New students are arriving at my university and others. I believe this is a good time to say something both provocative and nuanced: A college diploma is virtually worthless.
The question we must then ask is, “Why do so many smart people go to college and make so much more money than high school graduates?” This is a trick question because, unlike high school, it is the college education that matters most, not the diploma.
A high school diploma is now a necessary credential for the adult world, so that fact makes it a valuable credential. A college diploma is different.
At one time a college diploma meant the learning of a fairly broadly accepted set of things that virtually guaranteed good job opportunities, but that time passed more than a generation ago.
As a greater share of Americans graduated from college, the wages associated with a degree became less certain, but not necessarily because of oversupply.
Though oversupply is a problem in many disciplines, the real problem is diminished learning.