Leef’s latest Forbes column responds to flawed Pew report

George Leef explains for Forbes readers why a new Pew Research report misses the mark in estimating the impact of a college degree.

In February, Pew Research released a study on the effects of college but the instant I saw the title, I was sure that this would not be one that broke out of the usual “college is a great investment” model. That study, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” actually moves further in the wrong direction by telling people that those who don’t go to college are penalizing themselves.

The many “college is a great investment” papers present statistics showing that, on average, individuals who have college educations earn more than do people without them. They left the conclusion, “If you aren’t planning on college, you really should,” implicit.

Pew, however, makes that explicit. “If you don’t go to college, you’ll lose out big time” is the message it sends.

What makes that message particularly distressing is the fact that more and more young Americans who have their college degrees are unable to find jobs they couldn’t have gotten straight out of high school—or maybe even while still in high school. They’re often struggling with large college debts. And yet this study tells them that going to college is more important than ever.

Pew proclaims that its research is “non-partisan and non-advocacy” but they don’t say that it’s “non-misleading.” This study is very misleading and if young Americans take it seriously, many will go to college just because they think that not going would be a self-inflicted penalty.

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