George Leef’s latest Martin Center column challenges the idea of mandatory college applications.

Legislators in New Mexico are pushing a bill that would make students apply to at least one college while they are still juniors in high school. This legislation reflects the powerful belief that college should be the norm for students after they graduate from high school.

That belief, however, is mistaken and this bill, should it become law, will have bad effects (not to mention that it takes Nanny State thinking to a new level). As we read in the Albuquerque Journal, the bill in question has bipartisan support and was approved by a committee of the state House of Representatives on February 1. …

… But so what if college enrollments have been declining? Most of our political and educational leaders assume that the more years of formal education an individual has, the better off they will be, earning more money (and coincidentally paying more taxes), enjoying better health, having a more stable life, and so forth. They conclude that declining college enrollment must mean that more young people are making a serious mistake in not going to college—a mistake that the government should help to prevent with a law like House Bill 23. If the state compels students to either apply to college or have approved alternative plans, then fewer would make the “mistake” of not going to college—or so the bill’s supporters think.

But those state politicians obviously aren’t considering the possibility that too many students were going to college in the past and that the decline reflects better knowledge about the balance of costs and benefits of college seeping into the minds of New Mexicans.