NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is College Necessary?

February 18, 2015

One-quarter of American presidents did not graduate from college, reports Claire Daniel in the Washington Examiner. The most recent man to hold the nation's highest office yet not graduate from college was Harry Truman, who began working for a railroad after he graduated from high school. The other presidents without college degrees include William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, Millard Fillmore, Zachary Taylor, William Henry Harrison, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson and George Washington.

While times have certainly changed, might America start to see fewer students enter college and head straight into the workforce? NCPA Research Associate Farhad Mirzadeh said as much in a recent report for the NCPA on the rising costs of college education, suggesting that students and parents -- who have seen a 160 percent, inflation-adjusted increase in college tuition and fees since 1990 -- may begin to question the value of a college degree. While tuition rates have skyrocketed, Mirzadeh explained that most of those dollars have not gone to instruction -- instead, colleges are hiring large numbers of administrative staff, replacing full-time faculty with adjunct professors and building luxury dorms and campus centers. 

Moreover, consider a recent report from NCPA Senior Fellow Pam Villarreal, who explained that some of the fastest job growth is projected to take place in skilled-trade industries that do not require a college degree, such as brick masonry, plumbing, pipefitting, construction, insurance sales and more. In fact, one survey reports that four of the top 10 jobs that are most difficult to fill do not require a college degree. Moreover, there are a number of fast-growing occupations that require only vocational training or an associate's degree, especially in the health care industry. For example, between 2010 and 2020, the United States is projected to see a 44 percent increase in demand for diagnostic medical sonographers, a 41 percent increase in occupational therapy assistant jobs and a 38 percent increase in opportunities for dental hygienists.

Source: Claire Daniel, "A surprising number of presidents never graduated college," Washington Examiner, February 16, 2015.

 

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