Jewish World Review June 17, 2004 /28 Sivan, 5764

Marty Nemko

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We already send too many students to college | We already send too many students to college. Among the bottom quarter (below 2.6 high school GPA and 850 SAT), only 20% graduate, even if they're given six years!

And John Kerry wants to dig deeper into the barrel and send 1.5 million more to college?

And among those in the bottom quarter who defy the odds and do graduate, they're rarely at the top of their class. So, with today's oversupply of degree holders, they must often settle for a job they could have gotten without college. Don't you know many degreed people who have non-professional jobs?

Colleges trumpet the statistic that college graduates earn more over their lifetime, but that doesn't apply to the bottom quarter. They would likely earn more if they chose one of the post-high-school options I'll suggest below.

Of course, college isn't just about career preparation. As colleges ever remind us, it's about enhancing the life of the mind. Unfortunately, the bottom quarter (and many other students) don't experience such loftiness. Too often, they're bored by professors' arcana and confused by their theories. And then there's calculus. What the bottom quarter typically does receive is an ongoing assault to self-esteem and a lot of student debt.

I'm particularly concerned about colleges' non-disclosure of the above to low-achieving minority students. In colleges' eagerness to diversify, they admit, indeed woo, minorities with poor high school records. Doing that is a bit like the Tuskegee medical experiments in which African-Americans were exposed to dangerous treatment without informed consent. Of course, the college treatment won't kill them; it will just decrease their chances of success and happiness.

And Kerry wants to send 1.5 million more to college?

If my child had bottom-quartile high school grades and SAT score, I'd suggest he or she consider a Small Business Administration program on how to start a business, or courses on how to become an effective yet ethical salesperson. If my child preferred a hands-on career, I'd encourage an apprenticeship or military stint to become, for example, an electrician or surveyor.

If I were president, I'd fund more apprenticeship programs and cut funding to colleges that admit students who'd be better off in a non-college alternative. I sure wouldn't send 1.5 million more to college.

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06/11/04: The case against work/life balance
05/13/04: The Dumbing of America and how to make it (and you) smarter
04/26/04: Do you talk too much?
12/08/03: How Open-Minded Are You, Really?
11/05/03: Driven to an early grave
08/18/03: The Truth About Teaching
05/12/03: Today's #1 hirer
04/30/03: What Are You Good At, Really?
04/10/03: Career advice I'd give my child
03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
02/11/03: The World's Shortest Course on Managing Diversity
02/03/03: The Good Employer
01/29/03: What do you want to be when you grow up?
01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko