by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
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.