Economists (including at least one in my PhD graduating class) have often tried to show that college doesn’t produce useful skills. But I think that this is missing the point; useful skills, which you mostly learn on the job, are not the only valuable form of human capital. There are three extremely important forms of human capital that you can’t acquire on the job:
2) Perspective, and
3) Human networks.
Noah Smith on what college is for.
(↬ Marginal Revolution)
I do have quite a few issues with Smith’s article in its entirety. For one, he makes some very broad generalizations about “poor” vs. “rich” countries and the motivations of the classes in the U.S. And although this is a useful framework for understanding some of the major benefits of a college degree at a time when (in the U.S. anyway) the value seems to be waning compared to the cost, it also all comes back to money (big surprise coming from a student of economics).
Smith gets close to pointing to the other values of human capital, but ultimately brings his argument back to the motivation to make more money/work harder/become more successful in a fiscal sense. Which is fine, I suppose, but falls rather flat when you think about it. Like, unless you’re a cyborg are you really thinking about how a boyfriend or girlfriend will compel you to become more economically motivated? What if that isn’t what you are getting from your relationship (or what you want from your relationship at all)?
Oh, and one more point. I am pretty sure that in the right line of work (namely work that is based on self-motivation, deep interest, and connection with a larger community) you can get all of these things.
So, although I am intrigued by Smith’s opinion, I just can’t get around his reasoning. But let’s make no mistake: I think there is exceptional value to a college education if that experience is valuable to the student (a.k.a. it’s what you make of it). I do also agree with a lot of the comments on Smith’s page that having the credential may also get you in the door, eventually (see this unfortunately titled article lacking in any statistical positivity).
(Source: , via explore-blog)