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Economist Says Too Many Americans Are Going to College

Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017 by Kyle Smith for the National Review.

Source: Kyle Smith for the National Reviewalt textEconomist Bryan Caplan of George Mason University has crunched the data for years from every angle and argues devastatingly in a piece in The Atlantic (adapted from his forthcoming book The Case Against Education) that college is, for many of those who go there, a boondoggle. Forty-five percent of those who enter college fail to graduate within five years. If you are in the bottom 25 percent of your high-school class, you are not going to make it through college. It’s much worse than a waste of time. It’s a waste of money, perhaps a great deal of it. If, at age 22, with a college degree, you settle in for a career in retail that doesn’t require a college degree, laden with student loans, you’d have been much better off if you had started your career four years earlier instead of spending four years puzzling over T. S. Eliot, post-revolutionary Africa, and trigonometry.

An even better idea for those who aren’t well-suited for college: Go to the kind of school that actually teaches you a job — i.e., a vocational school, where students stay engaged by doing things and learning in the process — rather than dozing your way through a lecture. Learn to be an electrician or a plumber and you might even lose interest in Club Upper Middle Class. You’ll be warmly welcomed at Club Successful Working Class, and you may find the people who go there more fun to talk to anyway. As Caplan notes, college hardly ever teaches you usable job skills. This is because colleges still work largely the way the first ones were set up in the 18th century (or, in the case of Harvard, the 17th). They weren’t conceived as job-prep programs. They were set up as finishing schools for men — to make them better, more well-rounded people before they went on to the clergy, or the law, or the family business.

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