My Education Rant
By Arnold Kling
I fear that many of the students who pass will go on to earn Wizard-of-Oz diplomas, which signify nothing. Students will claim to be educated, but employers will know otherwise. The phenomenon of the Wizard-of-Oz diploma has discredited the college degree.
My oldest daughter discovered that her degree qualified her for secretarial positions. She soon decided to try law school instead. As her experience illustrates, although the average salary differential between college graduates and non-graduates remains high, the marginal college graduate is earning little or no premium.
Most of the essay is devoted to trying to knock down the idea that education is the answer for economic inequality. The thinking is that since college graduates on average earn a premium, if more young people went to college, they would earn higher incomes.
The reality is that sending more people to college creates more problems than it solves. My impression of George Mason is that there is a disconnect between the faculty and the admissions office. The faculty think in terms of a rigorous liberal arts education, and the admissions office takes in students who would be best served by trade schools or community colleges.
The use of trade schools is restricted by occupational licensing regulations.
We speak of the proverbial auto mechanic, but in fact the best career path for many of these students in today’s economy would be in the allied health fields. Unfortunately, this career path is blocked by occupational licensing requirements, which prevent many otherwise capable students from pursuing careers in dental hygiene, physical therapy, or similar professions. If we had the equivalent credentialism at work in auto repair, you would need four years of college plus two or three years of post-graduate education just to work on a car.