From a David Leonhardt piece here:
“You hear people say, ‘Well, a four-year degree isn’t needed,’ ” Connie Ballmer, the philanthropist and wife of the former Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer, recently told me.
“But then if you turn to them and say, ‘What do you want for your child?’ they wouldn’t dream of not having their kid go to a four-year college,” she continued. “They said it’s not needed — but they need it.”
Ballmer is right. The boomlet of skepticism about college comes disproportionately from upper-middle-class people who have the luxury of airing hypothetical concerns about education, without having to worry that their own children will be influenced by them. Yet the misplaced skepticism can do real damage to poor and working-class teenagers who hear it and take it seriously.
The evidence remains overwhelming: College is the single most reliable path to the middle class and beyond. No, it doesn’t guarantee a good life. Nothing does. But earning a good living without a college degree today is difficult.
College graduates earn vastly more and are far more likely to be employed. They live longer, are more likely to be married and are more satisfied on average with their lives. These relationships appear to be at least partly causal, too. If you want more details, you can read some of my previous columns or dig into a long trail of academic studies. …
Department of disagreement. A good example of skepticism about college is an op-ed that ran in The Times this week, called, “College May Not Be Worth It Anymore,” by Ellen Ruppel Shell, a Boston University professor of journalism. I disagree with it, for all the reasons mentioned above. More important, the authors of the research cited in the piece disagree with it.
One of them, Tim Bartik, an economist at the Upjohn Institute, wrote on Twitter: “It draws the wrong conclusions from our work, and omits some important findings.” He wrote a series of tweets with further explanation.
The research by Bartik and his colleague Brad Hershbein finds huge returns on four-year college degrees for all students, including those from lower-income families. For a typical student, a degree is worth about $500,000.