Higher education is a major issue in current public debate. Should it be accessible for everyone? Why or why not? If not, for whom? How much responsibility should federal and state governments bear for providing higher education? These questions are complicated, difficult, and likely to remain in open debate for a long time. Consider, for example, a series of op-ed essays called “Should College Be for Everyone?” that the New York Times recently published. This piece, written by Lawrence Mishel of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, is part of the series, and was published in March 2012.
- Mishel outlines three key requirements for ensuring that non-college jobs are worthwhile, respectable, and desirable. Do you agree that the three components Mishel identifies are all necessary? Are they sufficient? What would you add or subtract from his list? Explain your reasoning.
- You’re in college now. Why did you choose to pursue a college degree? How much of your motivation was economic in nature? What other factors entered into your decision? If you were to learn that your college degree wouldn’t change your lifetime earning potential, would getting a degree still be your goal?
- You may find a great deal of overlap between Mishel’s argument here and Charles Murray’s argument in chapter 14 of your textbook. In what ways do their approaches differ? Which of the two arguments is more persuasive to you? Why?
- Mishel concludes with a call to challenge the “snobbery” he sees in attitudes that college graduates are somehow superior to non-graduates. Have you observed this snobbery in your life? Would your own attitudes meet Mishel’s description of snobbery? How would you respond to Mishel’s assessment? Write an essay in which you examine the attitudes around you—yours and those of people influential in your life—towards non-college graduates. Are they considered less intelligent? Less skilled?