Four Reasons Why College Degrees Are Becoming Useless

Authored by Jonathan Newman via The Mises Institute,

Students are running out of reasons to pursue higher education. Here are four trends documented in recent articles:

Graduates have little to no improvement in critical thinking skills

The Wall Street Journal reported on the troubling results of the College Learning Assessment Plus test (CLA+), administered in over 200 colleges across the US.

According to the WSJ, “At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table”. The outcomes were the worst in large, flagship schools: “At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years.”

There is extensive literature on two mechanisms by which college graduates earn higher wages: actually learning new skills or by merely holding a degree for the world to see (signaling). The CLA+ results indicate that many students aren’t really learning valuable skills in college.

As these graduates enter the workforce and reveal that they do not have the required skills to excel in their jobs, employers are beginning to discount the degree signal as well. Google, for example, doesn’t care if potential hires have a college degree. They look past academic credentials for other characteristics that better predict job performance.

Shouting matches have invaded campuses across the country

It seems that developing critical thinking skills has taken a backseat to shouting matches in many US colleges. At Evergreen State College in Washington, student protests have hijacked classrooms and administration. Protesters took over the administration offices last month, and have disrupted classes as well. It has come to the point where enrollment has fallen so dramatically that government funding is now on the line.

The chaos at Evergreen resulted in “anonymous threats of mass murder, resulting in the campus being closed for three days.” One wonders if some of these students are just trying to get out of class work and studying by staging a campus takeover in the name of identity politics and thinly-veiled racism.

The shouting match epidemic hit Auburn University last semester when certain alt-right and Antifa groups (who are more similar than either side would admit) came from out of town to stir up trouble. Neither outside group offered anything of substance for discourse, just empty platitudes and shouting. I was happy to see that the general response from Auburn students was to mock both sides or to ignore the event altogether. Perhaps the Auburn Young Americans for Liberty group chose the best course of action: hosting a concert elsewhere on campus to pull attention and attendance away from both groups of loud but empty-headed out-of-towners. Of the students who chose not to ignore the event, my favorite Auburn student response was a guy dressed as a carrot holding a sign that read, “I Don’t CARROT ALL About Your Outrage.”



Trade schools and self-study offer better outcomes for many

College dropouts are doing just fine, bucking the stereotype. Some determined young people are skipping college altogether to pursue their business ideas. Many are also choosing trade schools, which require less time and tuition money, but graduates end up with a specific set of skills. Trade school graduates leave school prepared for the industry they enter, where they can earn much higher wages than many four-year degree-holders.

Young men in particular are leaving colleges in droves. Over the past decade, 30% of male freshmen dropped out before starting a second year. The journalists, psychologists, and sociologists who comment on this trend can’t figure out how to fit it into a narrative [emphasis mine]:

“This is very concerning to me,” Hunter Reed said. Young men — like all students, she emphasized — need support from a variety of groups to thrive in higher education.


“The most successful have a sense of place in college,” she said.


Stark, 28, studied computer science for a year and a half before leaving Metro State University to study on his own.


Now a software engineer for a music company in Denver, Stark also DJs at some of the area’s most notable nightclubs. “What I was getting in the classroom just didn’t jibe with me. I felt I could teach myself on the Internet,” he said.


He worked a fast-food job and then took a corporate gig to support himself while he studied on his own. The alternative, he said, was to work four years to get a bachelor’s degree and then another year or two to earn a master’s degree, then “go to work for some huge company and go home at night and live my life with my family. And that just didn’t sound appealing to me at the time.”

Notice the call for helping these poor young men “thrive in higher education” that precedes a small anecdote about one man who dropped out and ended up just fine. Later in the same article, the author says that young men shouldn’t assume they will do well if they drop out, but then equivocates by turning it into a gender wage-gap problem to explain how some men do seem to turn out fine after dropping out:

Observers say many young men delude themselves into thinking they are one idea away from being the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They think they can make a fortune without a college degree, said Riseman. “As a result, they enter college with little sense of purpose and end up failing out,” he said. “While these dropouts imagine they can succeed without a degree, successful start-ups are rare.”


While young men without degrees, in general, land higher-paying jobs than their female peers, many of the top-paying jobs are in high-risk industries like oil and gas or manufacturing.

Tuition is increasing, but future earnings are decreasing

In another recent WSJ article, we see the financial consequences of these trends. While tuition keeps climbing across the country, the prospective earnings of graduates aren’t keeping up. There is a lot of variation across colleges and majors, but the overall trend is that the returns to a four-year degree are decreasing.

Since students are just getting started in life, it means that they must borrow to pay for these expensive degrees that don’t guarantee higher earnings. Total student loans are at $1.3 trillion and climbing. These loans have no collateral and cannot be dissolved through bankruptcy.


The New York Fed tracks the delinquency rate for different types of loans. As of the first quarter of 2017, total student loan debt was increasing the most and had the highest delinquency rate.

These trends are unsustainable. The higher education system seems to be suffering from both economic and cultural issues, but these two types of problems often cause each other in a feedback loop. The ultimate cause for both of them is political.



kommissar GunnerySgtHartman Fri, 06/16/2017 - 00:04 Permalink

you're wallowing in filth.  like a pig.  no offense, though, you just don't know it.  i stopped csu when they shoved multi culti nigger music up my ass instead of real music at the same time.  my professor KNEW that i wanted a true classic music appreciation class, and apolgized to me when we were alone in the classroom on the last day.  i was a lutheran that went to catholic school (so no ass raping by priests), and knew what i was SUPPOSED to get for my $$$.  it's been fucked up since way before we were born.

In reply to by GunnerySgtHartman

3rdWorldTrillionaire Jason T Fri, 06/16/2017 - 01:08 Permalink

College isn't for everyone... plenty of good trades out there paying great wages (non-union). I'm looking to hire 40 great welders / laborers in Ohio and have to turn away most applicants due to drugs! I'll even take convicts or felons if they appear to be turning their lives around... but guys who currently test positive, I can't do it. Unless you're sharp as shit and plan on using that [quality] degree, go in to labor where there is a massive shortage of young talent: HVAC, plumbers, welders, ironworkers, railcars, O&G, etc... and for you slow ones, quality means STEM or high-level financial / lawyer / medical.

In reply to by Jason T

NoPension 3rdWorldTrillionaire Fri, 06/16/2017 - 05:40 Permalink

I'm almost 55. So far, still reasonably fit and healthy. Bit of a belly, but I like to eat a big meal in the evening. Worked as an electrician, boiler and hvac tech, anything construction...from equipment operator,concrete,layout, masonry,carpentry,welding and fab, roofing..etc.
Owned and operated an auto repair shop for over 15 a beautiful shop I constructed. Missed the " financial independence " opportunity at least three times...shit happens.
I have skills ....earned...that most can only dream of. I'm very busy doing "extreme quality" work for older clients who have the money and want to deal with one person who speaks English ...and implement their dreams.
I'm working hard..but it's enjoyable...and I pay my bills.

I cannot find any young help. It's not there. My " helper " is 67! He's at my shop every morning at 7:15. 6:00 am if need be...but fuck that. I learned by keeping my mouth shut, reading and working with skilled tradesmen. There are no young guys anymore...who have a work ethic...and can't keep their face out of an iPhone. These kids seem to want money for just breathing. My buds in business have the same problem. They are setting up small business, and employing family. Outside help, is just not to be found.

I can't worry about it anymore. I'd love to pass on my skills...but they don't want them. And the kids I do interact with are dumb as rocks. I don't know what they teach in schools today...but it's not readin,writen and rithmatic.

I've got work lined up for the rest of the year.

In reply to by 3rdWorldTrillionaire

Rhetorical 3rdWorldTrillionaire Fri, 06/16/2017 - 13:36 Permalink

Heavy equipment operator here. I know your hands are tied in regards to drugs and insurance. No one should ever operate or work while anything but sober either. But drug tests in general are assinine  when they test you for what youve done in  your off time. That being said I prioritize working and getting ahead more than smoking a joint but it is a factor in me quitting my job here in a few months.

In reply to by 3rdWorldTrillionaire

pitz Thu, 06/15/2017 - 17:22 Permalink

The use of the H-1B visa over considering qualified US citizen candidates for positions has been a giant problem across the STEM professions, particularly for new grads.  Many companies, in their STEM roles, haven't hired Americans in any significant numbers since the late 1990s. As far as university campuses, they are very hostile to 'normal' white men.  Before you even arrive on them, they force you to pay all sorts of fees to support 'causes' that the 'students union' endorses (why 'students unions' even have such powers of 'taxation' is a whole 'nother question).  Then they force you to buy health insurance, which disproportionately is used to pay for female birth control.  A whole litany of fees even before you set foot into a classroom.  And when you are in a classroom, as a 'normal' white male, the curriculum in many courses is intended to shame white men or cast them in a negative light.  Oh and don't even think of asking that pretty girl next to you on a date, chances are she is already sleeping with a sugar daddy simply to 'afford' college.  

Pork Rind pitz Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:15 Permalink

picture the  great old Michael Caine movie "Zulu" - 50 white Brit soldiers fought against thousands of black African Zulus and won - at the end of the movie, the black Africans showed their respect for the white Brits because they fought back - the niggers who over-ran our colleges have no respect because we don't fight - one way to fight them is to call them out for what they are - niggers - and their Jew sponsors - stop allowing them to control your language

In reply to by pitz

Pork Rind Pork Rind Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:22 Permalink

I went to University 35 years ago and there were very few negros - the negros were too stupid - but there were a lot of Jew professors even back then, they were arrogant little twats pushing the pro-Israel agenda. I am studying Math in my old age, all you need is calculus pdf textbook you can get it off the bit torrent, you don't need some little Jewish twat professor to teach you calculus. You can teach yourself.

In reply to by Pork Rind

Pork Rind Pork Rind Thu, 06/15/2017 - 18:28 Permalink

I'm about quarter way through the 1500 page calculus textbook. The precise definition of limits. How if the numorater and the demonitator approach zero at once, there will always be a way to determine the differential. How the sine of x is always less than x, and x is less than the tangent of x - that is how you prove that the differential of the sine function is the cosine function. Believe me, negros are too stupid to figure this out. And Pascal's pyramid is used to solve the differential of polynomial functions. Math is a miracle

In reply to by Pork Rind

Pumpkin Pork Rind Fri, 06/16/2017 - 07:32 Permalink

I always looked at higher math as a control mechanism.  THIS is how it is done, and THIS is how you do EXACTLY what I say, and you will learn it because I say so.  I have never used anything past the pythagorean theorem in everyday life (I'm not trying to put a spaceship on Mars or anything).  I can remember one day in trig, after the teacher filled up the third chalk board for the third time, I raised my hand and said, you know, I follow you here, and I can do this, but can you tell me a real world application for this?  The teacher stared at me for a moment, and said "No", and turned back and started writing on the board again.

In reply to by Pork Rind

Pork Rind Thomas Paine Fri, 06/16/2017 - 10:29 Permalink

I sure as hell do know how to spell numerator and denominator - you're making fun of an old man's drunken english - you trolls like to pick on old men - but I noticed you won't challenge me on my Math - if you did, you'd lose - you're so smart, you don't even know what the hell I'm talking about do you - about the differential of a trig function - you're so smart, you got on a fight club and call people "racist", next you'll be calling me a "hater", you talk just like a nigger Marxist - you marxist nigger troll - there is a uprate/downrate system on this forum - I had a post yesterday that recieved 35 likes - something I take pride in, I get on this forum and speak my mind, and I'm not worried about the tender feelings of niggers and their Jew sponsors - but a bland little marxist poster like you is ignored - that's because you're the troll and you're too stupid to know it

In reply to by Thomas Paine

Pork Rind siryessir08 Thu, 06/15/2017 - 20:35 Permalink

i had a little Jew professor of discrete mathematics - he used to write the formulas on a blackboard that wasn't visible to the students in the back of the room. The little arrogant Jew could care less. One day I stood up and told the little Jew "we can't see what you are writing back here" - the vindictive little Jew gave me a "C"

In reply to by siryessir08

Pork Rind Pork Rind Thu, 06/15/2017 - 22:16 Permalink

and then you could explain how Pascal's pyramid proves the differential of polynomial functions - not saying you can't - but just because you didn't have any Jewish professors - doesn't mean that Jewish professors don't exist - all of us old Math guys are trying to determine if the younger generation of Mathematicians are dumbed down

In reply to by Pork Rind

Bwana Pure Evil Fri, 06/16/2017 - 12:17 Permalink

You are both wrong. The progress of the battle was noted by both side and the original script was altered to comply more closely the Zulu's version of events. Once both sides agreed on what happened the Zulu's represented the Zulu's in the movie. The Zulu's had to leave to harvest their wheat crop before the English could burn the fields. If it was not for that reason the Zulu's would have remained at Rourk's Drift until the last soldier was killed. When the Zulus left they did salute the Brits because they fought well. It also may be noted that commanding officer developed 3 battlefield tactics that are still used today. Of all of the war movies the movie Zulu was probably the most authentic. They pulled a few things that I thought were out of line such as switching to  repeating rifles during the scenes where rapid fire was demonstrated because the actors couldn't reload the single shot rifles fast enough. If you notice outside the compound their is a spire on a stepped base. That is the site of the original battle. I have been there.

In reply to by Pure Evil

3rdWorldTrillionaire pitz Fri, 06/16/2017 - 01:14 Permalink

No offense, it's because the men of STEM don't dedicate themselves to learning the skills to be useful! They think C averages and a piece of paper will land them a job. News for you snowflakes, you have to earn this shit. Immigrants and foreigners are out-doing all you frat, liberal fucks. I'm 34, white, male and I despise my generation for its entitlement... you have to earn this shit, you pussies.

In reply to by pitz

pitz 3rdWorldTrillionaire Fri, 06/16/2017 - 02:50 Permalink

I know plenty of A and B average STEM grads.  White males. They can't find jobs.  Why?  Employers think they're "overqualified".   The employers specifically want foreigners, and they want the C students.  They know they will accept little, and since they persevered to graduate with a "C" average, they'll probably be endlessly greatful and dedicated.  

In reply to by 3rdWorldTrillionaire

land_of_the_few pitz Fri, 06/16/2017 - 03:02 Permalink

Try getting general STD screening as a considerate straight white guy with no exotic behavioral ptoblems or addictions at a Western university health clinic. Heh. Tumbleweed. Not even for cold hard cash, and no alternative suggestions given. Mentioning you might be getting married causes visible signs of panic and incomprehension. Oh noes, it's a real adult. "He's not playing, and wants something real".In a poorer country... 10 minute walk-in job in hyper modern lab. Results on psper and by email in 2 days, so comprehensive you can even check your iron levels. Most importantly, no bullshit, no but-but-but.

In reply to by pitz

equity_momo Thu, 06/15/2017 - 17:23 Permalink

Graduates have little to no improvement in critical thinking skills  NO SHIT SHERLOCK , VERY FEW DO.  WHY DOESNT ANYONE ASK WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?   When you were a young child you would have no qualms asking why and what for.  SHEEPLE have been indoctrinated with FEAR.   Fear of standing out. Of appearing "stupid"So no one asks why anymore. No one wants to "appear stupid". So we all live smug , hypocritical and dumb lives. Stop worrying. Start asking.

equity_momo RenoCarlino Thu, 06/15/2017 - 17:38 Permalink

Unless you have a real gift for math or science you shouldnt be engaging with any professors. The more subjective the subject the worse the professor will be. Kids are literally getting into life long debt to be dumbed down. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.That covers 99% of employees who take a paycheck from the government and most of our education system.

In reply to by RenoCarlino

rf80412 oddjob Thu, 06/15/2017 - 19:25 Permalink

Prefabricated construction.  A robot can set a toilet perfectly well in the controlled environment of a factory.Between affordable housing mandates and the bifurcation of society into the very rich and the very poor, who can't afford human labor in any context, most custom housing will disappear.

In reply to by oddjob