College Degrees Are Not Overrated

I have noticed a disturbing trend across the political spectrum of persons jumping on the bandwagon of claiming that college degrees are overrated. The claim that is being made more and more often is that outside of the hard sciences, medicine, and law; fewer people should be going to college and more people should be going into apprenticeships and skilled worker training programs instead of going to college (as opposed to in addition to going to college). This argument is often coupled with an argument that businesses should welcome and encourage this trend and hire more persons without college degrees.

When progressives jump on this bandwagon (often for well-intentioned reasons like desiring to lessen student debt and increase employment opportunities for persons of color), we are falling into a long-planned, well thought out, and meticulously implemented trap of the political right who have long seen that college education correlates with more progressive political views to the detriment of their hold on economic and political power. This is one of the reasons there has been a systematic defunding of public higher education over the past 50 years by the political right to make a college degree more and more inaccessible and expensive, which perpetuates inequality and creates worker servitude to college debt while suppressing the numbers of people who can afford a college degree.

Now that conservatives have successfully made public higher education more expensive by barely supporting it with public funds, all the while relentlessly cutting taxes for the wealthy, they want us to believe that the higher education they defunded is not worth it and that fewer people should go to college, and thus end up forgoing a liberal arts education and the development of critical thinking that helps make us all more informed, participatory, and wise citizens.

Conservative political power brokers know that a less educated populace is more susceptible to the manipulation of their propaganda and revisionist history. They know that persons who are less educated are much more likely to get their news from FOX, Newsmax, Breitbart, OAN, and talk radio than they are from credible journalism sources. One of the most honest things that ever came from Trump’s mouth was when he said “I love the poorly educated” after winning the Nevada Republican caucuses in 2016.

What we have to realize is that it is not the case that a college education is overrated. College is not overrated; college is overpriced, and the political right is responsible for making college overpriced by stripping it of public funds. What we need is more people in college from all backgrounds, and they need to be graduating without the debt that political conservatives in the United States have created by defunding higher education. This is not accomplished by devaluing college education. It is accomplished by investing appropriately in higher education to help create greater equality of opportunity and a more flourishing society for all.



  1. Underrating the importance of a college degree is also part of a larger trend to increasingly monetize the value of many, if not most dimensions, of life. I often refer to this as the “Antique Road Show” perversion. Whatever the subject, a constant question is “what’s it worth” in terms of cash value? Salaries, especially at a professional level, become a competitive scorecard. In this environment, it is easy to dismiss the importance of a liberal arts education that enables critical thinking and creative pursuits rather than growing one’s bank account. The new insight for me in reading your reflection, Mark, is the further manipulation of this trend in regards to higher education to support a political agenda.

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