Book of the Month

Back to October 2013 Ed Reporter

Book of the Month

Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, William J. Bennett and David Wilezol, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2013, $22.99

The authors of Is College Worth It say college should “come with a bright red warning label: ‘Warning! High risk of debt and unemployment.’” They cite a reputable 2012 survey finding that one in every five American households “owes student loan debt” and another study revealing that one in four borrowers are delinquent in paying off student loan debt. The authors conclude that, “America has overbought into the idea of college for everyone.”

The circumstances leading to Americans owing more than $1 trillion in student loans include rising tuition costs fueled by freely available federal loans, unaccountable universities, an inflated perceived value of a college education, and political posturing. Something must be done before taxpayers face bailouts of students and colleges.

The authors suggest that return on investment should be a major consideration when determining which college to attend and what to study once enrolled. Citing reports that about 50% of the classes of 2011 and 2012 college graduates are underemployed, Bennett and Wilezol suggest that eyes must open to the truth about college.

Recognizing the “social stigma in not having a college degree,” observers hope there is an even larger stigma attached to being unemployed. While hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs go unfilled in America, failures in K-12 education turn out students unable to qualify for available skilled jobs. K-12 focus on “college for all” disheartens students who aren’t academically inclined, causing them to drop out of high school.

President Obama’s goal to increase degree attainment from 40% to 60% by 2020 is misguided. Students should study appropriate subjects in high school that allow them to find work upon graduation by implementing high school technical and apprenticeship programs.

The authors say that technological innovation will “radically change the nature of college in the future.” Students won’t need to graduate hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt when training for fulfilling employment is available online for a small cost.

The authors offer lists of schools, by category, that are worth attending even if debt is incurred.

They also say that the college experience may not be what parents wish for their children, stating that the “college campus is often a culturally permissive atmosphere of experimenting with drinking, drugs, partying, sex, and sometimes learning.”