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Bill Tierney

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Twelve Inconvenient Truths—V

*This post is the fifth in a series on Richard Vedder’s Twelve Inconvenient Truths About Higher Education.

He’s getting repetitive with inconvenient truth #9, but I guess it’s worth repeating:

Colleges are not a force for income equality

The assumption here, then, is that colleges don’t do what they are supposed to do, so we need less public support for them. Why is that? Because colleges are supposed to create greater income equality so that there are fewer poor people and there is less of a difference between the highest earners and the poor. (One of the laughers here is that if there was greater income equality he would undoubtedly claim that universities are socialist in nature and they don’t deserve public funding, but I digress.)

The problem with his conclusion is that he is looking at a single factor—a postsecondary degree—and excluding everything else. The obscenely high incomes of the CEOs of our major firms, the tax breaks we provide for the rich, the obliteration of the social safety net, the reduction of our tax rate that allows the rich to get richer, and a host of other non-educational issues have more to do with income equality than simply isolating a college degree as the culprit. I’m sure Professor Vedder knows this, so I’m wondering why he would offer such a simple-minded conclusion about the worth of a college degree.

I’ll stop here. As I mentioned at the outset of these “inconvenient” blogs, Vedder is wrong on six, half-right on three, and right on another three. So his batting average would be about .300—pretty good if this were baseball. But if someone got 4.5 out of 12 right on my final exam then the poor fellow would flunk my class. I’ve got standards and these truths don’t measure up.

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