Debate Club

Going to College Is a Mistake for Many

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Just as buying speculative stocks makes sense for some investors but not others, so "investing" in a college education has a payoff for some--but for many others it is a mistake. Students who have a high probability of graduating from a good-quality university are likely to find attending college is financially worthwhile. Who are those students? Generally they are ones who did well academically in high school and had pretty good scores on college entrance tests like the SAT or ACT.

[Average Student Debt Reaches All-Time High.]

But for many students, the investment in college is not profitable. About 40 percent do not make it through a four-year bachelor's degree program in even six years. Others who major in subjects with low vocational demands often have trouble getting jobs. For many years, we have turned out more college graduates than the growth in the number of jobs in the technical, managerial, and professional areas where college graduates historically want to work. Therefore, we now have nearly 80,000 bartenders and taxi drivers with bachelor's degrees. One estimate is that 1 in 3 college graduates has a job historically performed by those with a high school diploma or the equivalent.

As the cost of college rises and the mismatch between labor market realities and college graduation rates persists, this problem is likely to continue even if we ever get out of the Great Recession. As average student loan debt rises above $25,000 and high-paying job opportunities become scarcer, the case for attending college diminishes for a growing subset of the population.

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

Not going on to a bachelor's degree from high school does not necessarily mean most non-degree-seeking students should simply go to work. Many would benefit from a community college education or taking an associate degree at a for-profit institution. If successful there, the opportunity still exists to transfer into a four-year degree program. Others would do well to enroll in shorter non-degree training programs to learn to be, for example, a long-distance truck driver, beautician, or medical records clerk. The paths to success as young Americans transition to adulthood are many, and only for some should that definitely involve pursuing a four-year degree after high school.

Richard Vedder

About Richard Vedder Director of Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Tags
colleges
student loans
unemployment

Other Arguments

#1
183 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'

#3
81 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
56 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
49 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
45 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
32 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
10 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
6 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

#10
0 Pts
Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills

Yes – Economy Puts a Premium on Postsecondary Skills

Kevin Carey Policy Director of Education Sector

#11
-19 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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