Too Many Kids Go To College

Next Debate Previous Debate
TooManyKids

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CHICAGO IDEAS WEEK

The herd mentality that assumes college is the only path to reaching one’s full potential is under fire. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt, unemployment for those with bachelor’s degrees is at an all-time high, and entrepreneurs like the founders of Facebook and Microsoft prove that extraordinary success is possible without it. But recent studies show that college is economically beneficial even to those whose jobs don’t require it. Is it still the best way to ensure social mobility, or is America’s love affair with higher education unjustified?

  • For the motion

    For

    Peter Thiel

    PayPal Co-founder, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist

  • For the motion

    For

    Charles Murray

    Author of AEI Article, Are too many people going to college?

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Henry Bienen

    President Emeritus, Northwestern University

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Vivek Wadhwa

    Entrepreneur Turned Academic

  • Moderator Image

    Moderator

    John Donvan

    Author and correspondent for ABC News.

More about the Panelists
See Results See Full Debate Video Purchase DVD Read Transcript
Listen to the edited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to the unedited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Subscribe to the Podcast
Thiel

For The Motion

Peter Thiel

PayPal Co-founder, Tech Entrepreneur, Investor & Philanthropist

Known as the mentor to the PayPal mafia of entrepreneurs, Peter Thiel is a leading advocate of young people exploring alternatives to a college education. This year he launched the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, a two-year mentoring program that provides $100,000 in grants towards building the fellows’ businesses in biotech, technology, finance, education and more. In 2004, Thiel made the first outside investment in Facebook and now serves as a board member. Thiel currently serves as President of Clarium Capital Management LLC and Managing Partner of The Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund.

Learn more

Murray

For The Motion

Charles Murray

Author of AEI Article, Are too many people going to college?

A political scientist, Charles Murray is the author of two of the most widely debated and influential social policy books, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 and, with the late Richard J. Herrnstein, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. In his most recent book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, Murray challenges educational romanticism with his third truth: “too many people are going to college.”

Learn more

Henry Bienen

Against The Motion

Henry Bienen

President Emeritus, Northwestern University

A member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Economic Development and Planning Committee, Henry Bienen launched his career in academics at Princeton University in 1966 as an assistant professor. In 1994, he was elected President of Northwestern University and currently serves as President Emeritus. Mr. Bienen is one of the first three university presidents awarded the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award for innovative leadership in higher education, Chairman of the Board of Rasmussen College and on the board of the Chicago Public Schools.

Learn more

Vivek Wadhwa

Against The Motion

Vivek Wadhwa

Entrepreneur Turned Academic

Vivek Wadhwa is Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University and a Senior Research Associate for the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. A respected pioneer for his groundbreaking research on the globalization of R&D and innovation, Wadhwa advises several start-ups, founded two software companies, and is a columnist for The Washington Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

Learn more

Declared Winner: For The Motion

Online Voting

About This Event

Event Photos

PrevNext Arrows
    PrevNext Arrows

    55 comments

    • Comment Link Halee Hill Thursday, 12 December 2013 03:45 posted by Halee Hill

      When going to college it opens up new experiences, so in this debate I defiantly agree that everyone should go to college, it is a great way to engage with people, learn about interesting things, and become an all round educated person. I am currently a freshman and Lewis Clark State College, I have been attending for only a semester and I can defiantly see the changes in myself and my knowledge growth. Going into college I thought I wanted to be a Psychiatrist, I took all my core class's that were required for a freshman to take. About two weeks into my first semester one of college study class's assigned us to research our occupation. As I was writing my paper and gathering information, I was slowly realizing that Psychiatry was slowly losing my interest as I wrote and researched this topic. After I handed in paper I immediately wanted to change my direction. My point to this story is, college changed my perspective on what I wanted to become. So I defiantly owe it to my college studies class for helping me get on the right path to my future. Without college I may have pursued the wrong career.

    • Comment Link Min Yuan Thursday, 12 December 2013 02:28 posted by Min Yuan

      The important of foundation education in college is undoubted. “The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change”. Carl Rogers, the American psychologist said, so I consider it is not too many kids go to college but not enough kids go to college. Maybe ten years ago the college is too expensive and college might be not have much program to help the student who study very hard and want keep study in college but they don’t have money, however, now the college does pay smart people to take their chance to be educated, including many studies. In China, ten years ago, college students accounted for under 8% of the population. Generally the Chinese intellect, ethics, and quality of personality is low, the city has all sorts of crimes, unethical behavior could be seen everywhere during that time. In 2000, our government decided to develop education, especially focus on college basic education. In ten years, the percentage of Chinese college students in the population has risen to 15%. During the decade, the country's developmental speed is obviously fast, this is because college education plays a very important role. Because most of college graduate students have social skill ability, responsibility, ethical standards. College education will effect others, so China developed fast because they have more of these kind of people. With these facts how can you say that too many kids go to college?

    • Comment Link DG Thursday, 12 December 2013 02:25 posted by DG

      While I was taking a year off from school I worked at a very large salon in Spokane where people can get haircuts and colors. My job title was "front desk coordinator". Everyday I had new problems pop up and had fun solving them. When someone would quit their job I was in charge of finding them a new replacement. I would do this by putting a status on Facebook that we were hiring at the front desk and I would place an ad on craigslist. The first time I was going through this I was shocked that in the first week alone I got 220 applications. As I looked though all of these, what shocked me more was that 84% of these people had college degrees that were not in the hair industry. These were people who had dedicated 4 years of their life to the promise of a better future only to settle for a minimum wage job. This is just one of many stories that you can hear from many businesses. The problem is not that these are good, educated people, it’s that the degrees they got in college are for jobs that do not have many openings if any at all. Competition is stiff enough already in finding work. It doesn't help that most of the "good jobs" have no open positions. As Vivek Wadhwa said in the debate "going to college makes you a competitor". Even though he is against the motion this statement helped the motion for "too many kids go to college". These days life is a game and we are all in to win it. When you apply for a job the person interviewing knows what type of person you are and they will only hire you if you are the best of the best. Most kids get out of college and are just average. When they apply for the jobs they want to get they either find someone better or don't hire anyone until the perfect person comes a long. When I would hire people I once waited 3 months for the perfect candidate who was the right fit. We live in a world that is filling up very fast, so in order for students to get the jobs they want before they go to college, colleges need to tell these students what jobs are available around the world along with students doing some research before they go to college and figure out what career opportunities are available.

    • Comment Link JT Thursday, 12 December 2013 01:36 posted by JT

      I agree with the fact that too many kids go to college. That being said, I did find this argument to be very interesting and enjoyed hearing arguments from both parties who participated in the debate. The reason I am agreeing with Mr. Thiel and Mr. Murray is that I believe that college today is too expensive and that not every high school graduate should be breaking the bank and applying for student loans for an education that statistically could not be worth the money spent. In addition, I personally believe that too many kids today go to college for the wrong reasons. I believe that young adults today go to college for the wrong reasons. There are a lot of teens today that are going to college because their parents or someone else are telling them to or because they just want to party rather than actually focus on education.

      The debate over the topic if too many kids go to college was a very fun debate to watch. I enjoyed hearing all of the arguments each side had to offer and I really enjoyed the fact that the audience voted before and after the debate to see if there was a change, which, in fact, there was.

    • Comment Link Breanna Thursday, 12 December 2013 01:08 posted by Breanna

      The sole reason so many kids are going to college is just to get an interview for a job that they want. The whole idea for college is to expand the mind and learn about new and amazing topics. Having a BA used to be prestigious and honorable now it says almost nothing about who a person is. I believe that the education system needs to be rethought and improved. Many of the core classes are pointless and unrelated to the major you are studying. The whole point of education is to expand you mind and enlighten your thinking skills. College should be focused on job obtaining skills that will help you in the real world. Education is important but isn’t teaching to its full potential. I also agree with the fact that even a little bit of education is better than no education at all but paying for college is more difficult than it should be. If the prices are rapidly increasing why isn’t the value of education increasing at the same rate? If the college level isn’t being improved the high school system must be improved for the kids who does not want to have to go to college just to get a semi-decent job. A high school diploma is almost meaningless. People who only went to high school are looked down upon, which is wrong. If the high school curriculum was stronger college wouldn’t have to be a necessity for obtaining a job.

    • Comment Link Kea Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:46 posted by Kea

      I know that cost is a factor that drives many people away from attending college. Granted, the price of tuition is sky rocketing, but there are many financial options available. One option is a program that parents can set up for their children. The program is called "G.E.T." (Gauranteed Education Tuition). Basically, parents can buy credits at today's cost, instead of waiting to buy credits when their children are ready for college. This is a great way to save money as tuition prices continue to rise. Another great option for students is taking college credit classes in high school. By doing so, students have the opportunity to finish credits before going to college, which helps to complete pre-requisites earlier than normal. A similar way to do this is through a "running start" program. This program is completed through a community college, where students have the ability to work towards graduating high school with not only a high school diploma, but an associates degree too. The associates degree, if transferred correctly, potentially completes all pre-requisites. Even if students don't give themselves a "running start" they still have the option of attending community college after high school. As Wadhwa mentioned, the only big difference between a community college and an Ivy League school like Stanford is cost. Just like running start, students can get their associate’s degree, potentially getting all of their core classes out of the way and saving thousands of dollars in the process. To complete the list of cost-cutting alternatives, scholarships and financial aid can help with tuition costs immensely. There are thousands of scholarships available, and its just takes hard work and persistence for students to find ones that they qualify for. Financial aid also helps, and in a lot of cases can cut tuition down by a very large amount. All of these options can help to diminish the high cost of tuition. From my point of view, it is difficult to push the idea of college away because of financial reasons when there are so many opportunities to make it affordable.

    • Comment Link *cpalm Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:43 posted by *cpalm

      College is a major decision in life. Now days we see so many kids going to college, i feel the purpose of college is more social then educational. The majority of college students today are wasting there time. There are so many ways to learn, why is a college degree so important? For a fraction of the price of higher education one might peruse a business venture, or even first begin how to create income. There are endless ways to obtain free knowledge. millions of people would benefit from these books, videos,and real world experience. College is a gamble. the purpose of college is to ensure a job in the future. Well that is not the case with today's graduates. while most jobs can be done with skilled knowledge and tricks of the trade, a college degree can be helpful to a handful of people perusing a technical job. It would be interesting to see the percentage of successful people who have not attended college. movie stars, athletes, rock stars and entrepreneurs. this number would be shocking to see. like my dad always said. life's not fair get use to it. some attend and do well, while some drop out and make millions.

    • Comment Link Jeffrey Vicory Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:39 posted by Jeffrey Vicory

      To ever say too many kids go to college is quite absurd. While the process of the educational system is debatable, it is this the only place kids can go to get educated in all the areas and more for a career they would enjoy. The main concern should not be that there is just too many kids going to college in general, but that there is too many kids going to school without the correct guidance. If more kids just stopped going to school, the entry level jobs would overflow with applicants and unemployment rates would get even higher than they are now. But if more kids started to going to school with the correct guidance, schools would not be producing more students than there is jobs available and kids would have a very good chance at a good career when they graduate from college. (Bienen) stated that a low 4.3 percent of college graduates are unemployed. Imagine if all the students had the correct guidance to a career with a positive growth rate instead of a negative growth rate, such as a doctor. Surely the kids wouldn't keep on registering for degrees when they see how much the odds stack against them.

    • Comment Link Lyssa H. Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:14 posted by Lyssa H.

      As a second semester college attendee hearing and seeing this debate really made me take a second look at my choices. I have always thought that high schools brainwash students into thinking college is the only way to be successful. I never really wanted to go to college right out of high school and I didn’t. I waited almost two years working crappy minimum wage jobs before I finally decided I needed to make a change. Well seeing this debate and hearing both sides of the argument really shook me up. I do believe too many kids are going to college, but I also believe there are too many adults going BACK to college as well. Part of the reason that so many college graduates are stuck in low end jobs is because people who have been working for ten plus years are graduating at the same time and they have work experience. I know the debate doesn’t really touch on going back to college so I will leave that alone…
      This debate was well organized and truly informative not just for the negative side but also for the affirmative side as well. Just the numbers alone were completely mind boggling. To try and think about some of the large numbers, “17 million” just as an example. It really frightens me and I am not sure if I want to continue my education; if I am going to just become another statistic. There is no for sure moment when you can say well college just isn’t for everyone, but it’s perfect for me. Some people will spend their entire lives just trying to gain more knowledge, but never really valuing the pieces of paper they are given, while others go to school for four to five years, take that piece of paper and try to make it worth something so they never have to go back to school again. There is just no guarantee that you will become a part of these statistics until you try and succeed, or try and fail.
      Yes, too many kids are going to college.

    • Comment Link kejohnston Wednesday, 11 December 2013 23:46 posted by kejohnston

      The statement "too many kids attend college" is not necessarily true. Why would anyone complain about too many going to college anyway? I would rather have too many students going then not that much. The kids that attend just to waste their time and socialize end up leaving their first year or second year. If not enough people went then a lot more people would be in loss of jobs, and have a ton of taxes they need to pay. Attending college means that you are ready to succeed and actually get a future doing something you planned to do. Peter Theil stated something along the lines, that 50,000 students will graduate from law school but only 30,000 of them will get a job. I would rather have too many people ready and prepared to become a lawyer than barely enough. If you graduate from law school, you have to be pretty good to become a lawyer right away anyway. They can do other jobs while waiting. If you go into college to be a lawyer or a doctor or a big job along those lines, you are or should be prepared that you aren't going to be one as soon as you graduate. Those jobs take time and patience. I believe that everyone who goes to college, whether you drop out right away or you almost graduate, or if you do graduate, it's going to be beneficial either way. Some education is still education and you still learn thing. I think more people should go to college. It would be less crime rates, less homeless people, and less people with no jobs. It will always be useful and worth your time.

    • Comment Link Erika Wednesday, 11 December 2013 23:36 posted by Erika

      As Charles Murray notes, "the BA is supposed to signify, in a very old-fashioned term, that you are an educated man, now -- an educated person." Everyone would now agree with the fact that a diploma doesn't represent that anymore. Instead of focusing on the quality of education, universities and state colleges focus on bringing in as much profit they can possibly obtain. If rumor has it that a particular school has easy classes with no homework, students are likely to enroll there faster than any other school, just to make the degree easier to acquire. College institutions don't care about the quality of education the school puts out, but rather the influx of dollar bills and college debt yet to come. So why go to college?

      Murray also mentions the fact that "You can talk to employers all over the country who will tell you about applicants who have BAs, who can't write grammatical sentences in their applications and sometimes can't read very well." Not only do we make college a necessity for most jobs and success in America, but we also criticize people for not pursuing higher education after high school. In 1960, only eight percent of Americans actually had a college degree (Murray). College was rare and made for an everlasting prestige over everyone else, but just receiving a high school diploma wasn't looked down upon by others. So why do we look down upon those without a college degree?

    • Comment Link T-Rex Wednesday, 11 December 2013 22:34 posted by T-Rex

      As a college student I find that already I have gone through numerous experiences that many of my friends outside of college have not gone through, and therefore can't make a connection to. As well as going through these experiences I have to deal with a way to pay for college. I go to a state college, this is a much cheaper solution than going to a large University. The nation also does a good job making sure there are plenty of grants and scholarships available for students, as well as loans. With this help schooling is still expensive but not as bad as some people make it out to be. I agree that some people should not go to college but if they are going to pay for it and use their money for it then it shouldn't be anybody else's business.
      I believe that reforming the elementary and high school education to better prepare children for real life would be a wise choice. This would make it so that not all children have to go to college to get a job and they could actually get a job that they would be able to live on without further education.

    • Comment Link Mallory M. Wednesday, 11 December 2013 22:02 posted by Mallory M.

      Both sides have very good points about the pluses and minuses of college. However, neither side mentions what happens to people who don’t attend and what the social consequences of that are. While I think that everyone should further their education I do not believe that this furthering has to be done in college. I wish that both sides of the argument would have dug just a little bit deeper into the fact that society has guided my generation into believing that we have to go to college. That if we don’t we are lesser educated people in a world that only cares about how much money you make and where you got your “education.” Not once did either side mention that it is almost necessary for my generation to go to college or else we are failures because we are not educated, or that education is turning into the importance of grades and not the actual learning of things. To my generation it seems as if there is no other option but to go to college and I believe that is where this argument comes from, the fact that we feel the need to go not the want to.

    • Comment Link JamieL Wednesday, 11 December 2013 19:25 posted by JamieL

      I believe that all students in the United States of America should have the ability to attend higher eduction. The Untied States has one of the best education systems in the world and the student and people that the United States produces is some of the most successful over all. The thing that is wrong with the United States education system is not the higher education system it is the elementary through high school education system that needs to be changed. Education is such a big part of the United States, it is part of the American dream that our country was founded on. The history of education in the United States has been part of the state since England took over the country. Since the country was first being developed the issue of education was always on the front burner. United States education has seen its ups and downs with black and white schools and also allowing women to be educated but today we now have the most unique and successful education systems in the world.

    • Comment Link Brooke Schumacher Wednesday, 11 December 2013 18:30 posted by Brooke Schumacher

      If the world was made up of a bunch of “you’s” and everyone thought, acted, and spoke just like you would everything still work out great? No, diversity is important. Nothing will last if new aspects aren’t added. This pertains to the world because we need new things coming in and out. Not only new ideas but also people and actions. If we never advance we will fall behind. There shouldn’t only be a few people coming up with all the new ideas that the world has to offer. Eventually humans will run out of ideas. We are not perfect. New ideas are only possible through a higher education. 70% of the US population doesn’t come up with an idea to help our nation grow stronger but remember everyone does have an impact. We know this because people can vote for the people making the big decisions. Vivek Wadhwa states that our power has come from the educated people. He believes that in order to stay on top diversity is crucial. Without new educated minds there will not be new ideas. Wadhwa points out that other countries don’t have everyone going to school and getting educated because they don’t have to means to do so. The United States has the means and needs to take advantage of what they already have.

    • Comment Link Addie Wednesday, 11 December 2013 16:19 posted by Addie

      As Thiel states it, “education hasn’t gotten much better than in the years past”, “college prices have gone up leaving behind bigger debts”, and it is “producing too many employees in fields that don’t need it”. Job fields, such as teaching, are over filled. There is not enough work to be done with the amount of people colleges are putting out and many are getting laid off due to new investments and technology. Many students still go to school with the dream of becoming a teacher and spend many years in higher education learning how to teach correctly and effectively. But in reality, the job field is overfilled and many teachers across the U.S. are getting laid off. In June of 2012, President Barack Obama said:
      "So it should concern everyone that right now – all across America – tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off....Think about what that means for our country. When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start falling behind. And our economy takes a hit." (Council of Economic Advisors)
      It is a tragedy that many teachers are falling off and out of our schools. Class sizes are getting bigger and it seems that there needs to be more of a demand for teachers but as the President had said, “tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off”, so why are we producing many many more future teachers that right now, are far from being in demand? All the kids in college are just getting herded along like cattle through a program that will most likely not have a profession for them as they graduate from college. Having no job in the real world after attending college leaves major debts and is a set back into someones life.

    • Comment Link Gabby Wednesday, 11 December 2013 15:29 posted by Gabby

      The fact that people actually think that too many people go to college is concerning to me. We should be proud that people want to recieve a higher education. Yes, college isnt for some people, but it should be offered to all. We shouldnt make it harder for people to get into college, it should be their own choice. Yes, college is expensive but there are many oppurtunties to recieve help such as grants, scholarships, and financial aid. College students are also more likely to recieve jobs over those who did not attend college. Why would we complain about taking more classes then we need to? Those classes that you are required to take for your major are what makes you a well rounded student. These classes arent a waste of money, they help you experience new ideas and subjects and you might actutally find something you're more interested in. You learn more from college then just about your major. You develop a good work ethic and better time management skills. You dont need to spend thousands of dollars going to a big university when you can get just as good of an education at a smaller college.

    • Comment Link Harely Wednesday, 11 December 2013 03:17 posted by Harely

      I found this argument very interesting, both sides made some good key points, but I find my self agreeing with more people needing to go to college,even in the state our economy is in, the cost of college and living expenses. a worthwhile investment is what college is you can only better yourself by going to college. college is an experience that shapes your life, gives you the skills to do what you want to do with your life.

      The way the world is going with our technological advancements and advance job skills required,it would be hard to come in off the street to get a well paying job.Cost of living is becoming to high to just take up a minimum wage job to meet your needs. This is what college provides us a chance to get our grasp on a subject of our choosing,your better off getting an education that meets your goals in life.

    • Comment Link tdrag21 Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:31 posted by tdrag21

      I agree that too many “kids” go to college. I think we have too many kids on campus who are there because mommy and daddy made them go. If that is the case then I don’t think that is right. I am all for a person going to college to get an education and better themselves, but only the people who are truly there to do just that. A person should go to college by their own choice.

      I have witnessed some kids in one of my classes who were obviously not in that room to learn. They goof off and Instagram on their phones all class period. So because this student has “done the time” at college he gets a better job because he has a degree, over someone who has experience and no degree?

      Now I don’t consider any education to be considered a waste, as long as some knowledge is attained. I just think people need to make their own decision and go when they are ready to learn.

    • Comment Link jason Tuesday, 10 December 2013 20:57 posted by jason

      What I saw in this debate is that both sides want the same thing. They should have reworded the motion, something to the affect of education reform. Wadhwa challenges Peter Thiel to reform education but not at the college level. The problem isn't higher education, it is elementary and high school. Many young people are victims of a failing education system do to apathetic teachers. According to the National center of education statistics 21 percent of first year college students have to take remedial classes such as math or English because somewhere in their education someone dropped the ball and college professors have to pick up the slack. Nobody talks about how we rank almost last in almost every subject around the world. Literacy in this country is atrocious. According to the program for international student assessment the U.S. ranked last out of the nations sited with a score of 498 out of 1000 while china came in first with a scored of 570.
      We are supposed to be the shining light the beacon of humanity but we have, as a nation gotten lazy. However we can't just blame teachers for our failing education system we must also hold parents accountable. Not enough parents are involved in their schools or they don't convey to their children the importance of education. I also challenge anyone who can help to actually help not throw money at the problem but get involved. You can't rebuild a house from the top down. You have to start at the foundation.

    Leave a comment

    Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.