Countering Flawed Arguments of the Anti-College Movement

There are good arguments against going to college, namely the leftist bias and the possibility of accumulating a lot of debt for a degree that has little earning power, but there are two dubious premises perpetuated by anti-college movement:

1. That a college degree is worthless

2. That going college holds back people from achieving their ‘full’ potential

This is countered by:

1. People with college degrees earn more money, especially for advanced degrees and STEM:

This is just empirical reality based on many studies. It doesn’t mean that students should choose a major indiscriminately or go into a lot of debt if such debt can be avoided, but the data doesn’t lie. The reason for this is because in many instances employers require the degree to signal for baseline competence; without the degree you simply won’t be considered for the job, let alone hired. A degree in STEM (including finance and economics) offers the best possibility of employment.

But what about the trades? Some people have success with that, but the trades may not be as great as they seem. There’s a of regulation, compliance, nepotism, competition, and potentially dangerous working conditions. It’s not just as simple as deciding you want to be an electrician – it takes years of training.

2. Number two is more important because this misunderstanding is so prevalent.

What percentage of college-dropouts with an IQs less than 95 become successful, versus drop-outs with IQs greater than 120? I imagine in the former it’s much smaller than the later, with the low-IQ drop-outs almost always stuck in dead-end, low-paying jobs or unemployment for the remainder of their lives, but with also the added burden of college debt.

Low IQs hold people back, not college. Ultimately, it’s IQ, not completion of college, that is the determinant of individual success or failure at life, which I discuss further here. That’s how some of the biggest drop-out successes, from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates, became successful – not because they had a couple extra years ‘head start’ from not graduating (as is commonly believed), but because they are really smart (the correct but neglected explanation).

The ‘rich family’ explanation, which is popular among the left as a way to dismiss the role of biology, doesn’t account for high-IQ immigrants who have succeeded in technology; with the exception of Bill Gates, the majority of these technology success stories came from modest means.

All of the biggest advocates against going to college all have degrees, often in technical subjects from prestigious colleges, and are extremely smart – far smarter than your typical college drop-out. The aforementioned individuals succeeded because they are brilliant, with ‘Person A’ (to avoid name dropping), for example, taking the SAT at 13 and scoring well enough to go to a special program; ‘Person B’ went to UC Berkeley (a notoriously difficult school) and he says he’s smart enough to get into Mensa, which I don’t dispute; ‘Person C’ graduated from Stanford; ‘Person D’ went to a prestigious college-prep private school and later Princeton. These people tell you college is easy or ‘dumbed-down’, having breezed through college coursework and only failing because they stopped trying, not because they found the work too hard, which is to be expected when your IQ is many standard deviations above average. In reality, the drop-out rate is 50% for those allegedly easy college courses.

These college bashers will tell you that they didn’t use their degree in becoming rich and successful, but this is a red herring. Obtaining the computer science degree at the prestigious school is indicative of superior cognitive ability (memorization, critical thinking) which, through skills-transference, is applied with great success to intellectual endeavors not directly related to the degree, a notable example being Andy Weir’s huge success as a fiction author despite being a programmer by trade. The IQ of 140 that allows you to breeze through a degree in Chinese history also makes it easy to pickup on coding (assuming this hypothetical person wants to learn how to code), despite coding having nothing to do with Chinese history. Many people assume, mistakenly, that individuals are ‘born’ to do different things (math people, verbal people, or the multiple-intelligences), but all of this can be distilled to a single factor – g.

These misunderstandings arise because political correctness means we have to lie to ourselves and others to avoid the consequences of potentially offending people with the truth. Telling the truth, especially as it pertains to biology-based cognitive differences between individuals, often means losing your job. Teachers can no longer tell a parent his or her child his slow; now, it’s called ‘differently abled’, or whatever has become the latest iteration of the euphemism treadmill. A guidance counselor cannot flat-out tell a dull student he or she isn’t smart enough to benefit from higher education, so the student goes to college, takes on debt, drops-out, and the cycle continues…

Many of the anti-college pundits usually have ulterior motives – to sell books, to get ad dollars through click-bait ‘Don’t go to college!!!’ type articles, to sell ‘get rich quick/sign up here’ type courses, or to spread false hope like Malcom Gladwell does – or while their intentions are good, they are simply wrong. Even if you think going to college is a waste of time and money, it’s better to formulate an argument that is intellectually honest rather than resorting to wishful thinking, misleading data (in which an article from does good job disabusing the anti-college mythology), and cherry-picked examples of high-IQ people who succeeded wildly without graduating college or in fields unrelated to their degree.

Having a high-IQ will greatly improve your odds of success if you choose to not go to college but, nonetheless, for the majority of people, who only have average or above-average intelligence and are smart enough to complete college, the data suggests having a degree is better than not having one. People with below-average IQs should not go to college, and that is the best reason, and often the most ignored reason, to not go to college.