crowGeorge “College is oversold” Leef will likely be interested to learn that Money magazine’s latest issue features an interview with Arizona State University president Michael Crow that leads off with the “big question”: “Does college still pay off?”

Crow answers “unequivocally yes,” citing a 12 percent return on investment in terms of additional lifetime earnings. But that answer is not enough for Money‘s Pat Regnier, who poses another question that generates the following exchange:

Are we pushing too many kids toward college? For in-state students, four years at Arizona State, all expenses included, is about $100,000. It’s easily twice that at private schools. There are good jobs that require technical skills but not four years of college.

First, those prices are sticker prices. Our average in-state tuition is $3,800 a year.

Everybody’s not being pushed to college. First, we have to everybody through high school, and we can’t even do that yet. If we could get 40% of the high school grad population up to some level of technical training, that would be fantastic. And then maybe get 40% to the university level. That’s what we need based on the job profiles of the future. Everybody doesn’t need to go to college. We do need a broad set of career paths.

Crow’s answers, while interesting, strike this observer as less important than the fact that a major mainstream magazine is asking the questions.