College has become a very expensive entitlement

by Grace

Has a college education become a very expensive and less meaningful entitlement?

Due to government subsidies and cheerleading about the supposed benefits of additional years of formal schooling, over the last 50 years we have transformed higher education.

What had formerly been a rather inexpensive service that a small percentage of the populace thought worth striving for has been transformed into a very expensive one that’s now widely regarded as an entitlement. Thanks to government “help,” the cost of college has soared, but at the same time, academic standards have eroded and at many institutions, the curriculum has turned into a hodge-podge of narrow, trendy courses.

George Leef calls it a bad case of “credentialitis”.

That is, young Americans now go to college just for whatever “access” their credentials will provide, not because they want to learn anything or because they want to acquire useful skills. Credentialitis wastes resources, burdens taxpayers, leaves many students struggling with debt, but does nothing to improve our productivity or competitiveness.

The federal government is overly involved.

Leef believes the solution is for the federal government to downsize its role.  That’s certainly not the current trend, where a newly introduced Student Aid Bill of Rights guarantees the “resources needed to pay for college” for everyone.


George Leef, “What Has Federal Higher Ed Policy Given Us? A Bad Case Of Credentialitis”, Forbes, March 17, 2015.

4 Comments to “College has become a very expensive entitlement”

  1. Given the increasing gap in lifetime earnings between people with a college degree and those without, as well as the difference in unemployment rates, I suspect most people do not see college as a “less meaningful entitlement”. And what is being termed “credentialitis” has a lot of do with the individual hiring decisions of lots and lots of private businesses. In fact, I think one of the biggest drivers behind the increase in student going to college has been the collective withdrawal on the part of private industry from running training programs for entry level hires. Thirty years ago, a kid with just a high school degree could expect to be hired and put through a training program by his or her employer, which could then lead to a midlevel white collar job. No longer. Companies want hires who will be productive from their first moment. That training has to come from somewhere, and because of the particular way American higher education has always been structured (remember the wording of the Morrill Act), that has fallen to our universities.


  2. Yes, the meaningful part of a college degree is in how it is a requirement for many jobs, but not so much in how much is learned in college.


  3. Well, it depends on the major. I was just at an engineering fair yesterday, aimed at middle and high school kids, There were lots and lots and lots of engineering companies there, all simply trying to convince 13 year olds to go to college and study engineering. Clearly, those companies believe that college students are actually learning something useful.


  4. Yes, it absolutely depends on the major, with STEM majors usually offering the most legitimate learning experience.


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