How many college-educated janitors do we need? It’s not clear that a college education is “an economic imperative,” as President Obama puts it, argues economist Walter Williams.
A good part of our higher education problem, explaining its spiraling cost, is that a large percentage of college students are incapable of doing real college work. They shouldn’t be wasting their own resources and those of their families and taxpayers.
We now have janitors, waiters and taxi drivers with college degrees, writes Williams, citing Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Meanwhile, colleges are lowering standards to create “comfortable environments for the educationally incompetent.”
The backlash against “college for all” is growing, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed. Yet President Obama and other higher education advocates never wanted all students to enroll in liberal arts colleges to earn bachelor’s degrees, Fain points out. Obama’s goal is at least one year of postsecondary education, which for many will mean job training that lasts a few months or a few years.
“College for all is a false premise. It’s not an argument anyone is making,” says Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation.
The completion push is really about “postsecondary education and training for all,” says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. But “that doesn’t fit on anybody’s bumper sticker.”
Vocational and technical education often gets short shrift during debates on college completion, says Mark Milliron, president of Western Governors University Texas, and a former official with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Instead of focusing on a “family of credentials that provide that earning and learning potential,” like certificate programs that cater to working adults, Milliron says the discussion gravitates toward bachelor’s degrees. And that conflation is a problem, because “it plays into anti-elitism.”
While earning a college degree has paid off in the past, Vedder warns it may not do so in the future, as less-capable students try college. “The law of diminishing returns is starting to rear its ugly head,” Vedder says.