Leef tackles degree inflation

George Leef’s latest Martin Center column focuses on a recent problem plaguing higher education.

In his recent book The Case Against Education, Professor Bryan Caplan argues that most Americans derive little benefit from their years of schooling in terms of skill and knowledge. What they get instead are educational credentials—the diplomas and degrees attesting that they have officially gotten through some level of education. This quest for credentials that put you ahead of people without them makes sense for individuals, but for society, it is a huge waste of resources, he argues. …

… Nobody wins, but some people lose more than others.

Individuals who, for whatever reason, cannot obtain the credentials that are needed if they’re going to be considered for jobs are denied opportunities for advancement. They’re confined to the shrinking and mostly low-wage sector of the labor market where educational credentials still aren’t required. (That explains why there appears to be a “college earnings premium”—fewer and fewer occupations are open to people without degrees. …)

College degree requirements are problematic because one of the most firmly entrenched concepts in our law now is that businesses and institutions are not allowed to discriminate against people for irrational reasons. They may not deny them opportunities because of their characteristics or because they just don’t “seem to fit.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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