Originally published by @jonathannewman at Mises.org.
Students are running out of reasons to pursue higher education. Here are four trends documented in recent articles:
Graduates have little to no improvement in critical thinking skills
The Wall Street Journal reported on the troubling results of the College Learning Assessment Plus test (CLA+), administered in over 200 colleges across the US.
According to the WSJ, “At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table”. The outcomes were the worst in large, flagship schools: “At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.”
There is extensive literature on two mechanisms by which college graduates earn higher wages: actually learning new skills or by merely holding a degree for the world to see (signaling). The CLA+ results indicate that many students aren’t really learning valuable skills in college.
As these graduates enter the workforce and reveal that they do not have the required skills to excel in their jobs, employers are beginning to discount the degree signal as well. Google, for example, doesn’t care if potential hires have a college degree. They look past academic credentials for other characteristics that better predict job performance.
Shouting matches have invaded campuses across the country
It seems that developing critical thinking skills has taken a backseat to shouting matches in many US colleges. At Evergreen State College in Washington, student protests have hijacked classrooms and administration. Protesters took over the administration offices last month, and have disrupted classes as well. It has come to the point where enrollment has fallen so dramatically that government funding is now on the line.
The chaos at Evergreen resulted in “anonymous threats of mass murder, resulting in the campus being closed for three days.” One wonders if some of these students are just trying to get out of class work and studying by staging a campus takeover in the name of identity politics and thinly-veiled racism.
The shouting match epidemic hit Auburn University last semester when certain alt-right and Antifa groups (who are more similar than either side would admit) came from out of town to stir up trouble. Neither outside group offered anything of substance for discourse, just empty platitudes and shouting. I was happy to see that the general response from Auburn students was to mock both sides or to ignore the event altogether. Perhaps the Auburn Young Americans for Liberty group chose the best course of action: hosting a concert elsewhere on campus to pull attention and attendance away from both groups of loud but empty-headed out-of-towners. Of the students who chose not to ignore the event, my favorite Auburn student response was a guy dressed as a carrot holding a sign that read, “I Don’t CARROT ALL About Your Outrage.”
Trade schools and self-study offer better outcomes for many