Resolved: The American people should significantly decrease the number of people attending colleges.

I think the GI bill was, overall, a net benefit to this country. I think offering scholarships to people of need who desperately want to go to college (and beyond) is a wonderful idea.

But I also think too many people go to college right now. According to the US Census Bureau in 2002 over 45% of colllege aged students were attending college.
I think there are many people ill prepared at 18 years of age to go to college and actually get an education.

I think what it leads to is this:

  1. Too many students uninterested in doing the work of college students and burdening down the system.

  2. A job market where employers demand a potential employee have a diploma to answer the phones!

  3. A university system that realizes students need these diplomas to be employable and lower standards to ensure students graduate.

  4. Students who graduate and realize they have no employable skills

  5. Students who determine that because of “diploma creep” they now need to go to graduate school for the education that was previously available at the undergraduate level as well as the ability to separate themselves from those who “just” attended college.

  6. A situation where even state run educational systems turn, almost by default, into a profit making machine as the goal becomes seeing how many students they can cram into the classrooms.

I’m not advocating any system where we go back to the good old days where only the privileged get to be educated and the rest can suck it. I am advocating for us to go back to the good old days where going to college actually meant something. I’m of the opinion that it means very little these days other than the social stigma of NOT going to college because it’s so prevalent in society. But it’s that commonness that’s killing its effectiveness.

Oh, I absolutely agree. Bring back vocational education, by all means! Bring back shop class! Tons of people have no business being in college - they’d be better suited, happier, and richer in the trades. It’s ridiculous that college is the new high school!

Mike Rowe has some sort of thing going to encourage people to get back into the trades. Evidently we’re going to have a real shortage of skilled tradespeople like welders and pipefitters sooner rather than later.

I’m all for increasing trade school opportunities. However I don’t see what is wrong with having 25-30% of the general public being undergraduate degree holders vs. a society where only 15% have them. Despite the talk of everyone going to college, barely 1/4 of adults hold undergraduate degrees.

I don’t know how much is cause or effect but college graduates have lower unemployment, collect less welfare, vote more often, follow a doctor’s advice more often, smoke less, have better health, volunteer more often, etc.

Would we have the same benefits if college were more competitive and only 15% of the public had four year degrees? From what I know of nations with extremely limited and competitive educational systems like China or Korea, there are drawbacks.

So I do not think the sole purpose of college is career training. A major appeal are the benefits the individual and society see from the extra 4 years of education.

Besides, as you said, if people still want to be distinguished they can go to graduate school.

I am in reasonably close agreement with the OP. College is great … for people who can appreciate its greatness. Right now our high schools–and everybody else–encourage graduates to jump into college if it’s at all possible to do so, without considering whether it’s really a good fit. As a result, we have high drop-out rates, we have a large percentage of college freshman taking remedial classes in English and math, and employers dissatisfied with the quality of college graduates.

I agree, too. I loved college, but I think I would have vastly preferred going to a vocational school and learning a trade and being done with it.

My point was that the education that used to be found at the college level now is found beyond, necessitating increased schooling. What I didn’t even mention in the OP was the costs associated with this.

Let’s keep it simple. Imagine a program with $25,000 a year in costs, and you get no financial help other than basic student loans. You graduate from a 4 year college at 22 with $100,000 in debt that you need to make up in the workplace.
You go out in the workplace for two years but because everyone applying with you is also a college graduate (and the employers are requiring college degrees for ridiculous things that you don’t need a college education in order to do the job), you get a job at $25,000 a year and feel severly underemployed.
So you go to grad school. 3 years, another $25,000 apiece and you come out at age 27 with $175,000 in debt. And for what? To separate yourself from the pack even more? This doesn’t even take into account the question of what jobs it would financially make sense for you to become trained in at a cost of $175,000. How many people would want to become a teacher/nurse/computer programmer/dental hygentist/insert whatever the hell job in here but decided that what they’d make as that profession wasn’t worth the cost of the training on top of their already useless college degree?

On another note a high school education used to mean much more than it does today. About 80% of the public have high school diplomas in the 21st century.

According to those stats and books, in 1940 half of all 18 year olds were earning their high school diplomas, which was triple the rates of 1920. Back in 1940 only 24.5% of all people over age 25 had high school diplomas.

There was a time when having a high school diploma was exceptional. Now it is expected. You can’t work at McDonalds w/o a high school diploma, which would’ve disqualified 75% of all adults back in the 1940s.

However, does anyone want to go back to that? Should we return to a system where many people stop their education in primary school (8th grade) to maintain the value of a high school education?

I think we spend about $400 billion in public funds to fund our tertiary education system. So it is a massive investment

As for me, I went to an in state public school (which was funded about 60% by the state) and I got a variety of grants. The rest was loans. By the time I was done I had roughly the same amount of debt as many college graduates, I had $20,000-30,000. That is the average debt load of college graduates, it is generally not $100,000 unless you go to a private school and get no assistance. But $20,000-30,000 is the cost of a decent new car. When I consider all the benefits I got out of college, it was worth the price of a Toyota Camry.

However I was able to pay most of it off within a year of my first job because I was able to live with family and put all my money into debt. When I look back at the person I was before college, I do not know if I would’ve had the self discipline or maturity to invest my income into debt repayment. And I think just the experience of college helped to give that to me.

Which comes back to my point, there are benefits beyond employment and income to a college education.

Some of the jobs you list (dental hygienist, nurse) are degrees you can get in low cost vocational schools and community colleges.

If funding education is a problem, then increasing the overlap between community college and online education with public 4 year universities would be a good idea. Letting people take as many courses as they can online or in community college, then transferring them could help.

Well, no. Not really. Honestly I’d like to live in the utopian society where every single person gets educated and everyone goes to college not to achieve but to learn. There’s lots of learning to be done (at college and elsewhere) and not all of it has to do with grades.

Thing is, it doesn’t work that way. While, yes, lots of people learn for the sake of learning, the system as a whole is set up to create an end goal of getting people jobs. This in itself isn’t a bad thing.
Employers then say “hey, I want better educated workers. I’m going to demand more education from my workers.” Again, this in itself isn’t a bad thing.
The problem comes from this never ending cycle described above where the institutional standards go down when business requirements go up necessitating more education to accomplish the same goal of getting that job, which spurs a need for even more of an educational demand by the employers as they get less and less skilled graduates which…

My problem isn’t with the college experience. It’s ultimately that you get less bang for your buck coupled with the fact that, no, not everyone NEEDS that notch up on the resume that only college seems to provide.

And yet, we are desparately short of Engineers & Teachers.
We need to limit the number of students per major, by percentage of people enrolled.

You want an edujamcation, l’il Johnny? Then enroll as something useful, not as an English Major.

Where do you think all them teachers come from?

How could a country possibly benefit from ignorance?

My roomate probably would have benefitted from going to trade school instead of college. He never did well academically and I believe he currently works as an electrician. That’s totally fine, but he didn’t need to go to an undergrad college that cost over $100,000.

One of my good friends never went to college and managed to work his way up the same professional level as me in a highly competetive consulting firm. But he also ran his own company for a few years.

Enderw24, sure you can answer a phone without a college degree. The degree is so you sound halfway intelligent to the person on the other end of the line.

The fact of the matter is that out society has been moving away from industrial and agricultural jobs for several decades now. As a general rule, we need a workforce that is more educated, more nuanced and who has been exposed to a broader range of ideas and concepts than previous generations. That’s what college is for.

I will agree there does seem to be a sort of “education creep”. High school, at least public high school, has become almost useless. College has become a sort of 4 year playpen for affluent kids to fuck around until they join the real world. The education system has become somewhat of a filter used to assign kids into their adulthood socioeconomic class, based on the school they attended.

God, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been saying this for years. College is the new high school. Many of the people I went to college with were just there because they were “supposed to be there” and for no other reason.

I was browsing around some luxury cars on eBay and saw a Maybach that cost more than $200,000. The high bidder was a plumbing contractor.

My view is the learning I gained in college that I will get the most benefit from came either outside of class (learning I probably wouldn’t have done had I been working a McJob) or due to classes I took that had nothing to do with my major.

And I don’t agree that academic standards are the same as work standards, and I don’t agree that you can tell with strong certainty how good of an employee someone will be by their GPA. At my old job the two teams in the lab were fighting over who got me on their team because I could prioritize, was responsible, I worked fast and my coworkers liked communicating with me. However I was a mediocre student, usually getting Bs and Cs in my science courses.

How well a person does in a job depends on a wide variety of factors. Their academic achievements are only one.

As another example, my brother had a 3.9 undergrad GPA, is finishing his PhD and now wants to go to med school. At the same time our entire family has staged interventions to get him to break it off with his abusive girlfriend, but he refuses to do so.

I have heard many stories (too many for all to be a coincidence) of people who worked in fields like IT with Indian or Chinese employees who froze up or couldn’t deal with novel situations, or with people who have crammed so hard their interpersonal and critical thinking skills suffered. Academic standards among Chinese and Indian students are far higher than they are here.

Grades and academic achievement are a small slice of life, work and personality. So I don’t think that academic standards are automatically going to result in lower work standards.

In fact, that is one of the criticisms of our current educational system. It is basically training people to be college professors. But most people can’t and don’t want to be professors. Assuming the theory of 8 intelligences is true, then there are a wide range of talents and abilities we should be encouraging.

In that respect, I do agree we need less college. We need systems that empower and utilize people’s wide variety of talents and abilities. We need more and more varied forms of education.

Amazing since I have not found any statistics that indicate, other than annecdotally, that plumbers make more than $50-75 k a year.

I’m not sure where all this college bashing is coming from. Maybe people went to a crappy nth tier college with a bunch of dummies or picked worthless majors. Maybe a lot of you are right out of college and are comparing your entry level corporate jobs against friends from high school who have been working in a trade the past 4 years. Maybe you just hate your jobs. I don’t know.

I’m over 10+ years out of school, most of my peers are in what you would consider “college jobs”. Engineers, accountants, bankers, traders, consultants, marketing people, corporate managers, business owners, lawyers, doctors and so on. I’m about to start a new management level, six figure earning job with a large consulting firm in NYC in about a week. So clearly based on any sort of objective measurements, college has been worthwhile for all those people.

So am I just looking at a relatively small self-selecting group of successful college grads or are there a significant number of grads for who college ultimately was a complete waste of time?

I assumed “plumbing contractor” was someone who owned a business, and raked in money from the work done by employees. A plumbing contractor might not even be a plumber, though I would guess that’s fairly unusual.

You don’t have to worry about it. The huge cost increases will stop the college admissions rise. The tuition outstrips inflation every year. In Michigan which is in a depression, tuition hikes were merely 20 percent this year. it is worse than health insurance.

I basically agree with the post here. People like me - a Humanities major who is not coasting through college without learning any real skills - shouldn’t be going to college.

A cursory search seems to indicate that tuition to University of Michigan increased 5.6%…which is sort of like 20%. Similar to a recession being like a depression I guess…