The Harvard Professor Who Bemoans Higher Education

Most college professors applaud what American higher education does and want to see it expand to include even more students. One dissenter of note, however, is Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel. In his latest book, The Tyranny of Merit, he argues that higher education has become a big part of the problem he sees with … Continue reading “The Harvard Professor Who Bemoans Higher Education”


Should Employers Be Prohibited from Asking Applicants About College Credentials?

Court decisions can have unintended consequences just as statutes or regulations can. The Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in Griggs v. Duke Power has had a huge impact on higher education, giving the “college for everyone” movement a great but unanticipated boost. The problem is that the lack of a college degree now operates against people … Continue reading “Should Employers Be Prohibited from Asking Applicants About College Credentials?”


We can thank the Supreme Court for credential inflation

Perhaps you have noticed that many jobs requiring only basic skills and a cooperative attitude are now walled off to Americans who don’t possess a college degree.

The mania for college credentials hampers upward mobility for individuals without a college degree. They are confined to the shrinking and mostly low-pay segment of the labor market where educational credentials still don’t matter. (As I argued here, that explains much of the earnings gap between workers with and without college degrees.)


Griggs v. Duke Power

This paper by Bryan O’Keefe and Richard Vedder raises a provocative question. Does the increase in college enrollment over the past 30 years partly reflect the changing pressures on employers based on a 1971 Supreme Court decision? And if so, could these pressures also explain the much-touted increase in earnings that comes from a college education?

O’Keefe and Vedder explore the impact of the Griggs v. Duke Power decision on today’s college enrollment. In Griggs, the plaintiffs argued that Duke Power’s reliance on two aptitude tests discriminated against minority groups. Subsequent cases and statutory law have changed the environment for employer testing. This may have changed the pressure to attend college.

The paper is jointly published by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.