The Value of Higher Education

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There seems to be a growing number of critics of higher education. They are missing something important in the value of earning a college degree. That is the overall educational development of a person and what that means in enjoying life.

Walter Williams, a columnist whose words often appear on this page, recently had a commentary on higher education which he titled, “Too Much Higher Education.”

Williams quoted critics of higher eduction who believe a college education is a waste of time and money. Now that may be true of some students who simply put in time in college, barely slip by in grading to graduate, who party and enjoy life away from home and the scrutiny of their parents. They abuse their new environment of independence.

Williams wrote that more than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. He quoted a report that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.”

Citing Charles Murray’s book, “Real Education,” by Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University, he said, “The number going to college exceeds the number capable of mastering higher levels of intellectual inquiry.” That’s probably been true for a long time. But Williams says that colleges have “dumbed down” courses so that the students they admit can pass them.

We would not argue with statements that some college courses are not what they once were and required a higher intellect, or mind training, to master or pass them. Also, there has been criticism for a long time that some degree paths are too narrow and therefore the graduate isn’t really a well-rounded “graduate.”

The former editor and publisher of this newspaper had a degree in philosophy and had a well-rounded liberal arts education. He went into newspaper work right out of college and always said a liberal arts education was the route to take in college, and take specialized education, such as J-School, after that. This editor did earn a liberal arts degree in history and political science, but the Army took control after that and J-School was out, or at least after a stint in the military there was no interest in going back to college.

Earning a college degree and not being able to find a job in a particular field that was studied isn’t a total loss. Far from it! A college education broadens an individual in many ways that have much value as a person moves through life. A college degree certainly offers a person opportunities to enjoy life more through an appreciation beyond the work place.

There are critics who say that many of today’s college students and graduates lack such skills as critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing.

Williams in his commentary said declining college admissions standards have contributed to the deterioration of the academic quality of our secondary schools. “Colleges show high schools that they do not have to teach much in order for youngsters to be admitted,” Williams contends.

Study after study has shown that American students lag behind students from other countries, particularly from South Korea, China and Japan, in many subjects, especially in math and science.

Williams states that American education is in shambles. He says colleges should upgrade their admission standards. He adds that won’t happen because college administrators are too interested in enrollment numbers.

If our secondary schools are failing, it is our fault for not demanding more from our schools.

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