Why Going to College is Not a Good Idea


By John Stossel

Today, all Americans are told, “Go to college!”

President Obama said, “College graduation has never been more valuable.”

But economist Bryan Caplan says that most people shouldn’t go.

“How many thousands of hours did you spend in classes studying subjects that you never thought about again?” he asks.

Lots, in my case. At Princeton, I learned to live with strangers and play cards, but I slept through boring lectures, which were most of them. At least tuition was only $2,000. Now it’s almost $50,000.

“People usually just want to talk about the tuition, which is a big deal, but there’s also all the years that people spend in school when they could have been doing something else,” points out Caplan in my new YouTube video.

“If you just take a look at the faces of students, it’s obvious that they’re bored,” he says. “People are there primarily in order to get a good job.”

That sounds like a good reason to go to college. But Caplan, in his new book, “The Case Against Education,” argues that there’s little connection between what we absorb in college and our ability to do a job.

“It’s totally true that when people get fancier degrees their income generally goes up,” concedes Caplan, but “the reason why this is happening is not that college pours tons of job skills into you. The reason is … a diploma is a signaling device.”

It tells employers that you were smart enough to get through college.

But when most everyone goes to college, says Caplan, “You just raise the bar. Imagine you’re at a concert, and you want to see better. Stand up and of course you’ll see better. But if everyone stands up, you just block each other’s views.”

That’s why today, he says, high-end waiters are expected to have college degrees.

“You aren’t saying: you, individual, don’t go to college,” I interjected.”You’re saying we as a country are suckers to subsidize it.”

“Exactly,” replied Caplan. “Just because it is lucrative for an individual doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for a country.”

Caplan says if students really want to learn, they can do it without incurring tuition debt.

“If you want to go to Princeton, you don’t have to apply,” he points out. “Just move to the town and start attending classes.”

That’s generally true. At most schools you can crash college lectures for free. But almost no one does that.

“In people’s bones, they realize that what really counts is that diploma,” concludes Caplan.

Because that diploma is now usually subsidized by taxpayers, college costs more. Tuition has risen at triple the rate of inflation.

It’s not clear students learn more for their extra tuition, but colleges’ facilities sure have gotten fancier. They compete by offering things like luxurious swimming pools and gourmet dining. That probably won’t help you get a job.

Read more.



  1. College is a waste of time and a very bad influence for Jews. I for one never finished high school but ended up being a multi millionaire in the real estate field. If I need lawyers or accountants I hire them. I don’t need a degree myself. I use a calculator if I need to add big numbers. I know many people like me. I trained my kids to be in kollel and I enjoy supporting them. I’m not saying it’s wrong to Persue a profession that one likes. And not everyone is cut out to learn 18 hours a day. But college should only be used to gain a useful profession. My advice to the youngsters out there. Better become a Plumber and make good money than a doctor and struggle. I know plumbers and electricians who made big money. I know heimisha women who made big money as well in being creative in various fields. College in general stinks of radical liberalism and atheism.

    • Avid k’mar avid. I went to college through PhD, maintained my frumkeit, am raising, B”H, a family all of whom are shomrei Torah u’Mitzvos, and have a successful career in the national defense.

  2. “It tells employers that you were smart enough to get through college.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just listen to interviews with college student or graduates and you’ll see they’re as dumb as they come. They’re being indoctrinated by far-left professors and all they end up learning is how to hate establishment and how to live without morals and values.

    Just recently the media (real news) reported how professors in several universities raise female students’ and minorities’ grades.

  3. It’s a waste for frum people to go, as you’ll end up in the squeezed hard working middle class that gets no breaks. High tuition expected, little mercy to be gifted from others,

  4. I agree that most people shouldn’t go to and don’t need college.

    If you very much want a career in a special field like law or medicine, well okay. But stam? Not a good idea.

    I went to college and later had to unlearn a lot of the shtuss I learned.

    Also, people come out of it brainwashed, but thinking they’re so smart and I’ve seen very nice people develop unbearable egos after their first year in college.

    A friend of mine is a professor at a state university and she needs to teach her students how to write essays and papers using proper grammar, spelling, and style. (And no, she’s not an English professor.) Her students complain that their grammar and style skills shouldn’t matter to her because that’s not her subject and anyway, all the other professors let them get away with it.

    And she explains to them that’s exactly why she’s doing it. She knows that if she doesn’t teach them proper English writing skills, they’ll likely graduate without ever knowing how to write.

    That’s college today.

  5. Tuition fees are the biggest financial killer in this country. One falls into credit debt from which they NEVER climb out. One must work a minimum 50 years just to break even. After spending over $100,000 for basic no-name-brand College, they finally get a job paying $13.5 dollars an hour. The numbers don’t add up. Maybe Bernie Sanders was on to something?

  6. College is only good if you choose a field that is workable. Having degrees in English, History, Philosophy, Art, etc. is ridiculous and a waste of money. There are fields that need college, like math, sciences, medicine, even education if you want to become a teacher, but the others above are just to say you have a degree in something. Better to go to a training of something like electrician, plumbing, beauty (hair cutting), etc. or a community college to find out what you really want.


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