Debate Club

Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills

By SHARE

College is still worth it—most of the time.

Many different people attend many different colleges, studying various subjects and paying a wide range of prices. Of course, there will be some students among those millions for whom college is a bad deal, financially speaking. Students paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend for-profit colleges that provide low-value degrees, for example. That's why the U.S. Department of Education cracked down on abusive career colleges earlier this year. Borrowing $200,000 to get a bachelor's in semiotics from a second-rate liberal arts college is also probably a bad idea. People make choices and not all of them will be good ones.

[Lack of Jobs for Young Workers Spells 2012 Trouble for Obama.]

But the long-term trends are clear: over the last 30 years, the American economy has reorganized itself in a way that puts a premium on postsecondary skills. Despite the fact that a larger percentage of people go to college now, the college wage premium relative to people with just a high school diploma is at an all-time high. College graduates are much less likely to have lost their jobs in the current recession. People need to go to college in order to have a fighting chance at a well-paying career. That's not going to change.

[To Keep America Great, Students Must Be Taught to Innovate.]

It's true, however, that the number of people getting a raw deal from college is rising. That's because college prices are rising uncontrollably. At the same time, studies like Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift suggest that many college students aren't learning very much. Public policymakers need to do to more to restrain college prices and hold colleges accountable for student learning.

College is still a good deal, on average, for most students. But it could be a better deal for more people, and needs to be for America to remain competitive in the 21st century.

Kevin Carey

About Kevin Carey Policy Director of Education Sector

Tags
unemployment
colleges
student loans

Other Arguments

#1
149 Pts
With College, Only the Motivated Need Apply

No – With College, Only the Motivated Need Apply

Craig Brandon Author of 'The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up On Educating Your Child' and 'What You Can Do About It'

#2
111 Pts
Going to College Is a Mistake for Many

No – Going to College Is a Mistake for Many

Richard Vedder Director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity

#3
72 Pts
With College Degree, One Size Does Not Fit All

Yes – With College Degree, One Size Does Not Fit All

Peter Konwerski Senior Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at George Washington University

#4
52 Pts
Government Is Behind the Curve

No – Government Is Behind the Curve

Lindsey Burke Senior Policy Analyst in Domestic Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation

#5
51 Pts
College Is a Safe Bet

Yes – College Is a Safe Bet

Julie Margetta Morgan Policy Analyst with the Postsecondary Education Program at the Center for American Progress

#6
40 Pts
You Can Lead Kids to College but You Can't Make Them Learn

No – You Can Lead Kids to College but You Can't Make Them Learn

Naomi Schaefer Riley Author of 'The Faculty Lounges ... And Other Reasons Why You Won't Get the College Education You Pay For'

#7
24 Pts
Some Career Pathways Require a Four-Year Degree, Many Don't

Yes – Some Career Pathways Require a Four-Year Degree, Many Don't

Robert B. Schwartz Francis Keppel Professor of Practice in Educational Policy and Administration at Harvard University

#8
8 Pts
College Graduates Earn Higher Pay

Yes – College Graduates Earn Higher Pay

Anthony P. Carnevale Director of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

#9
2 Pts
K-12 Education Should Take a Lesson from Colleges

Yes – K-12 Education Should Take a Lesson from Colleges

Tom Carroll President of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future

#11
-21 Pts
More, Better Jobs for College Graduates

Yes – More, Better Jobs for College Graduates

Chris Farrell Economics Editor of 'Marketplace Money'

#12
-67 Pts
A Degree Is Well Worth the Time, Cost, and Effort

Yes – A Degree Is Well Worth the Time, Cost, and Effort

Cecilia Elena Rouse Katzman-Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education and Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University

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