I wrote the following response to the article "Should All Students Got to College? The Media Obsession With the Wrong Question." over at aacu.org. However, the website wouldn't let me put it on there because of an incorrect capcha response when the website hadn't given me one to type in. Therefore, I thought I'd put it on this blog instead.
I have to present the opposing view that not all students should go to college. For starters, the colleges are filled with students who either don't want to be there or who don't want to be there for the right reasons. I once attended a college where the dorms were filled with rowdies. There was no quiet place to study, and I didn't feel safe there at all. A least half of the students were the tough sorts.
Secondly, it's costing a fortune in public money to have them there. Billions of dollars a year are being spent on students when half of them will never graduate, and this results in fewer resources for the serious students.
Although it's true that society benefits from having a large number of well-educated citizens, it's also worth considering Charles Murray's argument that only a minority of students have the intelligence to do college level work. Most students aren't really interested in their studies, and therefore, will forget what they've learned after the final exam. Also, a college student has already been in school for at least 13 years. Why aren't they graduating high school with the vocational skills they need along with the other general knowledge of history, civics, etc. which is needed to function as a citizen? The grade schools are also costing billions of dollars a year. What are they doing there all day, if the kids graduate without the knowledge they need in life? Earlier generations graduated high school with this knowledge.
There's also the argument that the employers keep saying that they need more college-educated employees now and in the future. If that's true, they should be making better use of the college graduates who are already around. Many graduates can't find work associated with their degrees, and many are doing jobs which don't require any college degree. There are even law school grads and MBAs in this category, and many of them have student loans which they can't pay back because of it.
I know it sounds unfair to say that not everyone should go to college.That's what I thought when I first heard that only about 15% of German young people ever go to university. However, I've lived in Germany for the past several years, and most young people learn their occupation during a three-year period in which they attend a paid apprenticeship some days of the week and attend a free vocational school on the other days. The vocational schools are considered part of the public school system. Other European countries have similar systems, which means that a European can get trained for a good job without starting life with a huge amount of debt. As most American students attend college because they want a good job, this kind of system might be worth considering in America. There's no indication that the vocational path is making people any less qualified as voters and citizens.