Whites doubt value of college degree

Whites doubt the value of a college degree, but Latinos and blacks are convinced higher education is essential, a new survey finds.

Is college worth it? The “overeducated American” is a “myth,” argues College Summit. But college returns have been exaggerated, concludes another report.

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  1. I’ve seen survey data before regarding people’s perception of the importance of college education. These data indicated that white ethnic groups in general regard college education as less important than do Asians, blacks or Hispanics. The survey data broke out different white ethnic groups. I was somewhat surprised that Jews are about average among white ethnic groups in the value they place on college education. German-Americans were close to the bottom in the importance they place on college education.

  2. We krauts don’t need no stinkin education.

    • Deirdre Mundy says:

      That;s because the German-Americans will just work hard, be thrifty, and refuse to waste time, and get ahead on that alone!

      Seriously, they’re a different breed. I wonder where the scotch-Irish fell?

      • Don’t forget, the German-Americans will also gravitate toward vocational careers. And running tasty butcher shops…

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        As 99% Celt, with some Huron, I can tell you. We lie around waiting for something involving adrenalin. We steal each other’s cattle–“gentleman drovers”–and our greatest work of literature is The Cattle Raid of Cooley, and we hire out to fight. Drinking is also cool.
        You have to marry a German. Then you’ll be okay.

        • Deirdre Mundy says:

          Actually, I DID marry a German– my maiden name was clearly Irish! And yes… they’re very different… and intriguing… (Now living in a mostly German area… and wow! What a difference in terms of community spirit, social capital, and just.. working-ness!)

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I wonder if it relates to cultural capital and small business ownership? For instance, I loved college, but I’m not telling my kids it’s the only way– they can apprentice with tradesman, start a business, or work for a few years and go later, when they know what they want to do.

    BUT I know I have a network of friends, neighbors, and family who will give my kids the work experiences and chances they need to succeed without college, as long as they’re willing to show up on time, stay sober, and work hard.

    And I know that my kids will graduate from high school with excellent verbal and math skills… so for them, college is only necessary if they want to go into a field where you need a degree or if they’re willing to throw themselves into 4 years of intense academics.

    But, what if I didn’t have friends and family in business? What if my kids would graduate from high school barely literate? I might value ‘college for all’ more, in the hopes that it would provide the social capital they lacked!

    • I think that the part about graduating with good literacy and math is the most important part. My dad is happy to hire high school grads for office jobs if they can read and write and do math. One of his best employees is smart and capable, and doesn’t need a degree to manage the department at the company. That being said, a lot of people don’t want to take the risk of hiring somebody incompetent, so ‘knowing somebody’ might be important. I wonder if more people could try out jobs if they were willing to work for free for during a trial run. I know that long unpaid internships in expensive areas require a lot of parental support, but I would think that a few weeks at the local vet’s office, landscaping company, or mechanic’s shop during summer vacation, spring break, etc would be a lot easier. I know that some kids are already working some, but most don’t jump to ‘full time’ every time that they have a break from school.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:


      I think your point about social connections and capital is exactly right. The main value of college for me has been twofold: meeting the friends I did who have immeasurably improved my life in all sorts of ways including the occasional networking opportunity, and being able to put “Wesleyan University” on my resume and obtain a veneer of legitimacy that has opened many doors.

      The education itself was really secondary. Nice, but secondary.

      • Michael E. Lopez says:

        Just to clarify:

        The main value may have been those things in retrospect, but that isn’t to say that’s WHY I did it.

        So while I think DM’s point is a sound one, I’m not sure that it necessarily translates into an explanation for attitudes about college. Although since we’re talking about older people by the look of things, rather than students, maybe it does.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    One of these days I would really like to see a poll that disaggregated the “education” part of a college degree from the “credential” part. I can easily imagine folks deciding that $100K – $200K was too much for the education part (maybe because these folks have access to a public library …) but that the same amount spent on the proper credential was reasonable. Or the reverse. But the two things are VERY VERY different.

  5. As I’ve posted before, google:

    Marty Nemko – college is a ripoff.

    The often touted statistic:

    On average, a college graduate will earn 1 million dollars more over their lifetime than a high school graduate is an outright lie. The actual figure is closer to 400,000 dollars U.S.

    Face it folks, colleges are a business like any other, once they have your money, it’s up to you to get an education, and since student loans cannot be discharged through a bankruptcy (though some companies might be willing to accept an amount of 25 to 33 cents on the dollar), you’re still liable for the loan, no matter how old it is.

    Given the current state of the economy, I’d question the value of a college degree these days as well, unless it’s in a STEM field.


  6. Richard Aubrey says:

    Could be that whites are more inclined to think they have sufficient access to the world of employment than do other groups.
    The occasional studies indicating that employment applicants leaving phone messages calling themselves Donte, or Tiquisha or Gonzalo get fewer return calls than do Alan and Bonnie, CV being the same, could very easily convince the former they need credentials more than the latter group.
    For an old-boys’ network, you need old boys in the network. Minorities don’t have enough old boys in the network. Credentials, again.

    • Richard,

      In my field (information technology), I couldn’t care what a person’s name/skin color/religion/creed or sexual orientation was, finding competent people who really excel (or those who can with some hand-holding) is quite hard, esp. when you review 100 resumes only to have 80 of them hit the shredded when they’re full of typos and lousy spelling/grammar.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        Bill. Good for you. Also, so what? Those studies have been used ti orive discrimination exists. Or at least indicate a possibility.
        Savvy minorities are pretty sure that whites have various advantages which need to be surpassed to have an even shot, and credentials may be part of the reason for the difference in view of the value of the degree.