What’s the Purpose of Higher Education?

This post’s title is the subject of next week’s Sophmore Honors Colloquium–and a question every college student should ask daily. Megan McArdle poses a similar question in Newsweek: Is College a Lousy Investment? The answer: yes, sometimes, for some people. In other words, it depends. A few of the article’s highlights:

“Even with these high prices, you’re still finding a high return for individuals who are bright and motivated,” he says. On the other hand, “if you’re not college ready, then the answer is no, it’s not worth it.”

For many students, college is less about providing an education than a credential—a certificate testifying that they are smart enough to get into college, conformist enough to go, and compliant enough to stay there for four years.

“Why does cheating work?” If you were really just in college to learn skills, it would be totally counterproductive. “If you don’t learn the material, then you will have less human capital and the market will punish you—there’s no reason for us to do it.” But since they think the credential matters more than the education, they look for ways to get the credential as painlessly as possible.

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