Just Because They Start Doesn't Mean They Finish
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  • ms

    Truer words were never spoken. I think a job-training reset will happen–painfully— because college has become a bubble, which for many people no longer makes sense because the cost in both time and money is far too high. Ironically, the people who complete their degrees are often not the ones best suited for many of the jobs that require a degree of some sort. We need to become far better at determining what sort of talents people possess and creating myriad paths (apprenticeships, internships, vocational training, and for some, college) to prepare people to maximize their talents and make a living. Over the past 50 years, our nation has become far too fixated on the idea that college is a leg up and is for most people. There is a prestige and equality factor in there which is understandable, but this has never been practical and is becoming less so. All work is honorable, and it is time we started paying more attention to matching talent and employment and quit trying to shove everyone through the very expensive doors of the nation’s colleges.

  • Luke Lea

    “liberal arts education is important, but four years of it is not something everyone wants or needs.”

    I’d be happy if they got two years of world and American history in grammar school, then the same thing again in junior and senior high school. What everyone needs — rich and poor, the academically swift and the academically slow — is the Big Picture: (a) history is the story of man’s struggle from servitude to freedom; (b), a terrible human price has been paid to build the modern world; and (c) those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

  • Marc Fleuette

    And this is differentiated from asset stripping how? I’ve contended in the past, and see no reason to change, that, as currently practiced, the purpose of college education is to soak up the middle-class surplus.It is high time we tri-furcate students in to vocational, clerical/professional, and academic tracks (probably 70%/20%/10%). That would be much fairer to most “students”. My two cents worth

  • JM

    Many students graduating from high school today simply don’t have the communication skills and work habits to be effective employees. From a hiring manager’s point of view, at least someone who has graduated from college is one of the small percentage of students who can “stick with it.” Those graduates will likely succeed in the workplace as well.

    But make no mistake: a convincingly smart and hard-working high school grad can get a good job and be successful without the college degree. Private-sector hiring practices are not the barrier here. From the private sector’s point of view, a college degree really serves more as a filtering mechanism, so they can more easily identify quality candidates.

    But if colleges mostly serve as a filtering mechanism, this is a very expensive way of filtering.

    Perhaps there is an opening for a private sector solution for filtering: independent companies that assess, measure and certify the skills, intelligence, and work habits of students (or non-students). If they can do this credibly enough, then employers will value this certification and use it for hiring.

  • Toni

    Blame much of the problem on academia itself.

    Grade inflation has devalued the worth of a college degree, while colleges — while demanding all sorts of government aid for students — have been raising tuition far faster than the rate of inflation for at least a couple of decades.

    Note, too, that no matter how flush the economy and college endowments, tuition never ever ever falls. Funny thing, huh?

    (Old WSJ cartoon had a pilgrim asking a bearded guru on a mountaintop, “I know life is funny. But is it weird funny or ha-ha funny?”)

  • Paul

    I have had many conversations in which Mr. Mead’s points and hopes for reform, as well as “JM’s” practical comments on the actual uses to which those paper credentials are put by prospective employers, have featured.

    As to JM’s suggestion of private filtering: employers used to do such filtering by personal judgment alone. The familial and ethno-cultural biases present in this process would horrify us today. As firms grew and culture bureaucratized, much filtering came to be done by standardized testing, written or otherwise. We have found the “disparate impact” of such filtering on various ethno-cultural groups to be horrifying as well. JM’s suggestion would be challenged and destroyed on this basis, as well.

    I submit that paper “academic” credentials play such a large role in filtering largely because other basic screening processes — not all of them abstractly “just” — have been proscribed by state power. This was but one unintended effect of policies that had other primary goals.

    Of course, to those like our host here, that means only that we need to re-optimize our policies.

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