My “Overselling of Higher Education” paper gets attacked

With a pea shooter. Check out this piece that came out today from a group that ordinarily focuses on K-12:


Editorial Comment

Pope Center for Higher Education Advocates Backward Progress

In what can only be described as a call to return to the educational past, the Raleigh-based Pope Center for Higher Education is recommending that government invest less in higher education and that colleges and universities dramatically raise admission and grading standards to narrow the numbers of those pursuing education beyond high school. The recommendations are contained in a recently released Pope Center publication called The Overselling of Higher Education.

The arguments advanced in the report are a) that open enrollment and eased admission policies have led to more-and-more under-prepared students enrolling in colleges and universities, forcing higher education institutions to spend increasing amounts of dollars on remedial education b) that institutions of higher education are less concerned with quality than with inflating admission numbers, ergo revenue c) that society is over-selling the connection between higher education degrees and highly-paid jobs d) that well-paying jobs that do not require college education are going unfilled e) that claims of the U.S. falling behind in workforce skills are overblown, and, last but not least, f) that taxpayer money is being wasted on scholarships and remedial education for those who arent likely to complete college and for those who might not benefit from an advanced degree.

Given the source of the report, one could contend that the arguments and recommendations advanced were predictable. The Pope Center for Higher Education is one of the network of groups in the Locke Foundation sphere that share a deep suspicion of government, state-run schools and government spending patterns.

The Centers conservative roots aside, the report completely ignores one of the most fundamental arguments for acquiring education beyond high school. For decades, census data bears out the direct correlation between higher education and higher pay. As well-paying manufacturing jobs continue to disappear and more-and-more displaced workers are taking lower-paid service industry jobs, the salary gap between those with advanced education and those without is growing even starker.

Ironically, just a month after the release of the Pope Center report, The Economist, a highly regarded weekly magazine that tracks business news and trends around the world, devoted a 15 page special to the increasing global competition for talent. The magazine predicated that the rapid advances made by India and China as a result of their brain power pool, would soon result in an even tighter and more competitive global scramble to attract and retain highly talented workers.

The Pope Centers response to what is becoming global competition for talent? Produce less of it. Return to the days where schools sort students into winners and losers. Through a combination of withdrawing tuition subsidies and heightening admission standards, reduce the amount of those continuing their education beyond high school. In a world is flat global economy, that is backwards thinking and a prescription for long-term economic self-destruction.


Notice that the writer doesn’t bother to include a link to my paper so that his readers can check for themselves if he has accurately conveyed the substance of my paper. My guess is that he hasn’t read it, since he trundles up some of the conventional wisdom about higher ed (people who have college degrees make more money, so send more people to college) as a refutation of my position when I labored to show that that argument is fallacious. I also argued that whether we need more talent or not, pushing more ill-prepared kids through weak college programs won’t do anything to create it.

Since this bunch has never before paid any attention to the Pope Center, I wonder who is behind this feeble offensive.

Hat tip: Terry Stoops