Economic/Legal Scholars Talk About College Degrees

This is what the conversation about degrees and completion sounds like in Hyde Park:

One reason for skepticism, though, is that Krugman may have too limited a conception of the benefits of a college education. He may think that what a college education does is impart knowledge that the graduate needs either for his career or for the next stage in his education, such as law school or medical school. But it may be that the greater value of college lies elsewhere: in providing association with people of above-average intelligence, in imbuing young people with general work skills (discipline, working under supervision, following directions, being evaluated, basic writing and speaking skills, some foreign language proficiency), in fostering ambition, and in providing information to future employers about job applicants that enables better matching of workers with jobs. It is plausible that these noninformational benefits of a college education are valuable across a vast range of jobs and will enable the holders of those jobs to obtain good middle-class incomes. Police officers, prison guards, firemen, noncommissioned officers in the military, sales personnel, nannies, tour guides, secretaries, hotel receptionists, IT staff, medical technicians, store managers, auto mechanics, and many other workers who do not require a college education for their jobs may nevertheless be of significantly greater value to their employer if they have such an education and may be compensated accordingly. Finally, a college education may not only increase incomes in ways different from building up a stock of knowledge but also may reduce people’s living costs by making them more adept at household management.

But even if this is right (and Krugman wrong), it doesn’t follow that there should be massive increases in public expenditures on education with a view toward increasing the number of people who obtain a college education. The number of people who have the IQ and character traits that would enable them to benefit, in the ways described above, from a college education is inherently limited, and maybe all or most of them will obtain a college education under existing conditions for financing such an education.

And on the other hand (sort of):

So my conclusion is that America will benefit greatly from increasing the numbers of young men and women who go to and graduate from colleges and universities. To do that, however, will require improving the preparation received at K-12 levels, including the education at the very earliest school levels for young children poorly prepared for school. The challenges are enormous, but the potential gains are worth considerable effort from public and private bodies.

Per usual, the comments are the best part.

Think, Know, Prove–Credentials of Economic Value

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

Walking out of the State of the College Address two weeks and a day ago, I was approached by our fabulous English faculty member, Sarah Liston with a request: “Can you put up a post about what the phrase “credential of economic value” means?

Anita Kelley had uttered the phrase during her presentation on Program Portfolio Review Task Force, and it immediately drew some quizzical looks and a little muttering from the crowd around me, leading me to believe, when she asked, that it would make a great TKP forum.

So, this is it. Just what is a “credential of economic value,” anyway? How would you define that term? Do you think that it is a necessary condition for an educational program to have value? Is it a sufficient condition to call a learning path valuable? Is the money that students make from the educational credential a correlate of the value of the education, or a serendipitous but not correlated effect of the value of the education, or is it (the money) the cause and definition of the value of any academic credential?

Feel free to answer any, all or none of the above.

When it comes to “credentials of economic value,” what do you Think? What do you Know? What can you Prove?