We Send Too Many Kids to College
By Marty Nemko
We send too many students to college. Among the bottom quarter (below 2.6 high school GPA and 850 SAT), only 20% graduate, even if they’re given six years!
And among those in that bottom quarter who defy the odds and do graduate, they’re rarely at the top of their class. So, with today’s oversupply of degree holders, they must often settle for a job they could have gotten without college. Don’t you know many degreed people who have non-professional jobs?
Colleges trumpet the statistic that college graduates earn more over their lifetime, but that doesn’t apply to the bottom quarter. They would likely earn more if they chose one of the post-high-school options I’ll suggest below.
Of course, college isn’t just about career preparation. As colleges ever remind us, it’s about enhancing the life of the mind. Unfortunately, the bottom quarter (and many other students) don’t experience such loftiness. Too often, they’re bored by professors’ arcana and confused by their theories. And then there’s calculus. What the bottom quarter typically does receive is an ongoing assault to self-esteem and a lot of student debt.
I’m particularly concerned about colleges’ non-disclosure of the above to low-achieving minority students. In colleges’ eagerness to diversify, they admit, indeed woo, minorities with poor high school records. Doing that is a bit like the Tuskegee medical experiments in which African-Americans were exposed to dangerous treatment without informed consent. Of course, the college treatment won’t kill them; it will just decrease their chances of success and happiness.
If my child had bottom-quartile high school grades and SAT score, I’d suggest he or she consider a Small Business Administration program on how to start a business, or courses on how to become an effective yet ethical salesperson. If my child preferred a hands-on career, I’d encourage an apprenticeship or military stint to become, for example, an electrician or surveyor.If I were president, I’d fund more apprenticeship programs and cut funding to colleges that admit students who’d be better off in a non-college alternative. I sure wouldn’t send 1.5 million more to college.
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