One of the key platforms for Democratic contenders this year has become free college tuition. Paying for college, the theory goes, will alleviate the burden of attending college for lower-income students, thereby opening job prospects and new economic vistas. The cure for economic inequality lies in greater educational opportunity.
It’s a lovely theory. It’s also completely wrong.
There is little evidence to suggest that a college degree alone is likely to raise a given person’s income. Yes, college educated people out-earn non-college educated people—but that’s because they’re different people with different levels of intelligence in many cases. Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute points out that “The vast majority of community college enrollees drop out…fewer than 60 percent of students complete degrees within even six years at the schools where they first enroll.”
Furthermore, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, four in ten recent graduates work non-degree-requiring jobs. As Cass points out, “the bottom half of the earnings distribution for college grads—not just enrollees, but graduates—sits lower than the top half of the earnings distribution for those with only a high school education.” In other words, higher-earning high school graduates do better than lower-earning college graduates.
And major matters. According to the Census Bureau and the American Community Survey, the following majors earn most among graduates: petroleum engineering; pharmaceutical science and administration; metallurgical engineering; mining and mineral engineering; chemical engineering; electrical engineering; aerospace engineering; mechanical engineering; computer engineering; and geological and geophysical engineering. Who earns the least? Majors in family and consumer science; drama and theater arts; elementary education; theology; visual and performing arts; teacher education; social work; studio arts; human services and community organization; and early childhood education.
That means that directing high school students into liberal arts majors with promises of big bucks in their future is a lie—and subsidizing that lie with government dollars doesn’t make it any less of a lie.
Now, imagine a world in which banks were the sole source of loans for college students. Presumably, they’d ask relevant questions before handing out cash: prospective major, grade point average, SAT scores, job aspirations. Loans for 2.9 GPA drama majors who hope one day to work in mime would be difficult to come by. But with government prepared to hand out cash, such considerations go out the window.
All of which suggests that perhaps there’s another rationale for the Democratic push toward college-funded education: keeping their friends employed.
In April of this year, Mitchell Langbert, associate professor of business management at Brooklyn College, released a study for the National Association of Scholars. It compared the number of Democratic faculty for every Republican in 25 academic fields, with a sample size of over 5,000 professors. The findings: among engineering professors, there were 1.6 Democrats for every Republican; among chemistry professors, 5.2; economics, 5.5; professional, 5.5; mathematics, 5.6.
Among liberal arts professors, however, the numbers skyrocketed dramatically: 108 Democrats in communications compared with zero Republicans; 56 to 0 in anthropology; 70 to 1 in religion; 48.3 to one in English; 43.8 to one in sociology; 40.3 to one in art.
There is a clear reverse correlation between the market value of a particular major and the number of Democrats teaching in that major. That makes sense: Democrats are likely to support governmental intervention in the educational system, and those who teach in less marketable majors are more likely to want such intervention. But that means that Democrats aren’t catering to students nearly as much as they’re catering to a motivated subclass of intellectual elites who are largely dependent on government bucks to keep their majors saturated with cash.
Government is a corrupt business. So is liberal arts higher education, which milks money out of students with the promise of job security and income trajectory. It’s no shock that they’re working hand in hand to defraud first students, and now taxpayers, with the unkept promise of future wealth.
Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, available on iTunes and syndicated across America.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.