We need to send more students to college, writes Marcus A. Winters on National Review Online. The U.S. has “too few college-educated workers to meet the challenges of our increasingly complicated society,” he argues.
The case that too many students are going to college comes through two arguments: that we have reached the zenith of our ability to produce students with the skills necessary to succeed in college, and that for marginal students, the economic returns from college are not as good as advertised. Neither of these critiques stand up to scrutiny.
Low-income students may fail in the typical low-income school, but there are many well-organized schools with good teachers that enable these students to suceed, Winters writes.
. . . if we could improve the quality of our ineffective teachers or replace them with effective ones, we would dramatically improve educational outcomes. There is plenty of room for schools to get better, particularly those where low achievement is the norm.
Furthermore, “the wage premium a year of college coursework yields has been increasing at a rapid clip since about 1979,” Winters writes.
. . . in the middle-to-late 1970s, educational attainment stalled, though technology continued progressing. Since 1977, high-school-graduation rates, college-attendance rates, and standardized-test scores have all plateaued. Now too few educated workers chase after a growing number of skilled jobs, allowing them to command ever-higher wage premiums.
Not every student can benefit from college, Winters concedes. But if we did a better job in K-12, many more could learn the skills for 21st-century success.