My VIP for this week is Mike Rowe, the TV star who claims that a college degree is not necessary for success in the United States. With his history, it was important to get his position on the recent discovery that rich parents used their wealth to get their children into elite universities. More than forty such people were arrested last week on charges that they bribed coaches and staff at testing centers to make sure that their children got into college. As reported by The Western Journal, Rowe posted the following on his Facebook page.
The cheating is galling, as is the scope of the scandal. I wish were as outraged by the cost of college, as we are by the wealth of the cheaters.
You don’t have to be rich or famous to believe your kid is doomed to fail without a four-year degree. Millions of otherwise sensible parents in every tax bracket share this misguided belief, and many will do whatever it takes to get their kids enrolled in a “good school.”
The cost of tuition continues to rise at universities and colleges across the nation. The website for Yale University states that tuition is $72,100 for one year of undergraduate study.
Rowe is not anti-college or anti-education. He just does not believe that a college degree is everything that it is claimed to be or that parents should do everything possible to get their children into college.
Obviously, those who resort to bribery are in a class by themselves, but what about parents who allow their kids to borrow vast sums of money to attend universities they can’t possibly afford? What about the guidance counselors and teachers who pressure kids to apply for college regardless of the cost? What about the politicians and lobbyists who so transparently favor one form of education at the expense of all the others? What about the employers who won’t even interview a candidate who doesn’t have a degree? Where’s the outrage?
The cost of college today has almost nothing to do with the cost of an education, and everything to do with the cost of buying a credential. That’s all a diploma is.
(N)one are necessary to live a happy and prosperous life, and none of them come with any guarantees. And yet, the pressure we put on kids to borrow whatever it takes is constant, and precisely why tuition is so costly. It’s also why we have $1.6 trillion of student loans on the books along with a widening skills gap. That’s a bigger scandal, in my opinion.
Rowe has much more to say on the subject. I would like to say that he is right about the pressure that parents put on their children. Quite frankly, I told my children that they needed college degrees, and they do need them for the fields that they chose. Do we really want a doctor, nurse, or physical therapist that did not earn a few degrees? Do we expect our budget managers in our cities to know about budgeting and managing? Do we want our teachers to have teaching credentials? The answer to all these questions is yes. There are many advantages to having a degree, and some of them depend greatly on the field.
None of my children lost their jobs during the Great Recession when millions of Americans were out of work. In fact, several of them changed jobs, and they either moved to a better location or received more pay than in their previous jobs. Even though I believe that degrees in certain fields are good to have, I agree with much of what Rowe is saying.
Rowe and I believe that college is not for everyone. Not every person is cut out for academic life. They do not enjoy college and/or they wish to do something else with their life. Why does a young man who wants to be an automotive mechanic need to go to a university? He does not, but he does need to get some advance training in order to become more than just a grease monkey working for low wages.
Rowe and I agree that school districts should bring vocational training back to the high schools of the nation. He emphasized that removing shop from high school sends a definite message to the students.
What better message could you possibly send to a kid who’s trying to figure out what’s important than by simply removing the entire discipline from consideration?
That’s what happened when vocational education got pulled out of high school. We made it crystal clear that all of the jobs that votech (vocational-technical school presaged were not worth having. There’s just no other way to spin it. The jobs that are worth having are the jobs that require the things we’re teaching. And the things we’re teaching, therefore, become the things that are aspirational.
Rowe is exactly right in saying that one can do well without a college degree. I would add that there is still a need for training. Carpenters, plumbers, and numerous other tradesmen most likely do not need college classes, but they do need some training and a lot of experience to be good at their craft. Those who work smart will succeed, while others will get by. That is exactly what America is all about!