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Saturday, May 15, 2010

New York times article about college

Most of my friends and family believe that not everyone should go to college. Intellectually they are right there with me. But when it comes down to their kids, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. When it comes to their kids, let’s move on to another subject. Yes, your children don’t need to go to college but by golly mine are going to attend and graduate. End of discussion.

If you can afford college or your kids line up financial aid (in other words debt) to pay for college, most folks really don’t have to worry about the short-term finances of the cost of college. Sending your kid to college is so convenient - it is the thing to do. There is hope Jimmy will get inspired. There is hope that Nancy will find herself. There is hope that Mary will emerge with a well-paying job and a satisfying career that will lead to a long, happy and independent life. And maybe in the process Kenny will find his future wife and that his wife will also be blessed with this cure-all to future earnings (a college education).

Perhaps, subconsciously part of the parental support around college might be that when Billy goes to college, you might free up his bedroom, get a little more time to travel with your husband and get some well-earned time off. If Charlie stays at home and starts a new internet business, his room will continue to be a mess.

There is also the parental pride in saying “my daughter Suzie was accepted at Cal” versus “my son Bubba has nabbed a part time job at the five and dime”.

This New York Times article discusses some of the critics of the “my kids must attend college” thinking. It points out that:

1) “Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. (The figures don’t include transfer students, who aren’t tracked.)”
2) “For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree.”
3) “It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.”
4) “College degrees are simply not necessary for many jobs. Of the 30 jobs projected to grow at the fastest rate over the next decade in the United States, only seven typically require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
5) “15 percent of mail carriers have bachelor’s degrees, according to a 1999 federal study.”

On the other side this article makes a few logic missteps:

1) “It’s not just about the economic return,” he said. “Some college, whether you complete it or not, contributes to aesthetic appreciation, better health and better voting behavior.” Yes - but this assumes there are no non-economic benefits to work, apprenticeships, starting a business or serving your country in the military.
2) “People with college and graduate degrees generally earn more than those without them, and face lower risks of unemployment, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Yes but this is the standard illogical argument on college. Just because there is a correlation between college degrees and financial success does not mean that one leads to the other. The number one predictor of financial success is higher IQs. Since those with higher IQs tend to get to college easier and have a better chance of graduation, their higher IQs may have more to do with their financial success than the college education.

It is great to see more discussion in the main-stream media on this subject.

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