College payoff is exaggerated

Going to college and choosing a technical major will increase your earnings — but not as much as you think, argue two American Enterprise Institute scholars.  Confusing correlation and causation exaggerates the college payoff.

Health care pays the greatest “wage premium” for both associate and bachelor’s degrees.

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  1. Actually, the figure always being tossed around is:

    A college graduate is likely to earn one million dollars over their career, compared to a high school graduate.

    Unfortunately, Marty Nemko and Suze Orman wind up debunking that myth, the actual figure (if you exclude professional degrees) is closer to perhaps 450,000 dollars (not a bad amount, but you get the idea).

    How to lie with statistics should be every educrat’s major, IMO. What they don’t tell you is that many students attempt college, but few complete it, and that the ones who don’t usually wind up piling up thousands (or tens of thousands) of debt which cannot be eliminated, even with a bankruptcy.

    Even technical careers have taken a beating in the current economy, given that the average college graduate finishes with at least 20-25 thousand in debt (student loans, etc).

    • I agree with @Bill. Everyone involved in promoting the notion that “all students must go to college or be shamed as failures — and given no other options” needs to be silenced and forced to do penance — perhaps those who have the means could pay off some hapless college graduates’ crushing debt — and the wrongheaded course they’ve promoted needs to be reversed. The “reform” faction is deeply guilty of this*, though not the sole culprit. As usual, actual educators know better — and, as usual, have been scorned or ignored.

      *All the blather from the charter hucksters about how “100% of our graduates go to college” — which is pretty much always a lie anyway — promotes this notion, for example.

      • The k-12 system is also heavily invested in the “college-for-all” meme. In some areas, even suggesting that some kids might not be prepared for college is heresy. A close relative was warned, in her first year at a suburban HS, that questioning the idea would not be good for her tenure prospects. Of course, all those 9th-graders who can’t identify the subject of a sentence with only one noun and who refuse to do any reading out of class are college material!

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        “As usual, actual educators know better — and, as usual, have been scorned or ignored.”

        I don’t think it’s so much that we are ignored as that we are afraid to “speak truth to power.” So we don’t.

        A teacher who says that a few graduates won’t go on to college and should be respected anyway will not get into any trouble. But one who says, “It will be a miracle if half our entering freshmen have a college degree ten years on–so we should spend at least half of our time and money and energy on non-college prep” will be accused of all sorts of bad things, perhaps the nicest of which is not being a team player.

  2. Richard Aubrey says:

    Here’s a hypothetical:
    Is it easier/cheaper to teach college prep, esp. if you don’t get all rigorous about it, than tech/voc/biz prep?
    Could part of this be a way of cutting costs? How much does it cost to have a kid write a paper and a teacher mark it? In the old days, paper and ink. Today, pixels. Both cases, teacher’s time.
    No equipment outside of that already existing; pens and paper or computers, depending on the decade.
    More to the point, to ed school matriculants enter with a background in tech (outside of computers/voc/biz real world? They do enter it with experience of papers, reading, and homework.

    • CarolineSF says:

      The “everybody must go to college or be blamed and shamed as a failure” doesn’t come from teachers. For one thing, they’re blamed and shamed too if all their kids don’t go to college — and the so-called “reformers” will surely soon start pushing for cutting their pay and firing them over it too — that’s the obvious next step. For another, teachers live in the real world and know their kids. It’s people who spend no time in classrooms and have no contact with real live kids who promote the college-for-all notion. It has been an interesting experience being the person who pops up on blogs etc. to point out the fact that this notion is unrealistic. Usually, the college-for-all pusher doesn’t even try to defend it, and classroom teachers always chime in to agree with me.