That N&O piece is typical of the PR job the higher education establishment does.

First, we get the assertion that the GI Bill, by subsidizing college education, “helped spur the rise of the middle class.” It will be news to the two writers, but there was a large and growing middle class prior to World War II. Most of the people in it (like my grandparents) did not have college degrees, but they took their high school learning (probably equivalent to if not superior to today’s college education) and combined it with learning on the job (where most useful education has always taken place) to lead lives that were far more comfortable than those their parents had known. The GI Bill didn’t create or even do anything to expand the middle class. What it did was to make an additional four years of formal education more commonplace. The primary effect of that has been tremendous credential inflation, with employers now insisting on BAs or even masters degrees for entry-level positions that bright high school grads could learn to do.

Second, we’re told that college is becoming prohibitively expensive for lots of students. Supposedly, lots and lots of them are choosing to forego college. There is no proof offered for that assertion and the evidence that does exist, a study by Jay Greene, found that in 2001, hardly any student who was qualified to enroll in college did not do so. Now, it’s true that because higher ed costs have risen faster than government subsidies for it, students are accumulating more debt than previously. All right, but why is that a matter of concern? So it takes longer and requires more belt tightening on the part of students to pay off their loans — how does it follow from that that other people should be compelled to foot part of the bill?

Third, the authors want to have government toss more money into higher education subsidies. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that this will cause colleges to further up their tuition rates. It certainly doesn’t occur to them to suggest that we ought to find ways to lower the inflated cost of a college education.

Finally, the piece carries an implicit assumption that it’s a good thing for everyone to have more education; that a college education is a “tool kit for building a better life.” They should tell that to the large and growing number of kids with college degrees (and big debts and wasted years) whose low literacy and cognitive skills enable them to get only “high school” jobs.

Higher education, as I argued a few weeks ago at Shaftesbury, has been greatly oversold.