Robert J. Samuelson
The Washington Post
It’s time the U.S. ditched the idea of “college for all,” said Robert J. Samuelson. “Like the crusade to make all Americans homeowners, it’s now doing more harm than good.” We’ve deluded ourselves into believing that a college degree—“not the skills and knowledge behind it”—is the ticket to better-paying jobs and middle-class success. We’ve “dumbed down college” as a result, repeatedly lowering requirements in order to attract and retain more students. Despite those lower barriers, many students still aren’t graduating—less than 60 percent of freshmen at four-year schools get a diploma within six years. And even those who finish school aren’t really learning much. According to a recent study, 45 percent of college students haven’t significantly improved their critical thinking and writing skills after two years; 36 percent still haven’t after four. For those pitiful results, young people take on mountains of debt, and miss out on vocational training that they might find far more engaging and useful. “Learning styles differ,” and 69 percent of current U.S. jobs don’t require a post–high school degree. It’s time for us to stop stigmatizing those who don’t go to college and rid ourselves of our misguided obsession with the four-year degree.