THE BLOG

Scott Walker's Dropping Out of College Is Not Something to Be Celebrated or Emulated

06/22/2015 12:39 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

The fact that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of college early should not be used as a campaign issue against him during the 2016 Presidential primaries or campaigns. Several U.S. Presidents did not graduate from or attend college, including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Grover Cleveland. The most recent one was Harry Truman.

However, Walker and other successful people shouldn't be held up as role models to tell young people not to get a college education. Walker's dropping out of college is not something to be celebrated or emulated.

Scott Walker dropped out of Marquette University during the spring of his senior year, 34 credits shy of graduating, Now, Walker has stated that his lack of a college degree will help him relate to the average voter. He might be right.

Citing 2014 U.S. Census Bureau data, Katharina Fiedler of Politifact.com indicated that 68 percent of American adults do not have Bachelor's Degrees or higher. It's also common for people to drop out of college. The Washington Post, citing the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, stated that around 2.2. million people under age 30 have earned at least half the number of credits needed for a bachelor's degree, but don't have a degree. People aged 24-29 represent the largest portion of those people.

There are various reasons for dropping out of college, including family issues, having kids, needing to work right away to support a family, or pursuing a trade or other career options that do not require a college degree.

There are many success stories of people who did not get college degrees, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Zuckerberg, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ben Affleck, Woody Allen, and Harrison Ford. Many people find success by going into skills and trades such as plumbing, roofing, carpentry, web development, music, acting, electricity, dental hygiene, real estate, military service, and construction work. In some cases, that should be encouraged if a young person is not academically oriented. It's also true that many young people are tens of thousands of dollars in debt after graduating from college, with many of them unable to find jobs.

According to Jeffrey Sparshott's Wall Street Journal article, the class of 2015 will have the highest average student debt ever. Citing an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at Edvisors, the average 2015 college graduate will have over $35,000 of college loan debt.

However, the statistics show that it is strongly advisable and preferable to get a college degree. Despite common perception, most college graduates do not live in their parents' second bedroom until age 40 or live in a van down by the river. For most people, graduating from college is a gateway to a better life.

Danielle Kurtzleben's Feb. 11, 2014 U.S. World Report article, citing a Pew Research Study, stated, "Among millennials ages 25 to 32, median annual earnings for full-time working college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high school diplomas only. That gap steadily widened for each successive generation in the latter half of the 20th century. As of 1986, the gap for late baby boomers ages 25 to 32 was just more than $14,200, and for early boomers in 1979, it was far smaller at $9,690."

According to Katherine Peralta's June 2014 article in USNews.com, "The unemployment rate for those at least 25 years old with just a high school degree was 6.5 percent in May, compared with the national rate of 6.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the other hand, the jobless rate for Americans that age with a college degree is less than half that, or 3.2 percent."

In 2013, an article by Susan Adams of Forbes cited a PEW research study showing that the recession was much worse for people who did not graduate from college.

Forget Animal House, Back to School, and Old School. College is much more than playing beer pong and going to football games. It's a lot of work that instills discipline and teaches valuable skills that can be used in the workforce.

For jobs that require good writing, speaking, and analytical skills, most employers would agree that a college degree would reflect those skills. For many professions, having at least a bachelor's degree is required. In addition to learning valuable skills, students get to network and make valuable connections with other students and professors.

As noted by Jeff McGuire of collegeview.com, " One of the benefits of having a college education is creating a strong connection with instructors to give yourself an advantage when beginning the job-seeking process."

College isn't for everyone. Some younger people are more interested in pursuing a trade or starting a family, which is fine. But don't diminish the importance of a college education by highlighting the success of Scott Walker and others who didn't go to college or dropped out. It's even worse for those who drop out of college, since they would have incurred extensive debt without getting a college degree. It would not be a good thing if young people in the future tell their parents, "I don't have to go to college. President Walker didn't get a college degree, so I shouldn't have to either."