2013 February 27 Wednesday
About Half Of College Freshmen Get Degree In 6 Years

Check out Catherine Rampell's NY Times Economix post "Only Half of First-Time College Students Graduate in 6 Years".

What percentage of the people who enroll as freshmen in college make more money 6 years later than if they hadn't attended college in the first place? How many actually got something useful out of the experience?

What would be most telling: What's the graduation rate as a function of IQ? Of course this question won't be asked in the NY Times. But its the key question. How many people who enroll in college lack the intellectual horsepower to study? How many have attention deficit and just can't concentrate for long enough? In a more realistic society these people would be detected and steered toward training they would be capable of handling. Instead our schools and elite discussions on education keep harping on the value of college and the need to get more people through college.

How much of the supposed income-enhancing effect of college is just a measure of higher IQ for those who are capable of making it through college?

What would be even more interesting: For a person at a given IQ level how mcuh does each major enhance their money earning prospects? So suppose you have an IQ of 135 and you study chemical engineering. Compared to someone who studies, say, English how much more do you make 10, 20, 30 years out of college?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 February 27 10:17 PM 

Mike M said at February 27, 2013 11:37 PM:

What I would really like to see is a study that compares IQ (versus some measure of non-cognitive factors) and success. That's what would be truly telling. As stated ad nauseum, talent (IQ) is overrated. IQ is a very poor correlate of success, either in college or business.

I do agree with you that too many people who enter college are unprepared. Many college professors I have spoken with now view the first year of college as remedial high school. I also agree that the college "business" has oversold itself in terms of its worth for future earnings.

Stephane del Valle said at February 28, 2013 2:06 PM:

IQ is success. Testing is testing.
Don't confuse a horse with a picture of a horse.

Wolf-Dog said at February 28, 2013 2:20 PM:

In January 2013, only 3.7 % of those who had at least a B.A. were unemployed in the United States, while the unemployment rate of those high school graduates without a college degree was 8.1 %.

These are the results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:


Thus, if it is true that "Only Half of First-Time College Students Graduate in 6 Years", then even some college education would significantly improve one's odds of not being unemployed.

Furthermore, even though some college degrees are oversold, according to the statistics above, even those who have an associate degree (such as a 2-year professional degree) have an unemployment rate of only 7 %. Those who have studied manufacturing and software development or electrical repair skills in a 2-year college, probably have decent jobs. So in these categories, it is definitely worth finishing the degree even if it takes a few more years than average. For average level jobs, hard work and persistence does compensate for low IQ (below 110, say), only for very ambitious professions a very high IQ is absolutely necessary.

Mike M said at February 28, 2013 3:27 PM:

Randall's question, as I understand it, is not simply one of college graduates getting jobs or not, but are they more productive as a result of the college experience. While short term signaling (as Bryan Caplan has argued) as a result of a degree can get one's foot in the door and lead to a higher starting salary, ultimately businesses cannot afford to pay higher real wages unless workers are producing more. Hence, does the college degree mean that (a) one is either more productive than if he would have done something else with the 4/6 years, e.g. work experience, or (b) that one has developed those traits that enable the employer to more easily train him so that he becomes more highly skilled and at a faster rate than without college. Simply "being employed" does not imply that college improved one's productivity or income relative to some alternative path.

Check it out said at February 28, 2013 6:47 PM:

College or university will only get students in perpetual debt from a very young age, and that's not all. Everywhere you look in America, you see the tale-tail signs of a government preparing for rioting. Recently the Justice Department said that it was lawful for Obama Drones to kill American citizens on American soil, under the National Defence Authorisation Act. The Army has a plan for attacking Militias. We have the very spectacle of Battlefield America - Americans being killed by their own government, on American soil! How did we let it get to this?

Ask any graduate out of work - capitalism is not working. America is set up for civil rioting and bankruptcy. The path of the world is toward serfdom; IMF/World Bank wants to remove the middleclass, to remove personal property/ownership and make everyone subservient to the Banksters and their money. They want your wealth! This is the truth about IMF capitalism. Fools who have some wealth, save several million dollars, think that they will be spared, part of the "elite group" but this elite group will only be a handful, all the others are pawns in their game and play along under self delusion and ideas of grandeur.

Oh -
Be careful, the DHS knows you have read this. You are now officially a domestic terrorist.

Mike M said at March 1, 2013 8:19 AM:

That's "tell-tale" or "telltale", not tale-tail. Think about it - it's like telling a tale, not a tale about a tail.

It's confusing why you attack Obama's expansion of executive powers in one paragraph and link this to what you claim is a failure of capitalism in another. Obama is not a capitalist and his agenda is not capitalism, despite his rhetoric. He's a socialist and his agenda is socialism - no matter how it's cloaked. Capitalism works. What doesn't work is our foray into socialism with the left's policies of punishing (taxing) productivity and rewarding non productivity (through welfare/entitlement programs), e.g. wealth redistribution. PS - the IMF, World Bank, United Nations, etc. despise capitalism - heir agenda is socialism/wealth redistribution.

Our national character (more important than our national IQ in determining our prosperity despite the objections raised by many on this forum) has plummeted. While there are poor people who are truly unable to provide for themselves, they are far and few between. The majority of our so-called "poor" enjoy enjoy luxuries the Sun King could only dream of: cell phones (or three), cars (or two), PlayStations, and big screen TVs. They aren't exactly the poor depicted in Dickens novels. Most of our "poor" are poor, not because the "cannot", but because they "will not" - in other words, they're lazy.

The poor have a sense of entitlement - taught to them by left-wing politicos pandering for votes - and, with our welfare/entitlement programs, have little incentive to better themselves and be productive (thanks to entitlements (involuntarily) paid for by their hard-working, more responsible fellow citizens. Look, we've had natural disasters since our nation was founded and the self-reliant people of the affected towns and villages put on their big boy pants and got to work rebuilding and carrying on with life. Today, the SHTF and our whining "victims" scream for a bailout from Washington, e.g. the rest of us. Have some freakin' responsibility and buy insurance if you live in a place prone to such things and/or if you can't bear the burden of rare, but catastrophic events. The same goes for health care - if you're not going to be able to pay for big medical bills for some catastrophic illness, buy your own freakin' insurance, don't expect the rest of us to buy it for you.

The poor have little self/impulse control. The famous marshmallow test showed that impulse control is a better predictor of success than the highly regarded IQ. Poor people typically spend what money they have on lots of cheap, disposable junk on a whim, instead of saving up for one good thing. They’ll tell you they “have to” give their kids powdered milk, but that’s only because they’ve already spent all their (I mean, taxpayers’) money on booze, drugs, cigarettes, lottery tickets, manicures, hair weaves, bingo cards, and tacky club clothes. Poor impulse control and the attitude of I want it now no matter what the long term cost is what drives the Democrat political machine and their promises that could never and will never be fulfilled.

Bracketcreep said at March 2, 2013 5:19 AM:

Wolf-dog: if we can reduce ice cream sales we can put a bigger dent in crime numbers.

Maybe college attendance is simply correlated with other qualities which keep people employed. Just saying.

asdf said at March 2, 2013 8:43 AM:

"As stated ad nauseum, talent (IQ) is overrated. IQ is a very poor correlate of success, either in college or business."

False. You should look up the research there is a very high correlation.

To the OP if you go to an exclusive school a lib arts degree is as good as a STEM degree. Maybe better. A lot depends on other factors (your connections, your charisma). If you go to a tier 2 school or below you should study something vocational.

Randall Parker said at March 3, 2013 6:55 PM:

Mike M,

Read The Bell Curve for starters. You can also find lots of online articles about IQ and achievement.


About the exclusive school lib arts degree: There are a limited number of slots in large corps for those people. There are more slots for engineers. So I think the value of the Ivy League degree, while real, gets far too much attention. It isn't relevant, even to the vast majority of smart people. Further, I think the relative value of the Ivy League humanities degree has declined versus engineering and econ degrees. Companies need lots of skills. I work in environments where the Ivy humanities degrees can't understand most conversations between managers and techies.

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