Down With College

For the last 50 years or so, public policy in the U.S. has trended toward the view that everyone, more or less, should go to college. This was a sharp departure from the historical norm, when higher education really was higher, and only a small minority obtained four-year degrees.

It has become increasingly evident that the payoff for sending most kids to college is minimal, both for them and for our society and economy. Hence the current trend away from four-year colleges and toward, among other things, apprenticeships. The Wall Street Journal has a long article headlined “More Students Are Turning Away From College and Toward Apprenticeships,” with the subhead “Some white-collar training programs have become as selective as Ivy League universities.” That can only be a good thing.

Today, colleges and universities enroll about 15 million undergraduate students, while companies employ about 800,000 apprentices. In the past decade, college enrollment has declined by about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%….

Apprenticeship programs are increasing in both number and variety. About 40% are now outside of construction trades, where most have traditionally been, Dr. Lerman said. Programs are expanding into white-collar industries such as banking, cybersecurity and consulting at companies including McDonald’s Corp., Accenture PLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

There is a parallel trend away from requiring college degrees for employment:

Companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Delta Air Lines Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have responded by dropping college degrees as requirements for some positions and shifting hiring to focus more on skills and experience. Pennsylvania has cut college-degree requirements for some state jobs, and Maryland has set a statewide goal of 45% of high-school students starting a registered apprenticeship by 2031.

The Journal doesn’t discuss this factor, but it seems obvious that one reason for the anti-college trend is the wokism that has infected virtually all colleges and universities. Higher education is now, in most cases, a hostile environment for young men, and it is rapidly becoming a hostile environment for normal people, generally. So why should most kids–the ones who aren’t going to be doctors, engineers, and a handful of other occupations–shell out a lot of money for a poor education?

I was one of the last defenders of traditional liberal education, but I finally threw in the towel because actual liberal education is just about extinct. Here the Journal quotes an economist who expresses the conventional (as of the last 50 years) view:

[The economist] said that the skills learned in an apprenticeship might not be of much help down the line.

“People get more specific skills in apprenticeship programs than they do in college and while that helps them enter the labor market with greater ease at the beginning of their careers, later in life their skills depreciate,” he said. “So at age 45 or 50 or 55, these people are less likely to stay in the labor market because their skills are less valuable.”

By contrast, a college degree offers a broader, general education, which “makes people more adaptable and able to learn new skills that show up later when the economy changes,” he said.

Really? And where does this economist teach? At the now thoroughly discredited Stanford! I doubt that anyone seriously believes that going to Stanford makes a student “more adaptable” and “able to learn new skills.” More likely, it will make him or her more heavily indoctrinated, more closed-minded, more racist, anti-American and otherwise bigoted, and if anything, less well-informed than peers who spent four years doing something else.

The academic emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and most people have noticed.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.