Readers of Forbes now have access to a contributor who should be familiar to anyone who frequents “The Locker Room.” George Leef explains “I write on the damage big government does, especially to education.”
Here’s his first Forbes piece:
One of America’s most durable myths is that the more people who graduate from college, the more the economy will grow. For many years, politicians and leaders of the higher education establishment (HEE) have advanced that notion. In his first major speech as president, for example, Barack Obama said that if we want a strong economy, we need to lead the world in the percentage of the population that has earned a college degree.
And in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, “Public Colleges Boost Economic Growth,” two college presidents (Robert Gates of William and Mary and David Boren of the University of Oklahoma) argued that decreasing state spending on higher education means that we are “sacrificing our young people’s futures—and our future economic growth….”
Those ideas sound appealing, but they are thoroughly mistaken. We cannot pull the economy up by the bootstraps through increased spending on higher education, even if that led to larger numbers of people with college degrees, which it won’t. …
… [W]e lure great numbers of young Americans into college these days with the idea that by getting their degree, they’ll enjoy a large earnings boost. A figure that is often, carelessly thrown around is the million dollar earnings premium for college grads.
The problem is that, increasingly, high school graduates do not have even the most basic academic tools – they don’t read well, don’t write well, and can’t do basic math – and also expect that college will be like high school, only more fun. Any increase in college enrollment will overwhelmingly come from such academically marginal students. Going to college rarely transforms those disengaged kids into highly productive adults.
Although quite a few of those students manage to coast through to their degrees, thanks to grade inflation and an abundance of easy courses, they have frequently gotten an education in name only. That was the big point of the 2011 book Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa.
If they do graduate, an increasingly large percentage of those students wind up working in jobs that do not call for any advanced academic preparation, as a study done by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity shows. Nor is this just a temporary problem related to our lingering recession. Scholars started noticing the phenomenon of college graduates competing for “high school jobs” about twenty years ago.