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Ed Driscoll

Is College Worth It?

June 2nd, 2013 - 4:50 pm

That’s the topic discussed in the latest edition of Peter Robinson’s long-running Uncommon Knowledge video interview series:

This is graduation season, so we thought it was the perfect time to ask author/journalist Andy Ferguson (Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College) and essayist and former editor of American Scholar Joseph Epstein to discuss the origin and value (if any) of getting a classical liberal arts education.

Meanwhile, Aaron Clarey, the Blogosphere’s self-described “Captain Capitalism” and author of the hit book on what the outcome of the 2012 election portends for those of us who aren’t collectivists, Enjoy the Decline has designated June 2013 as “Worthless Degree Awarness Month:”

It may sound funny, but it really is no laughing matter.  The single worst thing we do to our young kids is cripple them financially for the rest of their lives by telling them to waste 4-8 years of their youth and anywhere between $50,000-$150,000 on worthless degrees.  Economically, the education bubble is on par with the housing bubble, but this time it is within our own control to stop it.

Since most kids graduate from high school during early June, it’s the perfect time to “raise awareness” (I always wanted to use that vile phrase for something that’s actually good, legit and noble) about the threats and dangers of majoring in a worthless field.

All we have to do is get the word out there.

Got a blog?  Start linking and citing articles about worthless degrees.
Got a child or a family member?  Sit down and have a chat with them.
Got a PTA group you know?  Have someone come speak to them.
And as always if you don’t know how to broach the subject with your children, buying them a copy of “Worthless” is definitely a diplomatic and caring way to tell them about the economic realities of choosing a good degree.

And of course, PJM’s own Glenn Reynolds has written a book on the topic of The Higher Education Bubble that’s well-worth your time. Here’s a link to my interview last year with Glenn on his then-new book:

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For all the talk of college debt and cost to students, we need to put it in perspective. I was surprised to see that only 30% of the population has a college degree, that is increasing but still what about the other 70%. We do have the good fortune that 85+% do graduate high school.

Then most of the lamentations are over the Liberal Arts, which actually gets very broad and different definitions. The Census in a report using 2009 data [http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acs-18.pdf], lumps the social sciences and psychology in with science and engineering. Many pile those in the box. (They didn't list the ??? studies majors specifically but it looks like they lump those in with Area Ethnic and Civilization Studies in the social sciences.) The Census does separate out Science and Engineering related degrees (the more vocational such as nursing). By Census's measure 34.9% of degrees are in science and engineering, 22.6% in Arts, humanities, etc. The percentages flip if you move psychology and social sciences in with the Arts and humanities.

Interesting, the NE has a high percentage of Arts and humanities, while science and engineering predominate on the coasts and South. Education in the Midwest. Also, the Social Sciences predominate in the District of Columbia at 26%, next highest in that area is Virginia with 11%, MD is not far behind. Perhaps not to surprising with Economics and Government in the social sciences but it does seem to inform the meme that emanates from DC.

I also found these tidbits in a Harvard Crimson survey of this years graduates:


• 42 percent came to Harvard from the Northeast. 55 percent will stay in the region after graduation.

27.4 percent of the class grew up in urban areas; 64.1 percent come from suburbs; and 8.5 percent come from rural areas. These numbers look quite different from the general breakdown of the U.S. population: According to the 2010 U.S. census, 71 percent of Americans live in cities, 10 percent in suburbs, and 19 percent in rural areas.

The latter odd given the frequent overt hatred of the suburbs displayed by the grads of the famous universities.
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