With the country in the grip of a recession and the unemployment rate at its highest rate in decades, both the federal government and nonprofits are encouraging more Americans to go to college. President Obama recently announced the American Graduation Initiative, which would pump $12 billion into the community college system and move the nation closer to his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. A new GI Bill, more generous Pell Grants and tuition tax credits also are aimed at boosting college enrollment. Meanwhile the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is moving forward with a plan to invest several hundred million dollars over the next five years to double the number of low-income young people who complete a college degree or a certificate program. Yet a small but vocal minority is questioning whether too many students are going to college. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently assembled an expert panel to address the question and heard a variety of dissenting views. “A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense,” says Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University. “The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.” Not so, counters Daniel Yankelovich, founder and chairman of Viewpoint Learning Inc., which develops dialogues to resolve public-policy issues and Public Agenda, a nonprofit policy-research organization. “In today’s society and economy, virtually everyone who has the motivation and stamina should acquire some form of postsecondary education,” says Yankelovich. “That is a practical reality of today’s economy.” See what other experts had to say.
Categories: Continuing the Conversation