The Old College Try

The president said an interesting and important thing in his speech last night. He called for more people to go to college: “That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

The jobless rate for people with a college degree is well below 5 percent. The jobless rate for people without a college degree is well above 5 percent.

Why? Well, because in an Information Age, one that requires more skills and more problem-solving capabilities, a high-school education simply doesn’t cut it.

I have a bold idea when it comes to the federal approach to college education. Not only should we make this the top priority of the Department of Education, we should make it the only priority of the Department of Education.

Furthermore, we should drastically change how that department does its job. Instead of housing it in Washington, we should break the department up into regional sections.

Those regional sections should compete against one another to come up with the best solutions to getting more kids to college. The winning section would then get a cash bonus for its efforts. The losing section would get either penalized or fired.

The critics of this plan would say that it all starts in high school or in grade school and that by the time the students get to college, it is too late. Those critics might be right, but a program that will get more kids to go to college and then stay in college will take that all into account.

What we need are more strategies and more ideas to get more kids to college. And we need more accountability from the bureaucracy. The way to get both is to make it a contest, and let the competition proceed.

The president has said that we have to get more kids to college if we are going to be able to compete with the rest of the world. He is right. Now we need to come up with creative strategies to make this happen.


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