Murray part 2: Is College for Everyone?
Today, Charles Murray continues his discussion of intelligence and education in the Wall Street Journal with an op-ed on college enrollment. The returns on a college education have increased, many employers demand a bachelor's degree as a credential that shows perseverence and capability and, consequently, many more high school graduates are enrolling. In the early 1970's, only about 10% of Americans over age 25 had a college degree. Now, at least 40% of people in their late teens attempt some college. We have not had a corresponding increase in overall intelligence in the population, which means that two things are happening. Drop-out rates are high, and college instruction has been dumbed down (or at least many colleges are having to focus on remedial education for high percentages of their students). That in turn creates degree inflation where employers start looking for master's degrees to signal intelligence, and so forth.
Murray believes that, on the basis of IQ, at most 15-25% of the population is capable of college level work, as most people think of it. So he calls for other options for young people to signal that they are skilled workers that don't involve a four year liberal arts education. He calls for an expansion of two year and vocational schools. Clearly he is not riding the New York City subways, as every ad on the wall is already for such schools that teach office technologies, opthalmic dispensing, welding, and the like. I think Murray is more conveying that people in his social class assume everyone who is going to make something of themselves should go to a four-year college. That pressures a lot of young people who want to make decent wages to go to four year programs (and then spend longer than four years, or drop out before finishing) when they'd be better served by other options. So Murray calls for dropping the snob factor. Over time, he believes, the market will do this. After all, a lot of plumbers make more and have nicer houses than the white collar workers whose pipes they work on.
Are any Gifted Exchange readers reading this series? I'm curious what you think about Murray's take on college. Is the idea of making college near-universal foolhardy? Is it better to make "some education after high school" the goal? There are policy debates going on right now in Congress about subsidizing the interest on student loans as a way to increase access to higher education. But do we suffer from a lack of access?