Comments Professor R. Garmong:
I don’t know whether this is real or not, but it represents a major flaw in discussions of higher education in America. People treat higher education as an end in itself, an intrinsic value, without regard to what values that education serves.
People throw around numbers about unemployed college graduates, often without looking at what their degrees were in. On the flip side, people advocate something called “higher education” or even “universal higher education,” without asking what will be studied and whether there’s economic need for it.
The common assumption is that a college degree should be a mystical guarantee of a job, like a grant of tenure from the universe. But that’s not how the world works.
I think fewer than half the people currently enrolled in higher education in America ought to be. I blame the GI Bill. What seemed like a good idea — make university education available to everyone — quickly made university education into a requirement for everyone.
I would add that the ideal of universal higher education enabled the failure of secondary education in America, by putting off the consequences. If the colleges and universities exist to provide a buffer, high schools can get away with graduating uneducated students.