Admission Against Interest: Professor Says We Already Have Enough College Students
In a recent column in The Journal Record, an Oklahoma City business newspaper, Oklahoma City University law professor Andrew Spiropoulos challenges the conventional wisdom on the need for more college graduates.
“Gov. Mary Fallin and politicians-turned-higher-education-bureaucrats like Chancellor of the State System of Higher Education Glen Johnson and University of Oklahoma President David Boren agree that the state’s future relies upon more Oklahomans earning college degrees,” he wrote. “However, this aspiration may represent the triumph of hope over reality.”
As a university professor, I’ll benefit if more people go to four-year colleges. But self-interest aside, I think we need to be careful and skeptical about shoving more people into universities. …
The problem is that it is likely that university enrollments have reached, and probably surpassed, the number of high school graduates who can succeed in a quality four-year degree program. As the social scientist Charles Murray argues, if one analyzes the results of ability tests over time, only about 20 percent of the high school population demonstrates the capacity to do bachelor’s degree-level work. Americans, however, send twice as many high school graduates to universities than the ability of the pool of graduates would justify. We, then, should not be surprised that only two Oklahoma public four-year universities graduate more than half their students; many of these students never belonged there in the first place.
Our leaders need to stop raising false expectations about degrees, demeaning our children for their blunders, and start talking about what really matters. The hard truth is that you will not succeed in the 21st century without training after high school. A relative few can, and should, earn bachelor’s degrees and beyond, but for most people a four-year college is the wrong choice. We need to provide excellent community college and career training programs and encourage high school graduates to prepare for and take advantage of them.
Recent research from OCPA and CCAP suggests an overproduction of college graduates in Oklahoma, with the state losing an average of nearly 10,000 college graduates per year between 1994 and 2008. And if the state’s own labor-market projections are any indication, “the low demand for college graduates is not expected to change anytime soon.”