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Wallace Hendricks

While it was once reasonable to lump all college graduates together to compare them to high school graduates, this is no longer true. The return to different college majors and to different institutions varies widely. Parents know this when they are preparing their children for application to colleges. Last year, for example, a large percentage of the college degrees for people with education majors came from on-line institutions such as Phoenix University. Many colleges now provide little more than material that should have been learned in high school.

This problem mimics the problem of huge differences in the quality of education at the high school level. Until we get a handle on measuring returns other than by years of schooling or graduation, these discussions will have very little importance.

Eric Rasmusen

Look at Figure 4, a misleadingly titled table at:

At private universities, tuition has risen less than other income sources. Maybe that's true of public research universities too, but it's hard to tell from eyeballing the diagram.

This turns the tuition issue on its head. Students are getting an increasingly greater subsidy from endowments, med schools, etc. over time. Their tuition is rising, but the cost of what the university is providing them is rising even more. Or, since accounting is tricky, it might be that the subsidy students are providing the rest of the university has been falling. Either way, if we assume that colleges are getting what they pay for, college is an increasingly good deal.

This makes sense if you think about it. Colleges are increasingly competing for students by means of luxury dorms, parking lots, job placement centers, fancy gyms, psychological counsellors, and so forth.

Christopher Graves

I don't think the relevant question is whether or not college graduates earn more than those who only make it through high school or less. Rather, the question should be whether attending a college actually develops a person intellectually, culturally, and in their ability to make judgements. As it stands now, a college diploma, especially from one of the elite institutions, is a proxy for these desirable qualities, but it is an open question in my mind whether most colleges provide this sort of training and cultivation. It might just be that these schools merely draw bright people and provide them access to other bright people to interact with along with study materials in the library, which could be had at the local public library or book store at home for a lot less time and money.

I am sure a few colleges do these things, and most do a bit, but I see most colleges as relegating their central mission, viz. teaching, to a side-line element of fluff, if they consider it at all. Instead, obscure, irrelevant research is given top billing. Tuition and state and federal subsidy are predominately directed to supporting research. In a relatively small number of cases, the research might be socially valuable and clearly presented, but should students' education be compromised to encourage research? I do not think so. If one is a researcher rather than a professor (consider what the word literally means), then everyone concerned would be better served if the researcher moved on to a think tank or a primarily research oriented institution such as Bell Laboratories or the Rand Corporation.

Most colleges are defrauding students and their parents by not focusing on the preservation and dissemination of the received body of knowledge built up over the course of the history of Western Civilization along with the cultivation of reasoning skills, insight, taste, and judgement.


I disagree Chris. There really is only one tangible way to measure the success/failure of college and that is how you do financially. I agree, you should learn something-and I'd like to see data adjusted for majors, prestige of schools etc. But it' s plain. Go and graduate, do better. In the Recession/Depression, college grads were not unemployed as much as non college grads.


As for my own opinion, I can say that being enrolled into a known University will never be the basis of knowledge since some are born with potential and high IQs.

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