Warning Labels for Colleges - Scott Adams' Blog

Warning Labels for Colleges

Hardly a day goes by without a debate about the proper role of government. Some people view government as a huge sink hole for money whose primary function is to limit freedom. Some citizens want the government to be as helpful and active as possible, preferably using tax revenue from other people. I’m somewhere in the middle, trying to decide each case on its merits.

For example, I think it’s a good idea that the United States requires banks to calculate consumer loan interest costs using a specific formula to produce something called the APR. Now consumers can compare loans from different banks. That law probably doesn’t cost the government much to enforce, and it’s good for citizens. Prior to the APR requirement, banks tried as hard as they could to confuse and screw consumers.

I’m starting to feel the same way about college majors. I think the government should require colleges to display the average starting pay and the estimated lifetime earnings for each of the majors they offer. Perhaps colleges should also display the unemployment rates for each college major. Let’s also assume that colleges have to use their own graduates for the calculations because, for example, Harvard graduates would see higher starting salaries than grads from lesser schools.

Then I would take it one step further, the same way cigarette warning labels do. For majors with the lowest starting salaries I might include the warning: “Graduates with this degree are unlikely to be able to pay their bills. Their best career options include crime, marrying for money, or living with parents.”

Proponents of small government might point out that information on starting salaries is readily available on the Internet. That’s true, but I think there is value in presenting the information with brutal frankness, and including appropriate warnings with every description of course offerings. That level of convenience will make the parents’ jobs easier as they try to steer their kids in the best direction.

Is that too much government?