Do We Really Need More College Graduates? 20 Must-Read Analyses

Who should you be listening to if you are thinking about enrolling in an online university or a brick-and-mortar college? Maybe college has always been the obvious choice for you: a rite of passage, a time to think about your options. And it’s undeniable that some career directions require college. But, you may be considering going back to school at a more advanced moment in your life. How can a college or advanced degree help you, and how can it harm you? Below is a list of twenty must-read articles that expose commentary on both sides of the college attendance issue.

  1. CollegeAn article that will make you think twice about college is “The Education Scam” at This is a place where the writer’s opinion is that lies have been circulating about the value of a college degree, 1) that granting everyone a college education would eliminate poverty (there simply aren’t enough jobs available to make this true), and 2) that a college degree is necessary to get a good job.
  2. If you are thinking in very practical terms, you might want to see what the reasoning is here. An article by John Leo entitled “Do We Need More College Grads” is armed with statistics to show that college education, in many cases, has “come to nothing.” Out of 50 million college grads in the United States, 17.4 million are working in jobs for which a college education is seen as unnecessary. For example, the number of food servers with college degrees more than doubled between 1992 and 2008.
  3. Meanwhile, President Obama is busy working on improving higher education in America. An article in the Huffington Post describes his appearance at the University of Texas to talk about his plan to increase the number of Americans between the ages of 25-34 with college degrees from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2020. He wants to make America the world leader in higher education again, as it used to be.
  4. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education has more statistics about those 17 million degree-holders who are working in menial jobs, offering these as evidence that we are “overinvesting” in higher education at least in this respect. There are 5,057 janitors in the US with PhDs, other doctorates, or professional degrees. The article does admit that higher education has a “consumption” as well as an investment function; students may enjoy college, and it may raise their self esteem. Still, college may not be a good investment.
  5. However, another article states that the US must dramatically raise the number of college graduates to be remain a world economic leader. Other countries like South Korea, Canada, and Japan are significantly ahead of the United States in the percentage of the population that has graduated from college.
  6. Another article mentions the “sky-is-falling” fact that the US has fallen to 12th in the number of college grads but goes on to talk about the state of secondary education — the fact, for example, that 3.3 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are not enrolled in high school, do not have a high school diploma, or a GED. This is supposed to be an argument against the College Board’s “college-going culture.”
  7. Lehman CollegeThe College Board’s website has a section called “Supporting a College-Going Culture.” This article states, “A college education provides a life of options, rather than of limitations.” The column is intended for high school guidance counselors, who are asked to “make your high school a place where college is the next step for everyone.” A college-going culture encourages the following values: “appreciation of academics, desire to succeed, and a drive to…become a life-long learner.”
  8. But finds that while 70 percent of high school grads will have begun some form of higher education this past fall, most will not graduate, as in the past, most have not graduated. It simply is not true, for example, that all people have the same intellectual ability, or ability to handle college.
  9. Ken Mondschein agrees that perhaps access to higher education should be limited. But he doesn’t think we should look at a college education in purely economic terms. Maybe those 5,057 janitors are making more money than adjuncts. And maybe slinging hash and reading Nietzsche are not mutually exclusive. It just isn’t all about profits for investors and big money for the grads themselves. Or is it?
  10. An article in Slate informs us that law schools are spitting out too many lawyers, that they’re not getting jobs, and that they’re not happy. Many are unemployed and in debt, and feel they’ve wasted three years getting older.
  11. An article in The Education Front agrees with Obama. A college education is a ticket to a decent job, even in these tough economic times, and being 12th just isn’t good enough; we need more college grads. Easier said than done, though.
  12. In Corporate Voices, the statistic is cited that unemployment for college grads is about half that of non-college grads. But Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, says that educational differences are not the root cause of employment inequality. Though a college education is better than no college education, still education is not the way out of the economic crisis.
  13. But the Washington Post quotes Obama some more. The answer is to make college affordable for everyone. Preparing graduates to succeed in the bleak economy which is a given right now. To this end, the government has revamped the student loan system.
  14. “College Graduates are Really Screwed,” says 24/7 Wall St. The impact of the recession will last well into the future, and college grads will earn 17.5 percent less per years than people who graduated in better labor markets.
  15. StudentsA New York Times editorial interprets Ben Bernanke differently. “Educational differences” are a root cause of employment inequality. Still, “more college” is too easy an answer.
  16. Ben Bernanke does an interview on 60 Minutes in which he cites the data he uses to come to the conclusion about employment inequality, as related to educational differences.
  17. Another article addresses the question of whether entrepreneurs need college degrees. PayPal founder Paul Thiel is giving grants to lure high school graduates into business; will they be more successful than MBAs?
  18. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article called “More College Graduates Needed,” in which a study is quoted that concludes the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts underestimate the number of future jobs that will require college degrees.
  19. Just for fun, you can read about the 20 Worst-Paying college degrees of 2010. You would have to have something other than money in mind to aim for one of these.
  20. And finally, in a column called “It Just Ain’t So,” George Leef debates “The More College Graduates the Better?” He doesn’t think so.

It is entirely up to you to decide whose arguments are the more persuasive. If you want to make six or more figures, or you want to know the ins and outs of existentialism, college may be for you. But policymakers could pay attention too, and the availability of a college education could be affected as a result.

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