A number of readers have responded with good comments to the ongoing discussion of “college-for-all.”

I love education, love learning, and want everyone to be able to get as much education as they want, but I have my doubts about the goal of college for all.

Maybe the most irritating aspect of this issue is that college has become unaffordable for many, many young people. They may want to go to college, but they can’t pay the costs, and our state and federal government is content to saddle them with heavy debt that they will spend years repaying. We can’t have a goal of being “first in the world” in college graduates if the cost of college continues to soar.

Also, I am not sure why it is important to be first in the world. So what if we are seventh or twelfth in the world? Why does it matter? I think we should aim for the goal of being first in the world in college affordability. Then let everyone get the education they need and want, when they need it and want it.

I think that our leaders and policymakers pretend that if everyone goes to college, everyone will make more money because college graduates make more money than high school graduates or high school dropouts. This is specious reasoning. Having more educated people is good for the economy, but if everyone has a college degree, then a college degree will not produce any economic gains for those who hold it. If everyone has a college degree, then a college degree would become the minimum credential needed for any kind of job. Then, to see a differential in economic return, people would need to have at least a master’s degree or a doctorate. Producing more college degrees does not produce more high-paying jobs.

I admit that I don’t have the answer to all the questions I raise. Many of the readers of this blog know more than I do, which is why I like to reprint their comments for a larger audience. I read all the comments and learn from them.

Here are some responses to the question of whether “college for all” should be a national goal. I think it was Bill Gates (who else?) who suggested this goal. I have visited many classrooms for children in first-grade, second-grade, third-grade, etc. where college banners decorated the walls. May I say I found it creepy?

Ann Larson sent this unusually thoughtful commentary, in which she argues that college-for-all is not even an important question. She added in her comment: ”

The idea that education creates jobs is an infuriating myth.

More comments:

In high school education, we talk a lot about getting kids into college, and we know that, due to the economics of higher education, there really is a college for everyone, ready to take their money and offer them a spot. What we talk far less about is whether the kids who got in stay and succeed in college. Very few high schools do follow-up studies on their graduates. Who has the money? And why would we ask a question that we don’t want to know the answer to?

If we did ask, however, and find out the truth about how many students from even high-performing high schools can’t manage to graduate (or, for some of them, even make it through freshman year), then maybe we would help high school students think more strategically about their futures. Not necessarily about whether further education is appropriate, but about what kind? A four-year liberal arts degree? Or an 6-month or 18-month or two-year certification course that ends in a qualification for a decent job?

The latter would be a better choice for so many students, were they not all being raised to believe that not going to college right after high school, as if college were merely 13th grade, is a disgrace.

Here’s another:

Will Richardson tweeted this table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics yesterday. It has some very interesting information about the 30 occupations with the largest projected employment growth from 2010-2020.Will Richardson ‏@willrich45
EVERY child needs to be college ready? Really? http://1.usa.gov/MxNiX #edchatWhile it may be a noble goal to have every student go to college, we must not lose sight of something that my dad reminded me of what I was looking for schools: Education is not vocation. We should be encouraging students to go to school to be further educated, not to get a job.


We have to reclaim the “College For All” rhetoric and not allow a college education to be only about getting a high-paying job. Is it our colleges’ fault that the jobs available are at the Apple Store? Is it our colleges’ fault that the Apple Store only pays $12 an hour? Is the value of a college education only found in the salary figures of graduates? That’s like measuring a high school based solely on the test scores of its graduates. The thing about basing success or value on one variable is that nothing in life is ever that simple. Some folks who graduate from college will be homeless and destitute. Most will have middle-of-the-road-paying jobs that support their families. Some will be gazillionaires. But the same can be said for people who do not go to college. And the reasons why these outcomes occur may have nothing to do with the education the person received. They may be homeless in spite of a good education. Or they may be a gazillionaire in spite of a bad one.We must not rail against the edureformers for pushing college for all. Instead, we should take back the rhetoric and remind the edureformers that a good education will give kids options. We have to stop the edureformers from making success only about economics and money. We have to stop separating “college” from “career” and do what “okeducationtruths” suggests and make sure our students have choices when they graduate from each level. The “college” and “career” separation is a 19th century idea. It suggests that some are “college material” and others are not. It persists the class struggle. Today’s society and economy is about flexibility and options. It’s about crafting your own future based on a combination of your proclivities and your work ethic. Success today is not only measured by dollars, but also by how happy you are making those dollars. A good education, whether it stops at high school or with a PhD, should help people not only make a good wage, but also figure out whether that wage is all that matters.The truth is all post-secondary options – work, military, technical school, college – are just more education. When the kid who can’t read tells a teacher he wants to go to college, we should say, “well, in order to do that, you have to read.” We should not say, “come on, kid, you can’t do that. You should be a plumber. They make great money!” Don’t plumbers have to read, too? Teachers get a bad name when they tell kids they can’t do something. Let’s just educate them the best we know how, and let the future take care of itself.