Wasted college dollars

College is a waste of money, argues Zac Bissonnette, a U Mass-Amherst student, because 46 percent of students never complete a degree. A sophomore, he has friends who have dropped out already, with thousands of dollars in debt. (However, it’s fallacious to argue that 46 percent of college funding is wasted: Most drop-outs quit in their first year, often after their first semester.)

Mark Steyn, writing on The Corner, thinks young people should spend less time on education and more on procreation.

It’s taken for granted that our bodies mature much earlier than our great-grandparents so we all need access to condoms and abortion by Fifth Grade, but apparently our minds need longer than ever, and in some cases until early middle age. So we enter adolescence much sooner and leave it a decade or more later.

. . . in America, so-called “expanding opportunities for college” is an obvious crock to absolve high schools of their failure to educate.

Steyn goes on to attack the college fetish. Look at the pompous response to Joe the Plumber, unlicensed plumber turned unlicensed author.

About Joanne


  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    Is there any reason to believe Joe the Plumber is actually writing his book? Usually book deals like his involve Joe the Ghostwriter.

  2. I think Zac meant going to UMass-Amherst was a waste of money.

  3. Let me add that Mr. Steyn is spot on in his assessment of college picking up for the failures of secondary education.

  4. Crap rolls downhill.

    Last week I gave a test in my algebra class. More than one student thought that 4.9+5.2=9.11

    Adding decimals is *not* something I’m supposed to teach in an algebra class. This calculation was part of a larger problem involving inequalities.

    And I have many similar examples–sadly, from that same test.

  5. Richard Brandshaft says:

    There are a few things about college that never get into these debates:

    My mother told me that during the great depression, one need a college degree to be a sales “girl” at Woolworth’s. When there are more applicants than jobs, employers can be overly choosey.

    When I worked for Hughes Aircraft Company, some non-technical administrative jobs required a college degree–in anything. I argued that if they didn’t care what the degree was, the requirement was not real. The counter-argument I got was that the degree showed the applicant had the perseverance to go thru four years of useless study to raise his future earning potential.

    As long as we have this kind of thinking, it makes sense for any individual to try for a degree. Of course, if everyone had them, some other spurious requirement would need to be invented.

    The root problem is this: Our culture assumes that almost every able male should spend roughly 40 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, 45 years/lifetime at work for which he gets a formal salary. This is no longer the way society gets useful work done but an end in itself. Until we restructure our economy so advancing technology gives us more leisure instead of “not enough work to go around” we will have many pathological side effects of too many people chasing too few jobs.

  6. Darren,

    I can do you one better, in a recent course I completed at college, the 2nd exam dealt with basic symbolic logic, base number conversions, and basic statistics (mean, variance, std deviation)…these are concepts I learned in middle and high school, I got a 93/100 on the exam, the class average was 69.7, and at the end 5 students managed to fail the class outright (2 other students dropped or withdrew). The student class population was approximately 85% of students under the age of 25, only 3 or 4 of us were over 25, and from what I saw, we did much better than the rest of the students.

    No calculators were permitted on any of the exams, but the professor covered the material quite well in class, and had lecture notes online for use in study and exam preparation (of course, wikipedia and google helps as study aids also).

    It’s pathetic to see students admitted to college who have no mastery of algebra/geometry/basic statistics along with a working knowledge of biology, chemistry, or physics, and excellent writing skills (including composition and literature). It’s amazing how far our educational system has declined in the 30 years since I was enrolled in 9th grade.

  7. The reasonably selective liberal arts college where I teach hired a former high school math teacher to run our math tutoring. And what’s worse, the provost announced this hire as though it was something to be proud of.


  8. Note the implicit assumption: If someone doesn’t get a *degree*, then the time & money spent on his education is wasted.

    If we actually believed that people were learning useful and important things while in college, then the experience would be worthwhile in itself, degree or no degree. You don’t automatically forget your class in Plato just because you didn’t get a degree, nor do you automatically forget what you learned about a practical skill such as accounting or computer programming.

    But, of course, college in America today is increasingly about screening and certification, not about education. To a substantial extent, it is a toll gate which requires payment to the class of professors and administrators in exchange for the opportunity to pursue income and status.

  9. College is useful as a signalling function, as well as in terms of actual skills learned. When I was hiring for programming positions a number of years back, I counted a technical school credential higher than a Bachelor’s (due to focus of education on useful skills), and a Bachelor’s in CS or Math or Comp Engr above a Masters or MBA (due to time since relevant courses). The ideal candidate would have been a computer lab aid, with either a BSCS or a technical college cert.

    As far as signalling value received, those who attend and flunk out do get to check the box which says “some college”, which is something.