Book Review: Is College Worth It?

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Is College Worth It? BennettI was excited to read Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education, thanks to the BookSneeze program.

In the circles I run in, thinking about college for one’s child can become pretty stressful pretty quickly. What do you mean, your child is a sophomore and you haven’t yet made half a dozen college visits? Maybe your child could qualify for a $50,000/year school! A prestigious school! Then again, maybe your child won’t get into as “good” a school as mine!

It goes on and on. Thankfully, this book was a welcome hop off the crazy train. Because, what if you did pay $50,000 per year for your child to attend a prestigious school. She gets a history degree. Four years later, she’s serving grande lattes at Starbucks and has a lot of knowledge, very little income, very few prospects for jobs in her field, and over $100,000 in debt. That’s a whole lotta lattes.

Or suppose your child heads off to school with a good head on his shoulders. At least, you think he does. But after he hits the college campus, things don’t go so well. He gets in with the wrong crowd and spends more time partying than he does studying. His firm convictions are contradicted and ridiculed by his college professors, who are far-left liberal almost entirely. You turn around, and there’s your talented kid, hanging out at an Occupy Wall Street rally and shouting obscenities at anyone who might listen.

Yeesh. Bill Bennett discusses these and other relevant issues in this book. I really enjoyed it — it’s like discussing college today with a smart friend. Some things I found interesting —

  • Many kids go to college just because it’s “the next thing” expected of them. Majorities of high school seniors do go to college, even though many of them really don’t want to go (at least, they don’t want to go and study). Our own President has even said that every American should get some higher education. Every American? Really? Because there are lots of house builders, electricians, and landscapers out there who have no business in college. I couldn’t do their jobs if I tried. But I really don’t care if they went to college. Bennett goes into how our society looks down on those without college degrees, and this is probably true. It’s a shame though, because by pushing everyone into college, the colleges are forced to lower their standards.
  • Colleges are lowering their standards. Colleges must make money. With the advent of the internet, students can rate their professors. Students are more likely to highly rate “easy” profs who give little homework. Tougher profs usually earn lower ratings from students. Fewer kids sign up for their classes, and soon they have to decide — do they decrease the rigor of their courses, or run the risk of losing their jobs altogether?
  • Many colleges today spend vast sums on things that have nothing to do with education. They feature million dollar gyms and more — all to try to attract the more well-heeled students and their parents.
  • Colleges also often feel that a higher price makes them appear more “prestigious.” Yet Bennett has charts of various schools — their 4 year cost, and the 30- year “return on investment” of attending them. Many have a negative return: the student would have been better off investing college money and going straight to work out of high school than paying to attend those colleges, because it will take so long to pay back the cost. What madness!
  • The stereotype is accurate: college professors are liberal by wide margins, and that means that many of their students come out of school with liberal ideologies as well. Additionally, while many lower-level college profs and assistants are low-paid, colleges also have their share of “prima donnas” who teach only a class or two, offer little to no office hours, and spend most of their days shuttered away in their offices enjoying luxurious perks.


If you have a graduate or graduation Open Houses to go to this spring, check out my All-Things-Graduation board on Pinterest. I just started it for a contest I’m entering. Followers are quite welcome!


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Is College Worth It?

  1. This sounds like a must-read for parents of children who will soon be graduating from high school.

  2. Business colleges are a possibility. They are usually two years, very focused on the major, offer specialized certificates along with the degree, don’t cost nearly as much, and have a lot of older students whose focus is on their education and career. The one I went to did not offer sports, etc. but just a good, solid education.

  3. I’m a certified teacher and I’ve become very skeptical of ALL large educational institutions. There is just so much wasted time, low standards and covering up/passing along. When I returned to get my master’s degree I spent a year simply summarizing the textbooks while the professor did nothing but listen to all the students parrot what we could’ve just all read in the book on our own time….I learned next to nothing to prepare me for how to be a teacher and I suffered for two years in the classroom struggling to manage until my school decided to train the whole English dept in small groups in a “new” style of instruction…it was only through the small group / hands on work that I truly learned. I’m more for apprenticeships….we should bring those back in full force in ALL work categories!! Learning on the job is where it’s at! 🙂 sorry for the tirade!!! 🙂 I’ve gotta read this book!!

  4. I agree with Julie’s sensible comments! I have always said that I learned more the first year on the job as an elementary teacher than I learned in all of my college years. That goes for the Master’s Degree as well. We all did that because it was expected/required and to get a bigger paycheck. College is definitely NOT for everyone!

  5. Great review! I have 3 kids in an “early college” program and have learned SO MUCH over the last couple years. College is such a game, and you really need to have a no nonsense, common sense approach if you want to get any true value out of it.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.