Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren recently proposed the College for All Act, which promises to make public universities free for most students. A similar bill just became law in New York, and support is building for tuition-free public universities in other states as well.
Unfortunately, the senators’ proposal would hurt the very Millennials it aims to help, by reducing economic growth. Median wages have stagnated for decades precisely because of the mismatch between the skills workers have and those businesses need. So while wages in some sectors — for example, the IT industry — continue to rise, young people without marketable skills are being left in the lurch.
This includes many college graduates. While defenders of college-for-all proposals point out that a college degree improves a graduate’s lifetime earnings in the aggregate, not all majors are created equal. According to a new paper by Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, over half of graduates in many liberal-arts majors work a job they don’t need their degree for. The problem isn’t just that too many students seek a degree in an obscure subject, either; it’s that too many graduates lack the ability to think critically or write clearly. In a recent survey, only 39 percent of managers said that students were ready for the work force.
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