College –and debt — for all isn’t just a U.S. thing. Students must be told the whole truth about the value of a college degree, writes Fraser Nelson in Britain’s Telegraph.
To listen to ministers talk about university education, it is as if Britain has entered an academic arms race with the rest of the world. China’s universities, we’re told, are spewing out six million graduates a year: we must compete, or we’re doomed. In the Blair years, a national target was set: half of all young people ought to enter higher education. They’d have to get into debt, but they were reassured it would be a worthwhile investment.
The real picture is more complex, Nelson argues. “In many lines of work, those who did not get the A-levels for university now have a future just as bright (or otherwise) as the graduates.”
Students are told they’ll earn much more with a degree — but a degree in what? Golf Management? Trade Union Studies? The college premium diminishes for students with less rigorous degrees, especially for men. Humanities graduates also fare poorly, according to a recent government report, Nelson writes.
Those who graduate in the subjects I studied, history and philosophy, can expect to earn a paltry £35 a year more than non-graduates. For graduates in “mass communication” the premium is just £120 a year. But both are better value than a degree in “creative arts”, where graduates can actually expect to earn £15,000 less, over a lifetime, than those who start work aged 18.
Almost a third of recent college graduates are in jobs that don’t require higher education and one in 10 is “on the dole.”