There has been a lot of debate recently about whether a four-year college degree is worth the cost, which can top $100,000.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy weighed in this week with an analysis carrying this provocative headline: Five Reasons the Government Shouldn't Subsidize Higher Education.
Its analysis, published in the Mackinac Center's Michigan Capitol Confidential newsletter, makes a number of claims that run counter to most research and data regarding the value of a college degree.
Mackinac Center research associate Jarrett Skorup says there is no evidence that state support for higher education produces economic growth and more jobs. And he disputes the claim, backed by a recent Census Bureau study, that having a degree is the reason college graduates earn much more during their careers than high school graduates. Skorup wrote:
Proponents of more funding for higher education almost always cite the same statistic as their main point: Overall, college graduates tend to make more money in their lifetime than those without a degree. But this assumes that the degree caused the higher earnings, rather than the fact that those who complete college are already more likely to be financially successful whether they attend university or not.But it's worth noting that Skorup has a bachelor's degree, as do at least 22 of the 23 members of the Mackinac Center's policy staff. (One staffer doesn't list a degree in his bio.) Eight also have master's degrees, while one has a doctorate and four have law degrees.
The Mackinac Center is located in Midland, where 42.4 percent of the city's residents have a bachelor's degree or above, well above the state average of 25.3 percent.
Per capita income in Midland, home to the Dow Chemical Co. and lots of PhDs, was $32,185 in 2011, 26 percent above state per capita income of $25,482.
Can it seriously be argued that incomes in Midland, including the salaries and benefits of Mackinac Center employees, would be as high if none of these smart folks had a college degree?
State government subsidizes many things. Midland's wealth suggests subsidizing higher education is a wise investment.