I guess if I were Barbara Couture and I got my paychecks from the higher education establishment, I’d be willing to say anything to keep the money flowing, but the reality of higher education is far different than she portrayed it to be in her recent column.
For starters, yes, people with a college degree do indeed tend to earn more, but there are a number of things to consider:
College tends to attract the most intelligent and ambitious. They are going to tend to rise to the top regardless of a college degree;
Four/five years of foregone earning combined with thousands of dollars spent and potentially-untold piles of debt;
A few extremely-high earners like Bill Gates skew the earnings picture;
There are wide differences in earning power between various degrees of study. Engineers are going to make more than arts majors (by and large).
By all means, go to college if it is right for you, but ambitious and intelligent people can make a good living no matter what as John Stossel recently found:
Of course, the President of NMSU cares even more about keeping the spigot of public money flowing to higher education than she does about the success or failure of individual students. As the chart below illustrates, the price of a college education had been rising for decades, long before the recent economic downturn:
What Couture and the higher education establishment refuse to admit is that the easy money in the form of federally-subsidized student loans and capital projects paid for by the states have inflated the higher ed bubble and increased the cost of college. Reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars flowing into higher ed would reduce costs in the long-term as universities were forced to respond to market reality, not “free” money. Unfortunately, Obama and his crew seem hell-bent on blowing more air into the higher ed bubble.