The Case Against College

Peter Coy:

Last April, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities for students from families that earn up to $125,000 per year. It would also make community college tuition-free for everyone. Good idea or bad?

Advocates of lowering the barriers to college say doing so helps both the students and the U.S. economy. Sanders, one of 21 co-sponsors of the bill in the Senate and House, noted that Germany, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden already have tuition-free public colleges and universities. The U.S. must do the same, he said in a statement, “if we are to succeed in a highly competitive global economy and have the best-educated workforce in the world.”

The evidence of the benefits of a higher education seems indisputable: People with a bachelor’s degree earn 73 percent more than those with a high school diploma on average, up from a 50 percent advantage in the late 1970s. It stands to reason that, as computers and robots get more powerful, humans will have to be more educated to master them.