Mitigating the College Oversell
Our society appears to be in the process of deciding that college oughtn’t be a foregone conclusion for every young American. Indeed, Marty Nemko calls the Bachelor’s degree “America’s Most Overrated Product”:
Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it’s not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you’re likely to meet workers who spent years and their family’s life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.
Such students are not aberrations. Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.
Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of freshmen at four-year institutions do not graduate in six years. Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than nongraduates, but that’s terribly misleading. You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they’d still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound — they’re brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.
College can be a rewarding and edifying experience, if the student is determined to make it one. The average family should raise the question around the dinner table, however, with the understanding that the right answer can be “not necessary.” If, after a few years of life in the workforce, the young adult concludes that higher education would represent time well spent, then by that very thought process, the conclusion is more apt to prove true.