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Too Many Kids Go To College

The BriefGet Up To Speed


The herd mentality that assumes college is the only path to reaching one'€™s full potential is under fire. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt, unemployment for those with bachelor'€™s degrees is at an all-time high, and entrepreneurs like the founders of Facebook and Microsoft prove that extraordinary success is possible without it. But recent studies show that college is economically beneficial even to those whose jobs don'€™t require it. Is it still the best way to ensure social mobility, or is America'€™s love affair with higher education unjustified?

  • Peter Thiel

    4 Items
    • PayPal Co-founder, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist
    Read Bio

    For some people in some careers, some colleges may be worth the price they charge. But millions of other people are paying more than quadruple what their parents paid 25 years ago (plus inflation) for a vague credential, not much knowledge or skills, and a crippling amount of debt.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Peter Thiel does not believe that freedom and democracy are compatible and that today’s politics will never foster a free market and unadulterated capitalism. Thiel cites cyberspace, outer space, and seasteading as alternative frontiers to achieve an ideal libertarian society.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    For Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States.”

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Fellows pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenure, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators.

    Wednesday, December 31, 1969
  • Charles Murray

    4 Items
    • W. H. Brady Scholar, American Enterprise Institute
    Read Bio

    America’s university system is creating a class-riven nation. There has to be a better way.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    In an age when everyone from parents to presidents urges every child to go to college, a simple truth is almost universally ignored: Only a small minority of high-school graduates have the intelligence to succeed in college.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Read more by Charles Murray at AEI.

    Wednesday, December 31, 1969
  • Henry Bienen

    4 Items
    • President Emeritus, Northwestern University
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    The authors consider the impact of the financial crisis on financial aid and the ability to attract lower-income students to higher education, as well as the importance of defending the liberal arts and global education in the face of pressure toward vocational education and cost cutting.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Nonprofit public universities such as the University of California are cutting access because of cost pressures, and many students are now failing to find suitable places in state and community colleges. For-profit colleges offer these students paths to better careers and higher earnings.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    A profile of Henry Bienen in Northwestern Magazine

    Wednesday, December 31, 1969

    After 14 years as president of Northwestern University, Dr. Bienen has retired. But retirement is an opportunity to free up time for a multitude of other endeavors, one of which is vice chairman of privately-held Rasmussen College and Deltak.

    Wednesday, December 31, 1969
  • Vivek Wadhwa

    4 Items
    • Vice President of Innovations and Research, Singularity University
    Read Bio

    What matters is gaining a basic education and completing what you started—not the ranking of the school you graduate from.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    The legends of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and other high-tech entrepreneurs have fed a stereotypical vision of innovation in America: Mix a brainy college dropout, a garage-incubated idea and a powerful venture capitalist, stir well, and you get the latest Silicon Valley powerhouse. That’s Hollywood’s version of technological innovation; unfortunately, it’s also the one that venture capitalists try to fund and government planners seek to replicate.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Our society needs liberal-arts majors as much as it does engineers and scientists.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Vivek Wadhwa, Richard B. Freeman and Ben Rissing<br/>In a survey of 652 U.S.-born chief executive officers and heads of product development in 502 engineering and technology companies, the authors of this paper observed that U.S.-born engineering and technology company founders tend to be well-educated, with significant differences in the types of degrees obtained and the time in which they started a company after graduating.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2016
For the Motion

The system has expanded in ways that industry always expands: by jacking up prices, putting money into public relations, and broadening the customer base by marketing even to customers dubiously served by the product.

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Professor X

The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth. An instructor at a “college of last resort” explains why.

Sunday, June 1, 2008
Professor X

Hear this, high achievers: If you crunch the numbers, some experts say, college is a bad investment.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Sarah Kaufman

A college education is now deemed one of those prizes that, if good for a few, must therefore be good for everyone, even if no one in a position of academic authority can define what such an education is or should be. These conceptions are at the heart of the democratic revolution in higher education.

Thursday, September 1, 2011
James Pierson

A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all.

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Jacques Steinberg

Children have been brainwashed by society into thinking that college is a good thing for young, intelligent, ambitious young people.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
James Altucher

The notion that a college degree is essentially worthless has become one of the year’s most fashionable ideas, with two prominent venture capitalists (Cornell ’89 and Stanford ’89, by the way) leading the charge.

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Daniel B. Smith
Against the Motion

Hyper-libertarian Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel's appalling plan to pay students to quit college.

Saturday, October 16, 2010
Turn On

Many more young people could succeed at college if given the chance. But public policy has been raising hurdles rather than increasing access.

Monday, October 26, 2009
Michael Hout

Universities are not so isolated from the tragic past, but they still make a claim to speak with eloquence across the centuries. They often fail, they need reform and course correction, but they are not, at their best, merely venal and self-serving.

Thursday, March 24, 2011
Peter Brooks

I don’t doubt that the skeptics are well meaning. But, in the end, their case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee. And that’s rarely good advice.

Sunday, June 26, 2011
David Leonhardt

College-educated Americans live in a different country than high school dropouts. The best way to mend the divide is by providing access to a decent education.

Sunday, January 2, 2011
Doyle McManus

It’s true that the job market for new college graduates stinks right now. The job market for non-graduates is worse.

Friday, May 20, 2011
Catherine Rampell
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Anya Kamenetz

Our current system places far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college after completing an academic program of study in high school. This paper makes the case for more diverse, robust pathways to careers and practical-minded post-secondary options.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
William C. Symonds

An excellent case can be made that we are over invested in universities, that too many students attend school, that much of our investment is wasted. Moreover, the rise in costs—to society, to taxpayers, and especially to consumers—is excessive, and has been made more so by well-meaning but inappropriate public policies.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Richard Vedder

This study argues that the conventional wisdom that going to college is a “human capital investment” with a high payoff is increasingly wrong. Evidence shows that currently more than one-third of college graduates hold jobs that governmental employment experts tell us require less than a college degree.

Thursday, December 16, 2010
Staff of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity

Depending on the type of college or university, as well as its level of selectivity, taxpayers may contribute a substantial tax subsidy or, in rare cases, receive a moderate net “profit” per bachelor’s degree. It is important to consider all of the costs and returns involved in higher education when considering dropout prevention and retention efforts, as well as how government subsidies are or should be distributed among colleges and universities.

Saturday, October 1, 2011
Mark Scneider and Jorge Klor de Alva

The data is clear: a college degree is key to economic opportunity, conferring substantially higher earnings on those with credentials than those without.

Friday, August 5, 2011
Anthony P. Carnevale

If we continue to under produce college-educated workers, the large and growing gap between the earnings of Americans of different educational attainment will grow even wider.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Anthony P. Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose

On average, the benefits of a four-year college degree are equivalent to an investment that returns 15.2 percent per year. From any investment perspective, college is a great deal.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone

While the recession may have dampened opportunities for many young Americans, evidence shows that those young Americans with a college degree are better off than their peers without a post-high-school degree.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone

A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend. However, an overwhelming majority of college graduates—86%—say that college has been a good investment for them personally.

Sunday, May 15, 2011
Pew Social Trends Staff

Dale J. Stevens, a Thiel Fellow, started UnCollege to challenge the notion that college is the only path to success. The movement is intended to empower students to “hack” their education through resources, writing, workshops, and community instead of the traditional route of attending college. Visit their resources page for links to self-directed learning.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969