprise that students resort to professionals who write essays for money. We need really good eduation as it helps to get good job in the future, it’s true, so the whole education system should be changed and reorganized.

  11. Actually, I think that college is the most necessary thing for young people, it provides a huge amount of choices to make starting a career.
    And I don’t see any problems with paying for education: if a student wants to study, he can take an extra paying program for education, or even he can studying for free. And also, there could be a certain amount of difficulties with some classes, which can be really boring and uninteresting – I think, it’s the first problem of students, which stands between a study process and a dream job. If i had such service like Top Writers, i rather had more nights, that i slept. Actually, every student in another way could have a job and no complaints about passing difficult exams and classes with such kind of service.

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