Yesterday's Economic Scene Column by David Leonhardt captures my biggest objection to the "not everybody should go to college" argument. He concludes the column by writing that:
I don’t doubt that the skeptics are well meaning. But, in the end, their case against college is an elitist one — for me and not for thee. And that’s rarely good advice.
First, some context. Fewer than one-third of 25-29 year-olds have earned a four-year degree, and even fewer adults from older generations have done similarly. And evidence abounds that students from high-SES families are far more likely to obtain a college diploma (to the extent that high-achieving high school students from poor families are less likely to earn a diploma than are lower-achieving students from wealthier families). The last stat that I read was that 67% of students at the top 200 or so colleges come from families ranking in the top quartile economically while only 10% come from households ranking in the bottom half. So if it's true that too many people are attending college, that probably means too many kids of high-SES parents are attending college.
But it seems that those who most forcefully demand that fewer people attend college and/or that more people should pursue other options possess college degrees themselves -- and plan on sending their own children to college. Depending on how one looks at it, that makes many of these arguments either elitist or hypocritical.