Sunday, February 10, 2013

College for all?

"For the most part, undergraduate education in the United States may achieve what a decent secondary school was expected to deliver fifty years ago...For a clear majority, entering college is as much an imperative as high school was after World War One...the main function of college attendance is to delay entrance into the uncertain job market...(from an employer's perspective) the BA signifies that the candidate can tolerate boredom and knows how to follow the rules, probably the most important lesson in postsecondary education."  

+Stanley Aronowitz, The Knowledge Factory

The notion that "everyone should go to college" suffers from the same wrong-headedness as the notion that "everyone should own their own house" -- and it will soon create a similar bursting bubble effect.

Not everyone is suited to a collegiate environment, and instead of guiding students toward a more rewarding career choice, the majority of political and social commentators continue to perpetuate this erroneous notion that college is the key to wealth.  Although about 80% of American millionaires have a college degree, this does not mean that having a college degree is the key to gaining wealth; for example, most millionaires are married, but clearly being married is not a requirement for accumulating wealth. According to Forbes magazine, "The average net worth of Forbes 400 members without a college degree is 6.6% higher than members with a degree." 

Not going to college does not mean not getting any training, of course.  Most (although not all) high school degrees require some additional post-secondary training -- but it does not need to be college. As I have said in another post ("Whither higher ed?"), not going to college certainly does not imply a lack of value as a human being nor a lack of intelligence; in fact, it may demonstrate higher intelligence and an ability to think more strategically than those who simply follow the herd. 

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