A Spirited Debate on the Value of Four-Year College Educations

George Leef, an education policy expert of the Pope Center in North Carolina, reports on a recent debate on the value of a four-year college degree, the question being: ” Does the United States need more college graduates to remain a world economic power?”

Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Dr. Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund, argued in favor of the resolution. Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder and Leef argued against it. Their first two points:

First, we showed that a college degree does not necessarily open up good opportunities for individuals because degrees are now so common that having one is no distinction. Furthermore, there are other ways besides going to college for young people to get on a career path—vocational training, for example.

Second, we argued that it would not benefit our economic productivity to devote resources to college for additional students. Since we already have a surplus of college graduates in the labor force, expanding higher education further would only divert resources from more beneficial uses.

The National Association of Manufacturers does not denigrate four year college degrees, but believes there are other approaches that, depending on the student, offer more rewarding education and career opportunities.

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  • Karl says:

    The safe statement that “depending on the student, offer more rewarding education and career opportunities….” may be true but there is tons of evidence that proves a college education gives you a better chance at continual employment.

    As Judge Smails said “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”

    Still, a college education is a proven benefit. I just wish I had gone.


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