Too Many Kids Go To College

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TooManyKids

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CHICAGO IDEAS WEEK

The herd mentality that assumes college is the only path to reaching one’s full potential is under fire. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt, unemployment for those with bachelor’s degrees is at an all-time high, and entrepreneurs like the founders of Facebook and Microsoft prove that extraordinary success is possible without it. But recent studies show that college is economically beneficial even to those whose jobs don’t require it. Is it still the best way to ensure social mobility, or is America’s love affair with higher education unjustified?

  • For the motion

    For

    Peter Thiel

    PayPal Co-founder, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist

  • For the motion

    For

    Charles Murray

    Author of AEI Article, Are too many people going to college?

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Henry Bienen

    President Emeritus, Northwestern University

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Vivek Wadhwa

    Entrepreneur Turned Academic

  • Moderator Image

    Moderator

    John Donvan

    Author and correspondent for ABC News.

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Thiel

For The Motion

Peter Thiel

PayPal Co-founder, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist

Known as the mentor to the PayPal mafia of entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel is a leading advocate of young people exploring alternatives to a college education. This year he launched the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, a two-year mentoring program that provides $100,000 in grants towards building the fellows’ businesses in biotech, technology, finance, education and more. In 2004, Thiel made the first outside investment in Facebook and now serves as a board member. Thiel currently serves as President of Clarium Capital Management LLC and Managing Partner of The Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund.

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Murray

For The Motion

Charles Murray

Author of AEI Article, Are too many people going to college?

A political scientist, Charles Murray is the author of two of the most widely debated and influential social policy books, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 and, with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. In his most recent book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, Murray challenges educational romanticism with his third truth: “too many people are going to college.”

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Henry Bienen

Against The Motion

Henry Bienen

President Emeritus, Northwestern University

A member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Economic Development and Planning Committee, Henry Bienen launched his career in academics at Princeton University in 1966 as an assistant professor. In 1994, he was elected President of Northwestern University and currently serves as President Emeritus. Mr. Bienen is one of the first three university presidents awarded the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award for innovative leadership in higher education, Chairman of the Board of Rasmussen College and on the board of the Chicago Public Schools.

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Vivek Wadhwa

Against The Motion

Vivek Wadhwa

Entrepreneur Turned Academic

Vivek Wadhwa is Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University and a Senior Research Associate for the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. A respected pioneer for his groundbreaking research on the globalization of R&D and innovation, Wadhwa advises several start-ups, founded two software companies, and is a columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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    55 comments

    • Comment Link Andrew Friday, 10 January 2014 23:35 posted by Andrew

      I hear a certain snobbery from both teams regarding the value of a liberal education, social sciences, and the arts. One thing that distinguishes human beings from their brethren is that they thrive in culture. They make art (cave paintings, Sistine ceiling, etc.), music, sculpture and have for thousands of years. We buy music and art "simply" because they bring us pleasure, resonate with something in our core, or help us symbolize our experiences. It's certainly difficult for artists to make a living these days if they don't teach or, as in rare cases, have a benefactor. But that doesn't lessen their value to the culture.
      Where do they receive their apprenticeship? Perhaps college. Perhaps a very expensive art school. Perhaps from a mentor outside of academia. Perhaps by taking classes at a community college.

      Let's not limit our profile of college student to engineer, lawyer, or doctor.

      Also, let's not assume that third tier colleges don't teach critical thinking or have students read Shakespeare in the original. By the same token, let's not assume that a student at a first tier college/university automatically excels in humanities requirements because they are so skilled in math or IT. Many students who are brilliant in a narrow scientific sphere might be functionally illiterate outside that sphere--yet degree at a prestigious university.

      Many students go to a community college for their lower division coursework because it's close to home and cheaper than the university fifty miles away. At the CC they may get a better education than the one they would have received through huge lectures and inaccessible professors.

    • Comment Link cindy Tuesday, 17 December 2013 23:58 posted by cindy

      What I really wanted to point out is that all these problems with colleges can be solved if we just improved the quality of education in K-12. My perspectives comes from my two cultures, American and Chinese. If we compare the two in just K-12 education, then there is a giant gap between kids in America and kids in China. So why not improve on the education that is actually free? I think everyone watching this debate can agree on one thing: education is important. If our public school systems taught children as well as the newly reformed Chinese K-12 schools, then college would not be such a necessity. And then all the art majors, humanities majors, and etc that are taking a huge risk when investing into a degree, and just go from high school to a career. I personally think that investing years into a degree in something like English would be foolish. The amount you get paid your first year would be equivalent to a year in a lower priced college. In addition, to be a journalist, all the skill sets you really need could be obtained from a high school english class. Yet no firm would consider hiring a journalist straight out of high school simply because they may not have any funds to go to secondary school. This situation can all but be eliminated if the education kids received before secondary school is reformed. That way college and any further education can be an extra path for children who want to pursue science and engineering majors. This kind of compromise can give choices. It creates paths for kids to walk on. If they want to pursue something right out of college they can still be accepted by society. If they choose to gain more knowledge in college in medicine, it is also an equally acceptable path. Being a Sophomore in college, I can honestly say that everything I am learning is either a repeat of high school or something that I have learned from experience. Unlike other kids, I pay for my education because I have been working since I was sixteen. What I am getting for my money, even though I obtain a lot of financial aid, is malarky. It is insulting that universities put this high sticker price on remedial classes that are undeserving.

    • Comment Link Desiree Haag Saturday, 14 December 2013 21:24 posted by Desiree Haag

      I think all kids should go to college. It is really important to have an education in todays modern society. If not how would we get good paying jobs. But the biggest problem today is cost. College is so expensive. With the average debt rate being around 25000.00 I think it makes a lot of students rethink college and go out and get jobs right out of high school which makes for a harder life. If the college tuition rate was a lot cheaper more kids could go to school. It also would help I personally think if colleges had more two year degree programs there would be alot more college graduates. Just because there is a large drop out rate for people who are pursing a bachelor degree since they get so burnt out. (I only say this because I am a college student myself.) Another idea would to re do the whole bachelor's program and instead of taking useless classes such as art, psychology and speech. I also think if the bachelor's classes were geared towards their degree it could provide more in depth training making a person more skilled in their profession. But unless colleges relies this then students will have a hard time getting in to college and paying for it.

    • Comment Link Ashlludw Friday, 13 December 2013 16:51 posted by Ashlludw

      As kids we are constantly reminded how important education is. How you need a good education to get a good to be able not just to support yourself but your family as well. This may be for some, but not others. I feel society puts to much pressure on kids to go into college and them not actually knowing what they want to do. They end up accruing all this un-needed debit. I believe it should be up the kids if hey go to College. If that means taking a couple years off to find themselves so be it. That way when they do go back they know what they want to do.
      Charles Murray makes a good point on how there are a lot of un needed core classes. For some students they may be nessccary . As a Education Major I do not mind taking the extra classes. It will help me in learn different teaching styles and makes me more knowledgeable. But that is not the case for some students.

    • Comment Link Randi L Friday, 13 December 2013 16:46 posted by Randi L

      I believe that education is important; however I believe that people don’t have to go to college to become educated. I personally think that some people may go to college for wrong reasons, maybe because a parent is pressuring them to go so they want to please their parents by going when secretly they don’t want to go. Also I think that kids should think about the cost of college and about the kinds of financial aid they will receive and if they have to think about loans and how long that will take them to pay back. I think education is a great thing to get but most people need to consider the pros and cons when it comes to going to college and ask themselves things that only they themselves can answer and once they are at least 90% positive them they should go. I agree with both sides of the debate but it all comes down to the person that is considering going and they have to make the decision themselves.

    • Comment Link Jaimee B Thursday, 12 December 2013 19:40 posted by Jaimee B

      College is important and I think that everyone should attend. Whether the individual goes to get a bachelor's degree, or go for the experience, going to college is important. It helps individuals later in life, by employers seeing that the individual has at least attended college. In this society, having just a high school diploma is meaningless. Kids need to attend college, no matter what the amount of time they spend there. College helps with so much in life. It helps with our social network, our knowledge, getting a better career, etc.

    • Comment Link AmyM Thursday, 12 December 2013 18:06 posted by AmyM

      I am a freshman in college and I really enjoyed watching this debate although I quite honestly do not like watching debates.It was really interesting to watch and see how both sides fight for what they believed. Both sides made very valied points and I agreed with at least one thing from each debater.Yet I cant help but feel that some of the information provided during the debate was incorrect. There should have been more facts presented and a follow up of where to find the facts provided.I believe that too many KIDS are going too college. The thing that really bugged me about the debate is that no one brought up the fact of kids going to college. Too many kids are not mature or ready enough for college when they go. That is not saying that they shouldnt go when they are ready and It's also not that too many adults or people that are ready are going to college. Its that too many kids aren't ready when they go. I believe everyone should go to college whether they are pursuing a career or going just to learn more. America's education is the best in the world and today we find ourselves taking advantage of too many things other people would kill for. Also and issue came up about the American Dream yet who are we to put a definition on the American Dream? It is something that only we can decide for ourselves. No one else.

    • Comment Link MaraJ Thursday, 12 December 2013 17:56 posted by MaraJ

      I believe that all students in the United States should pursue an education, and that they should make the responsible decision to make their future better. With the words from all four of the debaters, they had mouths full of biased, unbiased, and angered words from past experience, and past personal feelings on their time during College.

    • Comment Link Tanisha Carr Thursday, 12 December 2013 17:32 posted by Tanisha Carr

      I feel as though any additional education after high school will make an individual more successful. I do not feel that there are to many kids going to college. If a student chooses to obtain further education that is absolutely an individual decision. There can never be too many kids going to college. Our nation will only benefit from higher educated people. College also gives students the change to expand socially. Also it helps with teaching responsibilities, teaches about taking care of their own finances, having first jobs, and independence. As Henry Bienen stated, "There's a clear wage premium to education. There's also a social premium to society, not just individual. Society benefits through greater productivity, lower crime, better health, better citizenship for more educated people." I also feel that this country is lacking in early education as it is not what it should be or can be. Each student learns in their own way. We have to learn to adjust to this so that we can help them the best way we can. Some students are just brushed off and pushed to the next level when their not ready. This can cause them to dropout in later years. Additional education has a positive effect for the students and our nation not a negative one.

    • Comment Link Salaminak Thursday, 12 December 2013 16:10 posted by Salaminak

      The problem is not that too many kids go to college but the school system is a mess. Everyone deserves to learn, it makes the world a better more rounded place. The prices now a day are ridiculous; you can learn more from watching lectures online or reading books than one can sit in a classroom. The only plus side college has is that it has human contact. Also, a lot that is taught in school is irrelevant or has been taught before! The only degrees that should require a long course list should be those of doctors. The rest should be internships or simple courses about the program. Students shouldn’t have to waist his or her time relearning the same things over and over again. There are better ways to teach people. Students should work for courses for their degree and major not the entire pointless thing. Sure, the extra classes make students more rounded, but if they go to a good high school that offers classes that do that like I did, the extra classes are unneeded. They should be able to build up resumes by course not B.A.’s which are pointless. More people should learn, yes, but not in college. There needs to be a better system.

    • Comment Link RS Thursday, 12 December 2013 16:10 posted by RS

      I believe college education is necessary for every student to get better opportunity and bright future. I totally agree with Mr. Vivek Vadhwa and Mr. Henry Beinen ‘s statements. Today's society is competitive and dominant by high technology so college education helps them to get one fit into this kind of society. The education we gain from college will be helpful in every field whereas practical education is only limited in one field. The experiences regarding life, people, society etc. which we get from college cannot be obtained from any other place. They will be with us forever. According to Mr. Peter Thiel college education is expensive and student always end up with huge debt after graduation. But for me good education is never costly and it is just an investment for our better lifeline. Besides, college provides different financial aid for student. They are also allowed to work on part time to earn for their tuition fees. As said by Mr. Vivek Vadhwa student with poor economy can be enrolled in community college. Education in community college is no different than big universities. It provides quality education with comparatively cheap tuition fees . As said by Aristotle, "The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet." By working hard for some years, we can have fruitful future which includes different job opportunity with satisfactory payment. Research has shown that college graduated person earns more than a high school graduate. Mr. Murray said that focus should be only in skill based and vocational training with certificate level but I think it is completely insufficient in present day. That kind of training can only give practical knowledge related to particular field only without any outside knowledge making the person a frog in a well. In every workplace we need to deal with different types of people from various fields. Without enough knowledge about other fields it will be hard to keep up with a person related to those fields. Ultimately, it decrease our self-esteem and ability to do job. I am aware of the fact that college education is not ideal all the time. But we need to understand that if we have courage, self-confidence and high knowledge we can easily out stand ourselves among other competitors. Those qualities can be only gained from college education which is totally worth it. College education is indeed, a necessity of today's society.

    • Comment Link Ashlie Thursday, 12 December 2013 15:51 posted by Ashlie

      This debate proposed an interesting question. We’re all encouraged that the more education you can get the better, education is power. Asking if this isn’t the case questions all validity that this country stands on. The real debate should be about whether colleges are doing what they’re expected and if people are going to college for the right reasons. Part of the reason you pay for college is to not only make an investment into your future but to show that it is important enough to you that you would drown in mountains of debt over it. Charles Murray made a point saying to redefine the structure a BA degree stands on. And while Henry and Viveck were right in stating that more people should go to college and gain as much education as they can before the world is reformed and people wont know how to live in it. How many law degrees can we award every year, and still not have enough jobs available for every person with a law degree? Engineering isn’t the only revenue in todays world, but in order for valid degrees like art history to be important the world has to change how it runs and what it values. It’s not the ethics of people we should be changing, it’s the view the entire world has on something they don’t understand.

    • Comment Link WB Thursday, 12 December 2013 15:30 posted by WB

      There was a lot of valid points on both sides of the debate, but after hearing everything I do not believe to many kids go to college. Because we live in America, we have the right to go seek out a higher education and give our selves the chance to better our lives. Charles Murray did a lot of talking about how the B.A degree is pointless, and on some points he is right. The B.A degree takes a lot of classes that have nothing to do with most majors, but I believe those extra classes you are required to take are building a platform into a well rounded education. There is vocational school for people who do not want to take all the core classes to get certified in a field they are pursuing. Going to college can be very expensive if you choose to go to a university, but there is cheaper ways to get the same college education. It doesn't have to put you $250,000 in debt as Peter Thiel claimed. With financial aid available to most everyone who attends college, it can be pretty cheap to get a degree and start a career in a good field of work. I believe that part of America's great educational opportunities is that we have the chance to become well rounded educated people to continue the prosperity of our nation.

    • Comment Link Kamerz101 Thursday, 12 December 2013 14:37 posted by Kamerz101

      Okay, So I am a 20 year old and I graduated high school a year and a half ago. I planned on going to school right after, but, I was delayed and I am thankful for that. I had a year to make up my mind to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And I did. I thought hard, and I came to the conclusion that I wanted to get my Bachelor of Science: Communication Arts degree. But I did not want to stop there. I also found out that I want to be a Korean Translator and for both of these you have to have college education. For the most part, you have to have a college education to get anywhere in life. Even if you go to get just the education core done, then you can put that down on your transcripts and applications. Even though you will not have a degree in a field, you have a better chance at getting some where with your life with that than with either nothing (because you dropped out) or just a GED or a high school diploma. I have seen this, my family has struggled because of this, and I have made myself a promise and a commitment that I will not be like my parents or my family. I will over come and surpass all of them. I am going to run my own life. How am I going to do that? Going to college!

    • Comment Link Kalli G. Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:54 posted by Kalli G.

      I believe education is important, however, I don’t think you need to go to college to become “educated.” Education, according to Webster’s dictionary, is an "enlightening experience." Nowhere does it state that you have to go to college to be educated. Some people are educated in different areas than others, for example, carpentry or being a mechanic. You can go to college and receive a degree, but on the job teaching is available, and it is just as useful. A lot of jobs even prefer experience over education most of the time. I am a college student, majoring in nursing, so I should be for education; however, I see the problem in our education system. Kids are going to college to socialize; they aren’t going for the educational experience, so they end up wasting their time, other's time, and money when they are here to “goof off,” and avoid the real world. In my mind the perfect college campus would be full of young adults and middle aged people who are determined to get a career in fields that have a high demand, such as nursing and chemistry. College campuses wouldn’t be filled with parties and distractions, because these individuals would be so focused on the goal at hand. In college, you wouldn’t have to take liberal arts classes that don’t have anything to do with your degree, for example, I am a nursing major, and I have to take an introduction to art survey course. It is pointless and has absolutely nothing to do with my major.

    • Comment Link Cistinna Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:28 posted by Cistinna

      I believe that not enough students go to college. My goal while im attending college is to learn. Education is the most valuable thing in life. It allows you to gain social skills, a better job and make better life choices. In the end it doesnt matter weather or not you have a fantastic job, it is weather or not you can go through thhis world continuing to learn everyday. It would be nice to be able to leave college and be guranteed a job but that would be impossible for everyone. If I can get my dream job as a teacher I will be perfectly fine. I would gain social skills and critical thinking allowing me to improve my whole life. I believe in what Wadhwa stated: that we need to improve our k-12 grades. If we improve those then once students choose to go to college they would already be more prepared and know how easy it is to get enrolled. They would already have a couple college classes to prepare them for choosing their career goal.

    • Comment Link KW Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:26 posted by KW

      I agree with both sides of the debate. Both sides have very valid points. I feel college should be the kids choice. Some kids go to college because they want to further their education, but some kid's parents make them go. It should be the their decision not the parents decision. There are a great deal of smart people in our world that did not go to college. I believe we just need the education system reformed. There should be more programs where students can get an education in a certain field. There should not be any core classes expect maybe basic math. The programs should be very cheap and last no longer than a year. Perhaps some reformation in our junior highs and high schools across the nation. I believe college debt really isn't an issue. We have very nice community colleges where students can get a great education. We don't have to go to Stanford to get a higher education. There is a lot of scholarships and financial aid that can help students pay for college. Kids should go to college because they want to further their education. There are other options out there, not just college.

    • Comment Link NKKeller Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:24 posted by NKKeller

      Too many students these days are going to school to be lawyers or teachers, when I believe there are already too many of them already. Primary and secondary teaching is 5th in the nation for most sought after majors (The Princeton Review), even though the amount of jobs for teaching is declining every year in the United States. I feel as though students should go for more jobs that are in need of employees, like mechanics or welders. These jobs were once seen as “blue collar” and were jobs that many people evaded, but more and more people pursue those professions because of the market demand. Being a mechanic of some sort can give u helpful experience for the future, can improve your life style and it can also provide financially.
      The nation's demand for auto mechanics is expected to have grown about 17% from 2010 to 2020, adding 124,800 jobs for a total of 848,200, (the bureau of labor.) Auto technicians overall earned an average of $35,790, but 10% earned more than $59,590, in 2010. In many parts of the nation, there is constant competition among auto dealers to hire and retain experienced technicians, there is also the worry of whether there will be enough younger workers in a few years as a wave of midcareer mechanics hits retirement age. (USA Today)

    • Comment Link Casetin Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:16 posted by Casetin

      It was a great debate, both sides had grea points, higher education fo more and more people is always great. Vivek Wadhwa commented regarded higher education that it "uplifts society anf that the US is a powerhouse nation because of it. Thats so true all the greatest technolgical advances are due to great minds, invention of elctrity cars etc. Though i do belive everyone needs more education past highschool, i dont think getting a four year degree is for everyone, Murrays idea is awesome to have specifc vocational training, for specific jobs instead of taking useless classes for your future job. Any education will only enhance production and help us prosper, imagine constuction workers with extra education , be able to go the extra mile or develop more effiecient ways to build, any job can be made better through more knowlegde contunually building of the shoulders of those that worked before us. I do like the vocational specific training but unlike Murray the BA is not the "devil"but its just not nessary for everyone. But for other fields its amazing! I love the BA program im in sure im a Bio pre med major but i love learning about History and learning to write stories, I love my Spanish class too, its all about being well rounded and thats what employees want more than anything some who is versitile, not just a genius in one subject. More knowlegde and education is what has made nations strong thoughout history and still today, The Roman empire, Great Britian and now today the USA!

    • Comment Link Garett Stoddard Thursday, 12 December 2013 12:10 posted by Garett Stoddard

      I personally have begun to experience what most people call “getting an education” and it has not taken me long at all to realize that I don’t want to be here at all. Not because of the people or the instructors that’s not the reason at all; but simply because the things I’m doing are in no way going to help me in my planned career. Which to me is a very hard concept to understand because I am very practical person and it seems ridiculous to me that society has come up with this rule almost that you have to go to college. That you have to get a bachelor’s degree to be successful in life. Oh yeah, and they also want thousands of dollars to show you some stuff that you may never use again in your lifetime.
      Am I the only one that sees this as wrong? All wrong? Why should the people of our world be forced to spend huge amounts of money and time doing something that they honestly could have lived without just to be considered for a job or possibly a career. We have fallen into a trench that not many people can see the way out of. Society says follow the path, go to college so you can get a job. Well they don’t really know how the system works then because college in no way guarantees you a job of any kind.

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