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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What good does it do our economy to graduate more Recreation Management, Drama and English majors?

“Finishing the First Lap,” an examination of students who leave after their freshmen year by the American Institutes of Research, found billions in state and federal aid and grants are spent on students who drop out. Nationwide, these state subsidies average nearly $10,000 per student per year and the federal subsides are about $2,000 per student per year (according to this report).

The report sites that “The Obama administration is calling for the United States to regain its status as the nation with the highest concentration of college-educated adults in the world.” And of course when you start off with the wrong goal, you get the wrong study.

Here would be a better goal for the Administration to articulate: “The United States regains its status as the nation with the highest number of college graduates that are immediately moving into high paying jobs in the private sector. Recent college graduates are making it far more attractive for private business to start and retain their operations in the US rather than moving jobs overseas. And our colleges and universities are achieving this with increasing efficiency and at dramatically lower costs. We are continuing to decrease the government subsidies for college and more high school students are finding technical programs and other job training programs a better fit at a much lower cost than traditional four year colleges.”

What good does it do our economy to graduate more Recreation Management, Drama and English majors? Graduates with degrees in “silly” majors are generally not making the US more competitive and if they drop out after one year it only cost the taxpayers on average $12,000. If they take six years to graduate then they have cost the taxpayers $72,000. So for students that are just marking time in college, under our current subsidies the earlier they drop out the better. Even better yet - maybe more high school graduates should skip four year college altogether and pursue practical technical education that will make them and the US more competitive.

Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who, like me questions promoting college for all, said "Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money."

The study reports that “The United States spends more on higher education than any other nation in the world. We spend about twice as much per student as the United Kingdom, Germany, or Japan and about three times as much as most other industrialized countries in Europe and Asia, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Factbook.”

Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents on the other hand has his priorities all wrong and called the problem (of college drop outs) “job one” for schools. “It is obviously the most important thing that a campus has to work on today,” he said.

We think fewer kids should go to four year colleges right out of high school. And more important than the graduation rates is what these students study. We need more engineering and science graduates even if these are harder courses and may have a lower graduation rate. We need fewer Gender Studies and Sociology majors, especially if 100% of these non-competitive grads actually graduate.

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