“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist,” Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame told Glenn Beck during a recent interview. “That’s crazy, right? That’s what we’ve been doing for the last forty years.”
Rowe is talking about misguided efforts to push America’s young into college when, for a lot of them, it’s not necessary.
“We have 3 million jobs nobody wants,” Rowe says noting that few of those jobs – just 12% if the figure he cites – require a four-year degree. Yet, they’re jobs employers are having a hard time filling because, according to Rowe, their vocational jobs of the sort Americans have been told are a consolation prize for those who can’t cut it in college.
“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”
Rowe, through his (whimsically capitalized) mikeroweWorks Foundation, is offering a scholarship for “for those looking to explore a career in the skilled trades.”
That’s a great thing, and the work Rowe is doing to change American attitudes about education and careers is wonderful. We’ve developed an attitude about college which holds that it’s a more fun version of high school at the end of which you get a piece of paper that entitles you to a better sort of life.
Except, that’s not necessarily true. Young adults are moving back in with mom and dad. College graduates are being forced to take jobs that don’t require college degrees. “The number of college graduates has grown vastly faster than the number of jobs that require high-level education skills,” Professor Richard Vedder, an outspoken critic of higher education in America, has said.
Meanwhile, the cost of higher education has exploded. Tuition is through the roof, as are related costs like textbooks and housing, all while campuses get bigger and more lavish and pay for university employees goes through the roof.
Government policies aimed at promoting higher education, while perhaps pure in intent, have failed in outcome because they’ve turned college attendance from something you earned to advance yourself in your career into an entitlement and a “life experience” that all Americans should have.