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Letter to the Editor: Economics professors respond to Collegian interview with Dr. Bryan Caplan

Dear Editors,

You claim Dr. Caplan’s PhD makes him “an odd spokesman for the case against education.” “On the Record: Dr. Bryan Caplan,” April 16, 2015)  It certainly would if he had argued “that the current American institution of education is superfluous and irrelevant to the realities of the job market,” as you maintain in the article. Fortunately, he did not. Indeed, you quote him as saying, “Nothing I’ve said contradicts the claim that going to college is important for getting a job, and in fact that’s exactly what I think.”

To clarify, Caplan argues that going to college is relevant for the job market, but not in a way that justifies subsidizing higher education. He believes completing college is a costly (and therefore credible) signal to employers that one is worth hiring. If it is the costly signal that matters, as Caplan suggests, subsidizing education undermines its effectiveness.

While perhaps unpalatable for those of us devoting our lives to higher education, Caplan’s view is not at odds with his own decision to acquire an advanced degree. He merely recognizes that such a signal could have been sent at a much lower cost.

Sincerely,

Dr. P.J. Glandon

Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. William J. Luther

Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. Nicholas Snow

Visiting Professor of Economics

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