I have serious problems with David Leonhardt's article in today's New York Times: "A Diploma's Worth: Ask Her."
1, He paints with a too-broad brush: He fails to acknowledge that the hundreds of thousands of college freshmen at four-year colleges who graduated in the bottom 40% of their high school class, drop out at enormous rates: According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, only 1/3 graduate even if given 8 1/2 years,
2. He defined success only in economic terms. College students learn frighteningly little. According to a 2006 Pew study, half of all college seniors score below the "proficient" level, which means they can't understand a newspaper editorial!
The value-added learning of college is so small relative to the opportunity cost--what they could have been doing with the time and money had they not been sitting through arcane classes, getting drunk in student housing, etc. For example, one could be apprenticing an the elbow of a successful entrepreneur or tradesperson while avocationally becoming an activist citizen by blogging and joining meetup groups.
3. He calls for more funding of colleges. Colleges are extraordinarily well funded. What they need --as he does mention--is more accountability. That is the central thrust of my just-published article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: America's Most Overrated Product: A Bachelor's Degree.
4. He accepts uncritically the horrifically misleading statistic that women earn 77 cents on the dollar. FOR THE SAME WORK, as documented in the book Why Men Earn More, women and men are paid essentially equally.
5. He celebrates the increase in the percentage of women obtaining college degrees without even acknowledging, let alone being concerned about the fact that in the class of 2008, only 1/3 of the college graduates are men, which will devastate them in the job market. If women or minorities were to have the deficit, the article would likely call for a massive increase in effort to help them. But when men suffer the deficit, we merely celebrate women's accomplishments.