Thursday, February 20, 2014

College, Academic Standards, Welding, & Wages

"College graduates make more money than high school graduates."

Sadly, that is the one regular argument that schools, teachers, counselors, parents, business people, and the press make to students today. They should pursue a post-graduate degree because they will make more money. So, then, perhaps the problem we should be discussing about schools isn't really about schools at all. Perhaps the problem is about wages.  Of course, that means the conversation should shift - as so many have tried to do - to the value of skilled labor.

Wages are high when the work is skilled, in demand, rare, or highly valued. Thus, it's not that we should be encouraging students to "go to college" because that will earn higher wages. For, if we had countless, trained doctors and lawyers and accountants and programmers and statisticians and engineers, then the wages would no longer be so high. Simply going to college isn't going to guarantee anyone the higher wages that will lift them out of poverty. It's acquiring skills and knowledge and becoming valuable that will do that.

Years ago, Bill Gates argued that 80% of students should earn a bachelor's degree. And that just seems like an absurd statement for brilliant businessman. Clearly, the economy doesn't have that many high education jobs for that many people, and their knowledge and talents would simply be wasted. Instead, people should be responding to the market. That will prove to be more successful.

1 comment:

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