Government Intervention

Don't Go to College!


It's graduation time! Have we learned much? No.

College has become a scam.

Some students benefit: those with full scholarships and/or rich parents so they don't go deep into debt, those who love learning for its own sake and land jobs in academia and those who get jobs that require a college credential. 

But that's not most students.

Half today's recent grads work in jobs that don't require degrees. Eighty thousand of America's bartenders have bachelor's degrees. 

Politicians such as Hillary Clinton promote college by claiming that over a lifetime, college graduates "earn $1 million more." That statistic is true but utterly misleading. People who go to college are different. They're more likely to have been raised by two parents. They did better in high school. They'd make more money even if they never went go to college. 

Economist Bryan Caplan argues that there isn't much evidence that college grads are paid more because they learned anything at college that is valuable to their jobs. 

Getting into elite universities and graduating from them is mostly a "signaling" device, he says. It tells employers you're a smart person, so employers can begin teaching you things you really need to know. Employers, not the colleges, turn out to be the ones making students valuable contributors. 

This suggests college is more like a hurdle than an investment. It would be better if companies found cheaper ways to screen for talent than four years of college. 

Most of America's prestigious universities started out as training centers for the priesthood and ways of confirming your status as part of the upper crust. In many cases, that's still true today. Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize that. But we are.

Now President Obama proposes spending more of your money on "free community college." Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders goes further, proposing "free tuition" at four-year public colleges. 

Of course, "free" just means taxpayers are forced to pay. 

This is nuts. When government subsidizes services, people supplying those services get wasteful. Colleges now spend millions on manicured lawns and fancy gyms. 

A University of Missouri admissions officer bragged to my TV show crew about the university's "day spa" and said when it comes to recruiting students, "more important than reading, writing and arithmetic" is giving "our Tigers spring break every time they step into the student recreation complex."

I'm happy that Missouri's students like their luxurious gym, but I don't want to help pay for it. If the school thinks its "day spa" is crucial for recruiting, let them sucker their own alumni into making voluntary contributions for it. Leave taxpayers alone.

Government subsidies encourage students who don't belong in college to go anyway. Many don't graduate, feel bad about themselves and end up deep in debt. The subsidies also invite schools to increase the cost of tuition.

Democrats complained we need Obamacare because health care costs "were skyrocketing." But while the cost of health care rose 296 percent over the past 30 years, college tuition rose 553 percent. College is now a grotesque spending bubble, funded by government, that's about to burst.

Law professor Glenn Reynolds, author of "The Education Apocalypse," writes, "The rapid increase in college tuition began just about exactly the time the federal government started helping to subsidize college … (Y)ou don't want to engage in subsidies that make universities more bloated and more inefficient."

But that's what Obama and Sanders propose to do.

A more compassionate move would be to warn people that college is not as valuable as colleges advertise themselves to be. 

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel encourages students to escape the college trap by paying them $100,000 not to go to college and instead to found their own capitalist ventures. 

If we really want to build a better future and not just keep going through the same old motions, experiments like that are a much smarter idea than throwing more money at the college bubble. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Young people attend college because whether or not you have a degree is one of the first steps a company’s HR uses to whittle down the job applicant pool. Doesn’t matter if the job doesn’t technically require it; if a degree is what the employer demands then the applicants who want the job will supply.

    And Thiel isn’t tossing $100k at any kid who decides not to go to college; those are the most promising of hand-picked applicants who would likewise probably do well anyway.

    1. I believe Stossel is saying that it’s because Govt subsidizes it, employers rely on a degree. Less subsidies, less people with worthless degrees. Employers are then forced to accept employees w/o degrees. I don’t get your point. Yes, you need a degree now, but that is the problem.

      1. In my field, I can assure you that there are no government subsidies, and yet EVERY job posting asks for if not requires a college degree. A good graphic/interactive designer can get fully trained with two years of post-high school education, but I have never seen in my thirty years in this business an employer that did not express a preference for someone with a degree.

        1. Yeah, I really hated having to go through want ads like that. It doesn’t matter what experience or skills or really snazzy examples you have, to most employers you ain’t shit if you don’t have that fancy permission slip from the university.

          I only took one year of college to get a certification for desktop publishing. At the time I was burned out from high school and I didn’t want to write another fucking term paper or do another complicated science project ever again. And I knew those degree programs would pile on the composition, math, etc. “required courses” that had nothing to do with my field of interest… and it would be back to the nightmare.

          And just as expected, finding a job in my field was tougher than if I had that degree. But at least I never had any student loan debt to pay off, and I managed to eke out a living on my own for about 12 years. I do feel sorry for those kids who have to start out real-world life in the hole. Institutions seem to always get more greedy (and charge more for their shit) when government gets involved.

          1. My ex-GF makes good money as a graphic designer and she only has a certificate from a graphics course. She got hired in a big company without a degree because of networking. Freelancing led to getting to know art directors who farm work out. When it comes to filling a full-time slot, managers will usually start out by thinking about who they already know who can do the work.

            While it’s true that HR people will immediately screen out applicants without degrees, when an actual hiring manager comes in and tells them, “I want you to get [X person] in for an interview,” guess what? That person goes right to the top of the list, degree or no degree.

            1. May I just say that HR people are the most retarded people to ever walk the planet.

              There are two things that tie the vast majority of HR workers together; laziness and stupidity.

              Who can get mad at you for hiring that moron? He had a degree! God forbid you actually do your job and find someone with talent and work ethic.

              1. Part of the problem is that the courts made it very difficult to safely test candidates for most positions. Former employers have been sued into quiescence when it comes to references, so that’s a dead-end for information about a candidate’s qualifications, too. All they have to work off of are credentials and an interview. Check the box for education and for prior, related positions. Talk to the candidate. It’s all nonsense.

                Of course, HR departments are usually pretty big, nonetheless. Mostly litigation prevention and mitigation, I guess.

                1. Maybe, but references are not worth a damn unless you as the hiring manager also personally know the reference.

                  The easy fix is to have your good employees sit in on interviews, ask questions and provide input, at least until you have a very firm grasp of what is wanted and needed in a new employee.

                  But again, laziness and stupidity.

                2. Of course, HR departments are usually pretty big, nonetheless. Mostly litigation prevention and mitigation, I guess.

                  Yes. As well as navigating employee benefits. And everyone knows what you mean when you say you can’t comment on a previous employee.

                  1. “everyone knows what you mean when you say you can’t comment on a previous employee.”

                    That mere words are inadequate to describe his awesomeness?

                    1. Very nice.

              2. “May I just say that HR people are the most retarded people to ever walk the planet.”

                You may, and I’m glad to see people joining my crusade against the modern corporate HR department. I demand anyone to tell me what part of the hiring process HR hasn’t ruined?

                They should be relegated to emailing me a pdf with my benefits. Other than that, stay out of the hiring process, and quit applying your bullshit astrology systems to the process.

                1. I miss the little old lady with a visor who sat in an office labeled, “Personnel.”

                  1. That’s what they called it back in my day!

                    In fact, I remember when the term switched over. And it was around that time that HR became a science. Just like mixology.

                    1. Mixology is a BS term for bartenders who realize that they are now 40 years old.

                    2. Mixology is a BS term for bartenders who realize that they are now 40 years old.

                      “Human Resources” is a term for unskilled biddies who realize they’re 60 years old.

                      See? Science.

                  2. Personnel is for assholes.

                    1. What? Are you a fan of “Human Resources,” then? What kind of sicko are you?

                    2. I thought it was bad in the military. (We all hated “Admin pogues” – even after I left combat arms and became one.)

                      But the corporate world is even worse. Our CEO – who hates such things – once remarked that HR attracts the exact same people who volunteered to be the hall monitor in third grade so they could snitch on other kids.

                      He couldn’t be more correct.

                  3. The decline started when the Personnel Department replaced the payroll clerk.

        2. Everyone should re-read the “signaling” paragraph of Stossel’s interview. College attendance has become so common that, although the knowledge gained there isn’t very valuable, the degree sends a signal that this person is serious, intelligent, etc. Without gov’t subsidization of the education industry, employers would likely find a cheaper, better alternative signal to indicate which young people are best equipped to learn a trade/craft. And, we’d all be better off for the reallocation of inefficient resources currently in education to other, more productive sectors of the economy.

          1. *Article, not interview. Stossel’s article. Ugh.

            1. Yes, that point went sailing over a few heads.

        3. In my field, I can assure you that there are no government subsidies,

          I think he was referring to the higher ed subsidies, which have resulted in a huge oversupply of degrees, which in turn allows employers to require degrees where none is really useful.

          1. Like my current employer, a Fortune 50 company, where even the office professionals have BBA’s. Oddly enough I have yet to see a college course on answering phones, or scheduling meetings which is basically 90% of the workload for OP’s in my department.

            Somehow I managed to sneak into legal IT without a degree.I’m a junior college drop out with near 100 credits in various tech classes: Windows Server, Cisco, DOS (really just command line fu), and other assorted crap.

            My IT knowledge basically consists of stuff I learned after breaking something first – a desire to not get caught can be a huge motivational factor. I really miss some of those those IT classes for completely non-academic reasons. Griefing the first semester networking students by throwing away the wiring charts and disconnecting all the Ethernet cables – that’s what you get when you jack up my firewall by leaving a cable in the console port instead of eth1. And nothing will ever be as fun as watching the networking guys come down to the lab trying to figure out who breached the firewall with Metasploit and started ping sweeping the campus network. Fun times….

            1. It doesn’t sound like fun. Is everyone that posts here an IT professional nerd? Maybe that’s the disconnect and the reason for what I find to be an absurd gee-whiz bangers belief that technology is going to solve all problems.

              1. Who are these “gee-whiz bangers” who believe technology is going to solve everything? Are you referring to the people who frequently point out how freed markets have done more to help impoverished people around the world than trillions of dollars in social programs? Because if that’s the case… they were right, and you should be singing their praises as well. The Luddites were wrong, their modern day counterparts are wrong, and their future iterations will likely always be wrong as well.

        4. In my field, I can assure you that there are no government subsidies

          Bullshit. Almost nobody makes it through college without Uncle Sugar’s “help”. It is all this “help” that makes college so expensive.

          The bottom line is that college debt is now burdening young people so much, that it is counter-productive, unless you are going into STEM.

        5. In my field, I can assure you that there are no government subsidies

          Which field is that? The government subsidizes cheap loans to students. And last I checked, Universities don’t give a fuck what field you intend to graduate into. All they care is that you are willing to bring a check underwritten by Uncle Sam.

          Just as increasing people’s access to cheap home loans caused the price of houses to bubble over, increasing students’ access to low interest, deferred interest loans has bubbled up the price of university.

  2. Sorry, but a liberal arts degree, or some other bullshit degree isn’t exactly marketing ones self to command a high salary. Some think they will get said bullshit degree and party on mom and dads dime, and will get an awesome job to boot. Then when they are working at McDonald’s, they suddenly find socialism is where it’s at because they don’t have to go rob someone, because politicians hide behind their agencies and the agents that do their violent bidding for them with stolen money and property to pay for their shit to keep the people down.

    They come up with crap like “they should forgive my student loan debt!!!!!” While failing to realize the crap they are spouting top men do, screws things up now and in the future.

    One can earn over 100k without a degree depending on the field they are in, and that is without overtime.

    1. Maybe if we introduced academic rigor to liberal arts programs students would be valuable to employers.

      A good liberal arts program should be providing students with tools to analyze problems, and synthesize appropriate solutions. I’m sure a few of those programs exist, but most liberal arts programs are clogged with useless junk that rewards parroting a professor’s belief rather than attempting to analyze something independently.

      1. “Maybe if we introduced academic rigor to liberal arts programs students would be valuable to employers.”

        They sure *used* to be rigorous.

        1. Maybe if we introduced reintroduced academic rigor to liberal arts programs students would be valuable to employers.


  3. Stoss just wants all teh college girls to himself.

    1. I think Stossell wants to get in his pickup truck and take the country back from them egg heads.

    2. Have you seen them recently? It’s turned into the freshman 40.

  4. “PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel encourages students to escape the college trap by paying them $100,000 not to go to college and instead to found their own capitalist ventures.”

    That’s a good move right there. Maybe if the LP can center their message around supporting small and startup businesses, they can stand out a bit more. Right now the TEAMs aren’t doing much for small business… TEAM BLUE would rather have the government give you a job (or a handout), and TEAM RED gives their ponies to megacorporations and billionaires, who funnel their profits either to Wall Street or foreign labor.

    1. Maybe if the LP can center their message around supporting small and startup businesses, they can stand out a bit more.

      It’s like the country deliberately ignored a huge chunk Eisenhower’s farewell address:

      “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
      The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present ? and is gravely to be regarded.
      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

      Funny how the left latched solely on to the MIC portion of the speech and completely ignored Ike’s warnings about the dangers of scale and fiscal insolvency. It’s not a coincidence that he’s the last President where any of the national debt was paid down.

      1. It’s always been a wonder to me that politicians (and most of the public) seems to think that technology can only advance if government funds research in that area. For example, Bush pledged to throw government money at fuel cell research and keep money away from stem cell research. My thinking is, if either fuel cell power or stem cell cures can work, let the marketplace develop them. Home computing certainly did not get ever more powerful and simultaneously cheaper because of government help. Had the government “helped” with PCs, we’d all still be using suitcase-sized WANG word processors that cost almost as much as a new car.

        1. suitcase-sized WANG

          *Insert Warty/STEVE SMITH joke here*

      2. That is an excellent explanation of how the global warming fraud came about and continues to survive. “…a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.” Yep, that says it all.

  5. I’m one of a very few people where I work with a bachelor’s. The team I work on is part of a big technology company (hint: they’re the #1 player in networking tech and their name starts with a ‘C’) providing services and support to big companies. They don’t require a bachelor’s – just that you work hard and learn.

    It’s a good culture.

    1. Costco!

      1. I was thinking Chrysler.
        Well, now it’s part of Fiat.
        Buon giorno!

      2. He said networking so… cAmway?

    2. You work for Comcast?


    3. They don’t require a bachelor’s – just that you work hard and learn.

      And shell out thousands of dollars for their technical certs.

      Not really a critique; it would be better if every industry worked in a similar fashion.

      1. And the best part is, you really have to know your shit to get their certs. It’s pretty safe to assume that a person with up to date certs knows what’s going on.

      2. “And shell out thousands of dollars for their technical certs.”

        Yes and no. The technical cert business is fast becoming the “useless pedigree” of the now, however, the thousands shelled out for the certs is still often vastly cheaper than a college degree.

        I don’t know anyone with six figures of cert training debt, but I know plenty of people with six figures of French literature/art history training debt.

    4. Are they hiring in Michigan? I would love to get the hell out of corporate legal IT.

  6. The number of college students I hear talking about just needing to graduate “to get a job” irritates the hell out of me. It’s like some perverted badge of honor to them that they’ve treated college just like they treated high school, even though college wasn’t mandatory. The number of these students (even the bad ones) that are already subsidized is astounding. Now we need to pay for EVERYONE who has no interest in an education, or at least a vocation that requires formal education (engineer, doctor etc.), to go to college?!

  7. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ??????

    1. Yes, but is a masters degree required ?

  8. We can never have too many Americans with degrees in soft sciences, women’s studies, and so forth. Ha ha ha ha ha! Suckers!

    1. A cultural anthropology degree with a specialization in Queer Studies could net you a very cushy little job managing a college safe room that hands out gluten-free cookies and hypoallergenic blankets to students who have been microaggressed and othered when they heard a speaker who does not share their viewpoint on everything has been invited to speak at their campus.

      1. I really wish that was only a joke.

      2. Don’t forget teh puppiez…

        1. If you want a vision of the future, imagine a puppy nuzzling a human face – forever.

          1. The feeling I get imagining that is how I imagine Mary Shelley felt when she wrote Frankenstein.

      3. If it doesn’t have bubble wands, can we really call the room “safe”?

  9. My father was a college professor, and felt that what a Liberal Arts degree qualified one to do was be a graduate student. Period. HE was perpetually astonished at the amount of money society was ready to give him to be hat he wanted to be in the first place (a scholar). One of his longest running battles with his fellow faculty members was his insistence that they very LEAST they owed society for the support they enjoyed was to publish their findings.

    Why anybody not a natural scholar wanted a Liberal Arts degree was beyond him.

    1. Ctnd.

      I have been watching this for a while. That poor slob at Occupy Wall Street with the big debt and the Masters in Puppetry made lasting impression. Most people I read were mocking him, but what I wanted to know was “When did wanting to be a puppeteer stop being a matter of hitchhiking to LA, getting a job running coffee for Jim Henson, and so forth, and start being something you got a degree in?” I mean, that kid was taken, big time, by the Education Establishment. He was told all his life that if you want to do something, you got to college and get a degree, and hi did what he was supposed to, and they screwed him.

      I think that the drum beat against the “for profit” colleges, which have some real problems, mind, are a smoke screen. I think it’s an effort to distract from the very real (and probably very similar) problems that the traditional colleges have.

      I don’t have proof, yet. I’m watching it.

      1. Whoever came up with the sub-idiotic “follow your bliss” trope deserves a place in Hell’s blast furnace.

        1. I dunno, if it was someone who benefits from idiots pouring money into useless degrees, that’s just good marketing.

        2. The thing is, I have no problem with him wanting to be a puppeteer. No, society doesn’t need puppeteers. Society doesn’t NEED nearly as many lawyers as we get, and given a choice, I’d cut down on the lawyers first. If he had “followed his bliss” to Jim Henson studios and worked his rear off, he might at least be entertaining. Or if he’d taken an internship at a local TV station, and worked up a puppet act there. But he was brainwashed by peoole who should have been looking out for his interests into believing he needed – NEEDED – a college degree to be a puppeteer. Only requirement I’VE ever heard of is, you have to have swallowed at least two swozzles to be considered a “Professor” of a Punch And Judy show.

          Somebody needs to have a long talk with his faculty advisor. One involving kneecaps.

      2. Somewhere along the way, the “you have to go to college” narrative had “and when you graduate the world will owe you a job” appended to it. And even now, that is getting “a job that pays a living wage” appended. Some sick fucks put this sled at the top of a greased up slope and laughed at everyone who called them out on it.

        1. The thing is, we have an awful lot of PhDs in the humanities and the soft sciences, and not much real need for ’em. If young people stop getting useless college degrees, a lot of,them might actually have to WORK for a living.

  10. 4 years of applying yourself at your job and studying on your own to better yourself at your job trumps college and it is not even close.

    As a mariner, I got my license after a little over 4 years of entry level duty, studying my butt off, and soaking up every piece of information I could.

    Comparing where I was as an engineer and an employee to someone fresh out of even the most prestigious maritime school, it was not even close. I had 10x the knowledge, and a better work ethic than the majority of the fresh grads. Of course they catch up over time, and I am positive SOME people were better off with the structure of school than if they went the route that I did.

    If you are the type of person who is a go-getter and a self motivator, on the job training and self education trumps college every single time.

    1. Your story is awesome! Too bad yours is the exception and not the rule anymore.

      1. It is too bad, but it will change.

        College in its current form will die, especially with virtual reality coming right around the corner. The Vive or Oculus Rift will be able to do almost anything better than your brick and mortar University used to do at a fraction of the cost.

    2. Omg, the boat people are here. Some maritime folks do their schooling, stand watch once per week, and think they know what the hell they are doing. Sadly, being many never had to rely on their watch team, earned a leadership role, and actually had to stand up for their people, they carry that lack of experience right to the company they work for. This can be detrimental to their career and the careers of others, especially if they are placed in a leadership role from the get go.

      Those that stick it out after school are another breed. They learn teamwork and leadership, which better prepare them for life on board and off the ship when they venture to a different job.

      1. Yeah, you see some of those guys come through every so often, but it has been my experience over the past decade at sea that people like that do not last. They tend to last longer on the deck side, but when your shipmates do not think you are fit for that position, they tend to find a way to get rid of you. But I work for a good company with a good overall crew. I’m sure poor companies or ships with a crew that is not so great to start might have to deal with those type of people more often.

        Of course you have to give the kids out of school a chance to conform to the way it actually is rather than the way they thought it would be. You can usually tell within 6 months on the engineering side if they’ll ever be worth a damn.

    1. Stossel…good! ignorant of reality.

    2. It’s tough to choose between Stossel and Tuccille.

      1. Well, do you like them bald or hairy?

  11. I usually agree with John, but I think this article misses something. Maybe “don’t major in the humanities or social sciences” would be more appropriate. College graduates are far more financially successful in general (not all of them John) than non graduates.

    1. Ignore the point a little more, brian.

      1. Sorry, I get the point. Government subsidies make college really expensive super high school. But it’s still bad advice to tell people not to go.

        1. The problem is that it is NOT bad advice for the majority of people who went to college.

          Sure, you want to be an engineer, a physicist, a doctor, an accountant, a scientist, go to college.

          What percentage of the workforce do you think has a degree, and what percentage do you think actually needed that degree to be as competent in their current job as they are now?

          1. Of course. Again, super high school. But genearlly (statistically) speaking, as of now, people with degrees do better. Maybe he’s right in the long run, but not yet.

            1. Do the speaking statistical calculations include 4+ non-earning years and starting working life with non dischargeable debt in the mid to upper five figures range?

          2. To be honest, as an accountant, technical school would be a better format for accounting education than college.

            1. The local university offers an Econ/Accounting degree. When we hire recent grads, they know nothing practical. They can’t reconcile accounts, for example. I’ve yet to figure out what classes actually help with their job duties…

          3. Go to college FOR A PURPOSE. One of the smartest kids I ever knew was taking a dual major in Political Science and Arabic Language. There’s a guy who is going to be writing his own ticket for the rest of his life. If you go to college with no idea of what you want out of it, what you are going to get is a big student loan debt.

            1. Yep, which touches on the core of the problem.

              Too many kids go to college just to go to college. Why not? It’s basically free to their not completely formed minds. For a large percentage the taxpayers foot the bill, and the others, they go into to debt. “Debt? Who cares, I’ll be making millions in 10 years, what is 100k?”

        2. College graduates are far more financially successful in general (not all of them John) than non graduates.

          That was the part that missed the point. This is not an absolute rule, as Bill pointed out below.

    2. College graduates are far more financially successful in general (not all of them John) than non graduates.

      Except, most of the research supporting that claim simply compares the two groups. The problem is that there is likely a selection bias in those who attend college. The college cohort could very well be more likely to do well, even without college.

      1. Funny how all this college still hasn’t taught people the difference between correlation and causation.

  12. Everyone should go to college and it should be free. Few high school graduates have read enough books to be decently educated grown-ups. As far as making your way through the drudgery of capitalism, having a population of creative, educated people is the best way to transform the system to something less soul-crushing than what we have. Working (almost always for someone else’s profit) is not everyone’s idea of the pinnacle of human achievement. It shouldn’t be the primary goal of an education, and the real goal should be to make such a system feasible.

    1. Everyone should go to college and it should be free.

      There will be no negative consequences to this whatsoever.

      1. Actually, I think Tony is making a marvelous offer. I assume he is willing to invest all his savings in this worthy goal.

    2. Everyone should go to college and it should be free.

      And from that statement, I have to conclude that you went to a college with academic standards such that everyone could get in.

      1. Freedom and rights are a zero-sum game.

        If you want education to be free you need to cannibalize a 3rd party’s negative rights to do so. Watch John Q with Denzel Washington to see what free healthcare really means.

    3. “Few high school graduates have read enough books to be decently educated grown-ups.” This was not true 100 years ago and yet many fewer people went to college…

      1. I expect that there were fewer books to read back then.

        Government schools, even though they are great, can only teach so much information per year, so we desperately need to add a 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and possibly 17th grade to keep up with the explosion of knowledge.

      2. As the economy has matured over time, people have needed to be more educated to get along. There is a reason public schools became the norm hand-in-hand with the industrial revolution. We now have an economy that requires more education than K-12 offers.

        Beyond that, I believe that society benefits the more generally educated people are, beyond mere trades.

        1. Who says sending more people to college would result in a more educated public? It hasn’t so far.

        2. There is a reason public schools became the norm hand-in-hand with the industrial revolution.

          You are so stupid.

        3. As the economy has matured over time, people have needed to be more educated to get along.

          Oh my god! What I said tongue in cheek, he seriously asserted!

          Of course, it’s bullshit. In my current company, only one or two people need a college degree to do their jobs. The rest are doing hte same stuff people did in the 19th century, only using excel instead of abaci.

        4. There is a reason public schools became the norm hand-in-hand with the industrial revolution.

          The need for large-scale babysitting?

          1. That and changing child labor laws.

            The industrial revolution was child care at one time.

    4. Few high school graduates have read enough books to be decently educated grown-ups.

      Obviously there needs to be a law. Come up with a mandatory reading list, and jail anyone who can’t prove that they have read them. What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Great idea! Here are a few recommendations for this list just to get the ball rolling:

        The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
        It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
        Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Picketty

    5. So rather than fix high school, force everyone into an extra four years of school. And since they’re forced to go, it should be free, just like public school. GREAT idea.

      And having millions of highly creative individuals just wandering around not working sounds like the recipe for the success of a nation. After all, look at Greece.

    6. Define free, Tony, you fuckstick.

      1. Aw, come on! Free means the government pays for it! Because government is magic! It allows everyone to live at the expense of everyone else! Besides, the rich don’t pay their fair share by virtue of the fact that they are rich! Make them pay until they aren’t rich anymore, and the government will have enough money to pay for everything for everyone! Magic!

        1. Would you really prefer to live in a society in which K-12 education isn’t subsidized? Just think about it for a minute.

          1. Yes please.

          2. Would you really prefer to live in a society in which K-12 education isn’t subsidized?


            think about it for a minute

            Thought complete: I would not be forced to subsidize the education of children that are not my responsibility and would get to keep more of what I earn.

            1. Thcandalous!!!!

            2. C’mon guys, arguing with Tony isn’t fair. You can’t expect him to keep up.

              1. He doesn’t have to keep up, he bounces from straw man to non sequitur anyway.

          3. It would be a disaster guys!

            Without government schools, the poor living in Washington DC and New York City might grow up unable to read!

            1. Without government schools, the poor living in Washington DC and New York City might grow up unable to read!

              So, no change at all.

              1. Baltimore then!


                1. THE JOKE STOPS BEING FUNNY WHEN YOU EXPLAIN IT!!!!!!111!!!

                  Take your audience into consideration. What are the odds that someone who says everyone should go to college and it should be free would understand your quip?

                2. Thank you for educating us!

          4. Yes.

            Anything that the government subsidizes turns to shit because the incentives are not to produce a good product for customers, but to please those who dole out the subsidies. All considerations become political.

            Do you know what the Trabant is? It’s what happens when government bureaucrats design a car. That’s what public education is. It’s the equivalent of a Trabant.

            Get the government out of it, and the outcome is guaranteed to be a hundred times better.

          5. Free means “other people’s money” of course.

        2. Please Brer Tony, don’t take away my taxpayer subsidized adolescent prisons!

    7. Everyone should go to college


      and it should be free


    8. Few high school graduates have read enough books to be decently educated grown-ups.

      Because you can’t read books anywhere but at school…

      almost always for someone else’s profit

      It seems to me that employment is voluntary. I trade my efforts for a wage. I get paid for my labors with currency that I can then spend on things that support my life and make it better. That is the only reason I go to work.

      1. Because you can’t read books anywhere but at school…

        How will they know which books to read unless there is an authority there to give permission and issue orders?

        It seems to me that employment is voluntary.

        No. You need to work in order to survive. If you don’t have money for food, you die. This means you are actually forced to work. Yes, forced. Just as you are also forced to buy food from the corporations, else you die. That’s why liberty is tyranny of the corporations, and government control is freedom.

        1. Not only what books to read, but what to feel about each book after reading it.

    9. Hey, look, Tony showed up and said something stupid.

      1. That’s redundant.

    10. Tony, my maternal Grandfather graduated from a public high school knowing three languages well enough to converse or read (English, French, Latin), familliar with mathematics through basic calculus, and in general with a classical education equal to if not better than what is provided by most University undergraduate programs. If it is true that colleges now supply the basic education that was once provided by grade school, this is not an acceptable situation. The grade schools are not doing their flippping jobs and need to be given a major shaking-up.

      1. “The grade schools are not doing their flippping jobs”

        But their graduates are!

        I’m here all week…

      2. C.S.P., I think experiences will vary, but there is little doubt that we expect much less from K-12 students today than was expected 50 years ago. Students are living down to our lowered expectations, and nowhere is this more painfully clear than with inner city schools.

    11. Working (almost always for someone else’s profit) is not everyone’s idea of the pinnacle of human achievement. It shouldn’t be the primary goal of an education, and the real goal should be to make such a system feasible.

      This would actually support an argument for ending government interference in the market, such as the preferential tax treatment of employer-provided insurance and the absurd compliance costs of being self-employed, but that’s not what you’re going for, is it?

  13. I very much agree with Stossel on this. The real question is how you get around the prisoner’s dilemma. Sure, most people would be better off if they stopped getting college degrees and put employers in the position of having to give up their degree fetish. But, any one person who does that is likely screwed (at least for most management and professional jobs)

    I’d say the first step is to stop requiring college degrees for any accreditation that has a test for recognition. If you have to pass a test to become an accountant, financial analyst, or lawyer, why do you need to show you went to college to learn the skills you were already tested on?

    1. There’s been a little bit of talk about this lately, especially when it comes to lawyers. Back in the day, if you wanted to become a lawyer you “read law” with an established lawyer then passed the bar.

      Most of the qualification shit goes back to the early 20th century when “professionalization” came in setting up gatekeepers for many professions.

      1. In one state you can still go that route… Vermont. 😉

        1. Excellent!

  14. Let’s see. My stepbrother has a double degree in history and teaching. He delivers mail. One of my stepsisters has a liberal arts degree in political science. She works in sales. The other stepsister has a degree in forestry. She works the phone at an insurance company. My degree is in computer science, and I work in software development. So of the four of us, only one put their degree to good use.

    Back when I worked in restaurants, I worked with many college educated folk with degrees ranging from masters in English to BS in environmental science. None of them could find a job in their field of study. One fellow cook studied engineering and had a job as soon as he graduated. That’s why I chose CS.

    1. I have a degree in history. I teach finance.

    2. My brother has a bachelor’s in business administration, he kills bugs for a living. My sister went to law school and she’s a lawyer now. I have no degree and I’m a IT tech. Given those data points, I can’t see how forcing people into college is in any way reasonable.

      1. My brother has a bachelor’s in business administration, he kills bugs for a living.

        That is applicable, if it’s his bug killing business.

        1. No such luck for him.

      2. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but IT used to be super-easy to get into without a degree. In my case, I temped in bullshit while I taught myself everything I needed to know and then moved into the IT department.

        1. The problem with IT is how specialized it’s becoming. It used to be one person could master many subsections of tech: networking, server management, desktop support, programming. As the industry is maturing were are beginning to see the end of the IT generalist.

          The average tech isn’t going to be able to handle data warehousing, wide area network implementation, and information governance at a level where most businesses are looking for that kind of expertise. Small businesses will still need generalists, but small businesses are becoming rare each day. The only place to learn these specialized skills is in school, unless you have deep pockets to set up home computer labs (and I have seen some impressive home installations).

          1. Yeah, I suppose it’s easier if you do programming. All I need is a computer and an internet connection.

            I see only 2 subsections: programming, and everything else in your list. Within those subsections, we are still expected to solve anything that comes up. If anything, I think companies are demanding more generalization. Nobody hires a “Java programmer” anymore. You have to know Java, C#, Powershell, SQL (multiple flavors), and oh – when old shit breaks you have to teach yourself VBScript, Perl, and weird vendor-specific languages.

            1. This is probably true in smaller organizations, but from my experience in a big (non-tech) company you can have only one role. The Exchange server guy keeps email rolling and that’s it. If email delivery fails because of network connectivity the ball gets handed off.

              My department is an odd duck, somehow we are allowed to do a lot of in-department work covering the whole development life cycle, but we still cannot do basic things like deploy applications or patch our on servers. Maybe my organization is more dysfunctional than I thought.

              On a side note, I really need to learn Powershell.

    3. I have a degree in Linguistics and German. I write software for a living.

  15. Due to my own choices (even when they didn’t seem like choices), I didn’t attend college, but instead, started a family at a young age and got into a trade. I was able to convert that skill, and was able to do well, and am now running IT and several data centers for a public company. Having said that, there was a period where it was difficult for me to get interviews because I have no college education (although, somewhere in my 30s, I did a short stint at a community college – still no degree). It seemed that in my line of work, every job for which I wished to apply required a college degree. I found myself applying anyway, and leaving the education section blank. A few would contact me, and I would explain that my experience met their needs, and that in a dynamic field like information technology, the fortran I would have learned at the time I would have been in college would be worthless, now. Many still wanted that little piece of parchment, but some would understand and I’ve made my way fairly well all these years without a degree.

    Now, as someone who hires, I make sure my job postings state, “degree, or equivalent experience.” It’s been my experience while hiring that degrees are certainly no indicator of ability or intelligence, and that many times, the person who’s had to work their way up, show the most initiative.

    1. Interesting… I also went back to school briefly in my thirties. I quit and somehow landed in corporate legal IT.

      As some how looks through job listings from time to time, I always appreciate seeing “degree, or equivalent experience.”

  16. So what is a “liberal arts” degree?

    I have a Bachelor of Arts, and I am an engineer. Of course my BA is a double major in CompSci & Physics with a minor in Math.

    1. I thought they called those BS now, no?

      1. My school did not have a BS program.

        The college of natural sciences was focused mostly on turning out teachers. My professors were so disappointed that I had no intention of going into teaching. 😉

        1. Terry Pratchett once observed that having an education is a little like having a sexually transmitted disease: it makes you unsuitable for a lot of jobs, and then you get the urge to pass it on.

          1. Thanks for that one.

    2. Sounds more like a Bachelors of Science.

      1. At my school, we had two major tracks:

        MSE – Math, Science, and Engineering

        HPA – Humanities and Public Affairs (or as we MSE referred to it “House Plants and Animals”)

        You could graduate from HPA with either a BS or BA, depending on amount of math.

        All MSE tracks were BS.

        I knew a guy with a BS in Military History and another in French.

    3. Liberal arts: history, English, polisci, sociology et al.

      1. The natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) were all originally part of the liberal arts education.

        1. True, I’m not sure how they would be defined today.

          1. There was a time, when being educated in the humanities meant being equally competent in discussing physics or poetry. Those times have long since passed.

            1. I wished they would come back. I always wondered if the great books method of teaching at St. John’s College was effective. Basically SJC has mentors who guide student discussion on assigned readings.

  17. I’m also convinced, only by anecdotal evidence unfortunately, that the emphasis on going to college to get a good job is why so many college students are terrible academically. They don’t go to college to learn anything, they go to get the degree. So, every course becomes a step in that process which means their focus is on passing the course rather than learning anything.

  18. My dear, the next five minutes can change your life!
    Give a chance to your good luck.
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  19. I’m with Stossel and Mike Rowe! Yes, we need skills to succeed, but there is too much inefficiency in the path from public preschools through masters or even doctorate granting programs. I also really like Stossel’s critiques of American public K-12 schools, and of course the formula of those problems are reflected in our universities. The politically correct bullshit is shoveled depper with time. “Every child is an honor student, every child deserves to go to college.” NO and NO. I have wondered lately if 1984 and Animal Farm are quietly being removed from lists of requisite reading in our public schools?

  20. I feel like college was a lot easier than high school. The main thing that made college hard was knowing that all of the students passing classes who only showed up half the time, did half the work, &/or gave terrible presentations were going to be looked at as my equal if we all graduated.

    I took a class called “College Algebra.” We had two quarters (22 weeks) to finish it. It was all online videos, but there was an instructor there to answer questions & to “make sure we didn’t cheat on tests.” I finished it in 6 weeks. Many students needed the 2 quarters & then some to finish.

    The first thing we did in the class was to take a placement exam to see which modules we didn’t have to test through. There were fresh-out-of-high school students in the class that passed 0 (zero) classes. There was a module called “Whole Numbers” that they were failing.

    I went to a For-Profit College. I tried to get my money back, which failed of course. I wrote to the President, Senators, my House Representative, & to the VA (I went on the G.I. Bill) & all of that led to nowhere. I protested in front of my school because there was a lot of dissent in that school & I thought students would join me. None did.

    We can all sit around & complain all day, but until people start acting, we won’t change anything.

    I look back at those 2 years & 9 months & can’t stop thinking about how my decision to go to college actually ended up being a worse decision than joining the Army.

  21. P.S. Forgive my spelling error..*deeper.* More importantly, the hypocrisy of our educational institutions denouncing greed and the fleecing of the common man is all prog speak for “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  22. It’s always amusing to hear folks that went to elite universities – Mr Stossel went to Princeton and Mr Theil went to Stanford – tell folks to skip college. Do as I say not as I did, right?

    The reality is a bit more nuanced… if you go to a second or third-tier school, you better study something worthwhile, or be willing to work hard to get a foothold in the market. Racking up tons of debt for a degree in literature may seem fun while you’re in college, but it gets less fun later on when you’re working at Starbucks. I studied business at a state school while working to pay my own way. My first couple jobs after graduation were pretty terrible and didn’t pay much, but I was able to work my way up. Today, about 12 years after graduating and through a lot of hard work, I fall in the top 5% of income nationally and am debt-free, despite a mediocre degree.

    Contrast that to my wife, who did go an elite school, and studied a topic that she has not touched since graduation. Because of the pedigree of her education, she’s been able to land a job interview at almost every job she’s ever applied for. She works hard and is brilliant, but the ‘signaling’ effect of having gone to an elite institution should not be understated.

    1. Who cares where the fuck Stossel went to school. I used to be a flaming liberal but that doesn’t stop me from trying to steer people away from flaming liberalism.

      the ‘signaling’ effect of having gone to an elite institution should not be understated should be ridiculed for the elitist bullshit that it is


  23. It’s basic economics — tuition subsidies increase demand which increases price. Eventually it reached the point where loans had to take the place of grants and scholarships and the spiral goes on. The system is also used by as a hammer to force compliance with its decrees.

    What little free market there was has been killed by the requirement that states or other post-secondary providers get permission from other states to enroll their students online. High cost schools and state systems were losing out to the online world. It’s as if citizens were the chattel of the states.

    A K-20 system will only make it worse, costs will skyrocket but will be hidden in taxes, as Stossel notes.

    The other factor that’s making things worse is all the special snowflakes majoring in lesbian basket-weaving. What kind of job can you expect to find with a Gender Studies degree and a constitution that doesn’t allow you to function outside a safe space?

  24. These threads always warm my cold, cold HR-Mgr-with-a-liberal-arts-degree heart.

    Just a couple thoughts:

    “We have rules like this because of people like you.”

    “There isn’t one provision in this process management didn’t ask for.”

    “Thank your Congresstard – they put it into law, not me.”

    “I’ll start being nicer when you start being smarter.”

    Now – please go get my car out of the Executive Garage….and please make sure it’s gassed and washed, eh? Danke….

  25. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Reynolds’ Law:

    The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits ? self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. ? that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

    -Glenn Reynolds,
    Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee

  26. I remember the last time you were hiring, for an editor, you required a college degree.

  27. It is true that college is overpriced because the government subsidizes the loans, but it is also true that kids are brainwashed into believing they need a college degree to make a living when they leave home as adults by every teacher they have from grades 1 to 12. For most people college is an expensive bad joke. They don’t learn anything and it takes years to pay off the loans.

  28. Collectivism, power exerted from a centralized source, results in reducing our freedom and liberty as a means of those who wish to rule over us to use the fruits of labour earned/legally obtained to purchase the votes of others claiming it to be their entitlement to equality in a nation of societies whose freedoms and liberties were founded NOT on producing equality in the outcomes of their life choices but ONLY the freedom and liberty to make their own choices. The progressive movement which began in the late 19th century, infecting our Constitutional government by Wilson in 1913, became a cancerous growth gradually consuming our individual freedoms and liberties and will eventually result in the death of what began as a government of governments ruled by the governed.

  29. I worked in the electronics field for twenty-nine years, the last fourteen of which were as an independent consultant engineer; I solved the problems that the degreed engineers on company payrolls couldn’t solve, and I did not get any degree from college, where my major had been biology. It was true then as it is still true, that a university degree means primarily that one is good at being an academic. It does not mean much more than that. Thanks for an article that points out the true nature of universities.

  30. Stupid employers demand degrees. I had to contract since I didn’t have one and was paid better

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