A Response to “College Degree Scam”


Dr. Carole Hornby Haynes article in the July 31, 2013 American Thinker is both thought provoking and disappointing.

Is the nearly universal call for more and more college graduates from the professional educator class and over-educated Progressives really a scam?  Or could it be a stealth recognition of the abject failure of our union controlled public primary and secondary educational system?

Dr. Haynes’ opening statement, “For years we’ve heard the propaganda line that everyone needs to go to college — that a degree will improve your status and standard of living” grossly understates the case.  From my own experience, this mantra has been shoved down the throats of gullible high school students (and their parents) for decades.  And the main culprits for this forced feeding have frequently been high school “guidance” counselors.

Imagine, a member of the NEA or AFT suggesting that after twelve years of their tender ministrations within a superior educational environment, the kids that these schools graduate with their brand new high school diplomas haven’t learned anything in sufficient quantity to entice a business to employ them…at ANY level.

Later in her column, Dr. Haynes notes that:

“A January 2013 study by the Center for College Affordability presents empirical evidence that colleges and universities are churning out graduates faster than the labor markets are creating jobs requiring college degrees.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that only 20 percent of U.S. jobs require a bachelor’s degree or more. About another 10 percent require some post-high school instruction, including an associate’s degree. Against this need, the United States is already producing a workforce with about 30 percent holding a bachelor’s degree and another 10 percent with an associate’s degree.”

Dr. Haynes seems to overlook a number of items in this.

First, colleges and universities, while being nominally “not-for-profit” organizations are not at all averse to profiting personally from wages and benefits that accrue to professors and administrators of such institutions.  It is their own economic best interest to market themselves as absolutely essential to life as we know it, or at least as life as we would like to know it.  These same marketing manager/college administrator types try desperately to position their products in the same way that Rolls Royce positions the sale of their vehicles.  They subtly sell the idea that the more it costs, the better and more valuable it really is.  And consumers view this sales pitch with remarkably credulity.  The classic “Giffen Good” or perhaps “Veblen Good” scenario.  The “Ivy League” schools have lived on this sales pitch for years.  This is not to imply that many Ivy League graduates are not well educated, but only that their estimation of their own economic worth might well be disproportionate to their abilities.

Next there is the question of how the BLS decided that only 20 percent of jobs require a BS/BA.  I can only speak from personal experience as a working manager who has hired (and occasionally fired) hundreds of employees over the past forty years.  During the screening of applicants the correlation between literacy and possession of a high school diploma was not exactly a 1:1 relationship.  Possession of a college diploma sort of hinted at the ability to read and write, but that only meant that training such an individual would be easier.  So, understandably, when reviewing resumes there would be a decided bias in favor of a college graduate over a person with only a high-school diploma.

Dr. Haynes recognizes this effect, without identifying the cause, when she says:

“No longer is a college degree as prized as it once was. Today it is the new high school diploma — the gateway for getting even the lowest-level jobs. High school graduates are being told they are unqualified for jobs they once were able to get, such as security officers, cargo agents, clerks, and claims adjusters.”

Gee, Doc, why do you think that might be?

Dr. Haynes also notes that there is a disproportionate impact on women due to this “credential inflation” as she labels it. As she states:

“Degree inflation hits women workers the hardest. About 96 percent of administrative positions, including secretaries, receptionists, paralegals, and clerks have traditionally been held by women. These jobs, which offered women one of the best paths to a middle-class income without a college diploma, now require a college degree.”

While one cannot argue with the observed results, once again causality is ignored. And offsetting the concern that these careers didn’t require any post-secondary education in the past, the number of women graduating from college with a BS/BA degree has exceeded the number of males graduating since the early 1990s.  So while Dr. Haynes is probably correct in her assessment that there are many administrative roles that were formerly available to women without degrees, the implication that the number of women excluded from those careers because of a lack of a degree is enormous, might not actually be the case.

The diploma mills of our post-secondary education industry seem to be absolutely committed to milking money from students regardless of gender.

Again, while much of what Dr. Haynes writes is factual, and unarguable, in many ways, she does not delve into what can be seen as the root cause of the “feeding frenzy” to get a college degree.  The need in the real world for a post-secondary education is not because employers have upped their requirements, or that the jobs that need to be filled are more difficult than in the past, but rather that the nation’s union-dominated school systems are not doing the job that needs doing.  The AFT, the NEA, the politically driven school boards, the Department of Education are showing us that they are, in fact, utter frauds and failures.  This is the causality that Dr. Haynes should be addressing.

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About Jim Yardley

Retired after 30 years as a financial controller for a variety of manufacturing firms, a two-tour Vietnam veteran, and independent voter.
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