Who Needs College, And Who Shouldn't Go?

Many parents and teachers view college as the natural path to success. But diplomas are getting more expensive, and many people succeed without a bachelor's degree. Guests address the value of a college degree, and whether the fields projected to grow require them.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Hundreds of University of California students disrupted U.C. campuses last week after the board of regents voted to hike student tuition by more than 30 percent. While that's a particularly dramatic increase, worried parents can tell you that college tuition at private and public institutions alike has been soaring for years. And that's before the current recession dealt a blow to many families' college savings plans.

A bachelors degree is now required for many job, and many politicians declare than any student who wants to go to college ought to be able to go, and most Americans believe that even at that high price, college is well worth it. But is college really the right choice for everybody? Sure, if you want to be a doctor, there's no question. But what if you want to be a carpenter, or a journalist or a musician or a zillion other things? Whatever you do, did college pay off for you? Tell us your story, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, the plan to relocate Guantanamo Bay detainees to a prison in northwest Illinois. Former governor Jim Thomspon joins us. But first, is college worth it? We begin with Marty Nemko, a career counselor based in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, rather, and contributing editor for career issues at U.S. News and World Report. Thanks very much, nice to have you back on the program.

Mr. MARTY NEMKO (Contributing Editor for Career Issues at U.S. News and World Report): My pleasure.

CONAN: You've written that too many young people are going to college and that should change. Why?

Mr. NEMKO: Because the averages are very misleading. We hear the average statistic that students who graduate college going to learn a lot more. But if I have a son or a daughter, I don't want to be considered an average. I want my child to be guided by a counselor and said, based on your strengths, your weaknesses whether college is likely the right choice for. You should go to a four-year college, a two-year college, an apprenticeship program, self-employment, et cetera. So, we should not treat education like a one-size-fits-all piece of clothing.

CONAN: There's an awful lot of kids who graduate high school and are not really sure what they want to do.

Mr. NEMKO: Absolutely. But there are also - if we see again and again there are kids who are starting in Head Start and first grade and second grade and third grade and fourth grade and all the through the eighth, ninth or tenth grade are falling further and further behind in reading. They can barely read the �Cat In The Hat� and yet, in the name of high standards and preparation for college, they're being force fed into that one-size-fits-all you will read Shakespeare. That is an absence of stewardship on our part to guide individuals because we're afraid that we might quote �close options.�

But by insisting that a kid who is turned off and decimated by the ongoing failure of academics, that instead of being given an option, a choice for a program that he or she might do better at and prepare him or her for a career that would be successful as well as to learn more, we say, no, you're going to be force-fed this college curriculum. One size should not fit all.

CONAN: Well, there's this pervasive belief, as you say, this is the key to -for a lot of poor people, it's the key to the middle class.

Mr. NEMKO: Unfortunately, even many people in the middle and upper class who have been excellent in high school and went on to college and have their degrees even from brand name institutions with good GPA's are walking around saying, hey, what happened to the American dream, I'm not able to get a job? Now imagine that if you instead are somebody who may have been good with their hands and in elementary school, junior high school, and high school are doing badly, forced to go to college, deprived of the opportunity to become a robotics repair person or a chef or whatever and then that person is probably is going to drop out. Because of students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their class, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 24 percent will ever get their college degree even if they are given eight and a half years.

And if they get a degree, it'll be in sociology or an other low-demand major. They will really be bereft with a mountain of student debt, even if they did defy the odds and graduate.

CONAN: Our number is 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Is college worth it? Was it worth it for you? Here's an Email that we have from Chris in Alabama: I graduated college about a year a half ago, took years of hard work but I kept at it, assured that with a degree, I could get a high-paying job. I finally found a job, barista at the local Starbucks. I make less now than I have in my adult life. I'm tired of getting - I've tried to get into some sort of career learning program, but past due student loans make that difficult. If I could live my whole life over, the only thing I would change is not to go to college. I wasted the best years of my life for a worthless piece of paper. Well, it's possible that opinion may change over time, but nevertheless, I guess Chris makes your point.

Mr. NEMKO: But I really want to stress, college - the choice of what to do after high school is not just a matter of employability. It's also what the colleges say is correct. It should enable you to be a connoisseur of life, a responsible citizen, an ethical human being, a knowledgeable person. That - but unfortunately there was a Grand Canyon of difference between what they say in the brochures and the reality, even for fully qualified students. At UCLA - the definitive UCLA study found that only 16.4 percent of freshmen were satisfied with their learning. A Pew Trust study showed that 50 percent of college seniors failed a test which mainly required them to interpret a table on exercise and blood pressure and understand editorials.

It's getting worse - what's the name, the Spellings Commission, the president's Spelling Commission, which is the most recent large study of higher education found that literacy among college graduates - and this is including the fully qualified, not just the students who did badly - is down from 40 percent, which was already horrendous 10 years ago, to 31 percent now. College is not for everybody. The wisest path, even - whether it be for learning or for career, is not necessarily college, especially for students who are in the bottom half of their - high school class. And yet, colleges are not only admitting, but wooing hundreds of thousands of those students every year and taking on billions in our tax dollars to subsidize it.

CONAN: Okay. Let's get some callers in on the conversation. 800-98-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Renee(ph) is on the line from Portland, Oregon.

RENEE (Caller): Yes, hi.

CONAN: Hi, Renee.

RENEE: I'm calling to tell you that my husband went to a fairly elite school and just the contacts that he made there have been worth it for him. The people that he graduated with have gone on to have amazing jobs and careers. Some of them are retired already at age 38�

CONAN: Wow.

RENEE: �and got it on the, you know, at the beginning of the Yahoo! - like, during the dot com boom years and now have (unintelligible) so they can start new companies with. If he ever wanted to start his own company, now he knows people he can connect with.

CONAN: And is your husband in business or in electronics, or�

RENEE: He is an engineer at Intel.

CONAN: An engineer at Intel. And I think, Marty Nemko, you would say that if you wanted to be an engineer, well, you're going to have to learn those skills in college.

Mr. NEMKO: Probably right. But unfortunately, most of the students we're talking about in terms of sending too many to college are students who are not going to be able to get a degree in engineering from a brand name school. They are more likely to get into a third-tier school and major in sociology, American studies, et cetera, which is not exactly the fast path. And - but isn't it a sad statement that somebody who went to a brand name school and the main justification for it is the connections rather than the education? All of that money, all that opportunity cost of time that these best and brightest kids who are going to these brand name colleges are - they're getting so little value added in terms of what they grow as a human being, as a thinker, as a public speaker, et cetera.

It's bad that we have to say it's all about the piece of paper and all about the connections. There should be a much higher standard of accountability for college. I want to make one point here. When higher�

CONAN: Okay. I want to get somebody in on the conversation, so if you make it quick, please.

Mr. NEMKO: Okay. When Firestone tires were defective, the government insisted that it basically went out of business and every tire is required to have stamped into its sidewall what is its temperature tract or traction and quality rating, where colleges take millions of dollars, playing with students' lives and they have no accountability. That is what is key. How much value added for the money and time does the college provide for students, who are the weak students, whom they admit?

CONAN: Joining us now is Sandy Baum, senior policy analyst with the College Board, professor emeritus at - of economics at Skidmore. And she is with us from the studios at Chicago Public Radio. Nice to have you on the program today.

Professor SANDY BAUM (Economics, Skidmore College; Senior Policy Analyst, College Board): Nice to be here. Thank you.

CONAN: And would you disagree with Marty Nemko?

Prof. BAUM: Well, I would certainly agree with Marty that going to college, making post-secondary decisions, is a very individual issue and the right answer is not the same for everyone. One problem is how we define college. Many of those occupations that he has mentioned that he says don't require college absolutely do require post-secondary training.

So, no one is going to be a plumber straight out of high school. And when we talk about everybody going to college, what we mean is - first of all, everyone should not go to college. Everyone should have the opportunity if they choose to do so and can benefit from it. For many people, the answer will be some sort of a certificate or a two-year degree. For others, it will be a four-year degree.

So, it requires a lot of information and a lot of careful thought, but the reality is that for most students, they do benefit tremendously, both in terms of their financial opportunities and in terms of growing as human beings. So, going to college is not the right answer for every individual, but certainly for many people who are now not going because they are afraid they can't afford it, it would absolutely be the right answer.

CONAN: Would you - what about that criterion: if you're in the bottom half of your high school class, you ought to think twice?

Prof. BAUM: Certainly, your academic experience is a critical issue in terms of whether or not you'll be able to succeed in college. Many people need to get more training before they can do college-level work, but the strong evidence from economic studies suggest that it's the students on the margin of going to college who actually end up having the highest rate of return.

So it's not right for everyone, and you can't benefit from college if you're not willing to work hard. But that doesn't mean that if you didn't do well in high school, it's time to give up. It's not.

CONAN: And those kinds of degrees that Marty was talking about in terms of sociology or American studies that are relatively low value, they're not going to necessarily translate into those dramatically higher salaries that many people point to as the benefit of a college education.

Prof. BAUM: Well, I would actually say that there are some degrees that are not going to translate into high value, but sociology and American studies are not good examples of that. The reality is that a liberal arts education, where you learn to communicate well and think well and study things that are relevant for your own life, actually turn out to be very valuable in the labor force. Employers want people who can think and communicate, not just people who have a narrow, particular skill.

CONAN: And so college - you're arguing that the vast number of people who are in college in fact will benefit from it.

Prof. BAUM: I think that, yes, the vast number of people in college will benefit from it. There are certainly some people in college who would have been better off not going to college or going to a different college, getting a different kind of training. But there are also many who are not going to college for financial reasons who would certainly benefit from some sort of post-secondary education.

CONAN: We're talking with Sandy Baum, a senior policy analyst for the College Board and formerly professor of economics at Skidmore College, where she's professor emeritus; and with Marty Nemko, career counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area and a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

Is college worth it, as tuitions continue to skyrocket and the decision recently by the board of regents at the University of California, only the latest example? Those debts are going to pile up. Is it really worth it? Does every - what about your experience, was your college career worth it? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Many of us had it drilled into our heads as students: if you want to succeed, you need to go to college. That assumption is being questioned more and more these days.

Two-thirds of college students take out loans. The average debt by the time they graduate is over $23,000. Now, of course, we're hearing that many schools are raising tuitions and fees even further. So is college worth it? If you want to be an accountant or a doctor, sure, but what about mechanics or carpenters or journalists or musicians or a hundred other trades?

This email we got from Seth(ph) in Denver, Colorado: I am 32 and work in the music industry. I had never finished college. I know very few professionals in the industry who have. I never found the education offered after high school or even high school education prepared me for work near as well as working does. I do not see how college could help me in this industry. Had I chosen a different direction, that might be different, but working is often the best teacher for me.

Well, whatever you do, did college pay off for you? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guests: Marty Nemko, a career coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. He wrote "The All-in-One College Guide"; and Sandy Baum, who taught economics and now serves as senior policy analyst at the College Board. And let's see if we can get a caller on the line. This is Gordon(ph), Gordon with us from Boise.

GORDON (Caller): Yes, thank you.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

GORDON: This is a subject that's really touchy to me. I had gone to college at the medical technology, and got disillusioned after five years in it. And physically it didn't fit me, and I also helped my daughters go through college. Both of them have been out about three, four years, both of them have told me it's not worth it. They wish they would have learned something else.

Liberal arts, I think, is excellent, but I think they got to do more on trades and things like that. I've worked with guys from Germany. I owned my own construction business and retired last year, and the guys in Germany had a five-year apprenticeship program in tile that it took me 20 years to learn, and they were excellent.

And I wanted to go to Spain, but I was - my knees, you know, I'm 66 now, so - but I really wanted to go to Spain to one of the schools they have to learn some of the techniques they learn. But I really appreciate guys in the trades that were so skilled that when they opened up their tools, it was like a surgical kit when they did, like, spiral staircases.

I mean, I have a lot of respect for these guys, and yet in America, like these two Germans I worked with, they said in America, they don't get any respect here like they do in Germany. It's - you're just a construction worker. And -but I think there are a lot of trades and skills that need to be taught. I was very artistic, but I'm very physical. So tile is great for me. I did a lot of artistic stuff and was very well paid in L.A.-San Diego County area. I did a lot of really special jobs, and I loved it.

CONAN: Well, Sandy�

GORDON: That gave me a good work. I learned more in math in doing tile work than I did in college.

CONAN: Well because you applied it. Sandy Baum, artisans like Gordon is talking about, he's right, they don't get the respect, at least in academics in this country that they do in other places.

Prof. BAUM: I think the caller makes a good point that the United States could learn a lot from some European countries about apprenticeships and about the best ways to train people for trades. And it's - but in this current system, the fact is you need some sort of post-secondary training in order to enter those occupations.

So, we do need to think more carefully about it, and particularly if you're looking at it, at a specific skill. Like, if you want to go into doing tiles, you want to make a really clear decision about that because if you're getting a liberal arts education, you have the liberty to figure out what you want to do later, but if you're going and getting training that is only narrowly applicable to something very specific, you don't want to invest in that until you're pretty confident that that's going to be the right choice for you.

CONAN: But Marty Nemko, you would - I think you would argue we need to make it possible for people to make those choices without hearing college, college, college all the time.

Mr. NEMKO: Exactly, but I certainly agree with Sandy that we need a high-quality vocational-edu program that may well extend into a year's program. Most apprenticeship programs in the United States are done in association with the community colleges. It's usually the unions, for example, the carpenters' union in association with the community college, providing that one year of post-secondary vocational education that President Obama was very careful in saying he wants every American to have one year of post-secondary experience at a college or vocational program.

So that is the area I agree with Sandy completely. However, the assumption that liberal arts education is going to result in the critical thinking skills that we all agree is critical or the writing skills or the - is fallacious because the empirical data shows frighteningly low amounts of freshman-to-senior growth in those areas, especially for the low-achieving, for those in the bottom half of their high school class.

GORDON: Can I make a comment?

CONAN: Go ahead, Gordon.

GORDON: Yeah, far as the artistic end of construction, it took me a long time to realize there's a mechanical and, like, plumbing and electrical and things like that that were interesting. But you take stucco and masonry and things like - and the tile, I did all three of those and got very proficient at it, and that gave me a broad enough training - and you get that when you're in construction. If you're a good worker, somebody's going to train you in something else if they see you're worth it, but boy, you've got to prove yourself first because there, you're hired and fired the same day if you can't do it.

CONAN: Yeah, there's also a lot of people, I'm sure, studied under very artistic buggy-whip manufacturers. So that can be a problem, too. Gordon, thanks very much for your call, appreciate it.

GORDON: Thank you, appreciate it.

CONAN: I just want to run through a number of tweets that we've gotten on this issue. This from Torbend(ph): Right choice for me, intellectually, though I don't see many hiring integrated studies majors with emphasis in philosophy, communications and humanities.

This is a tweet from Careening(ph): It was a great experience, but the degree, which I don't even need for my job, cost way too much. Janice - Jenice(ph), rather, tweeted, JeniceG(ph): I earned my degree in English and may as well not have bothered, making same or less than high school graduate.

And this from Clynn886(ph): College was right for me, not because of the degree but because of what I learned moving away from home to a new part of the country on my own. ThomasStanley(ph) tweeted: Yes, it taught me skills like writing, studying, time management. However, a bachelor's in psychology has proved pointless.

Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Ben(ph), Ben with us from central Ohio.

BEN (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

BEN: I'd like to agree with Marty's point from earlier about how the true value of college is making you more of a connoisseur of life. And I'm not prepared to say one way or another whether monetarily it's worth the price tag. But just briefly, I started my own business this year, contracting long-haul freight around the lower 48 states, and I don't think I would have had the courage or the conviction to do that had I not gone to college in the first place.

CONAN: And what did you study when you were there?

BEN: English composition.

CONAN: And obviously, that doesn't translate directly into long-haul trucking, but�

BEN: Not at all. I hope to get a book out of it eventually, but you're right, not a corollary.

CONAN: But what did it teach you that has been useful?

BEN: Well, I think more than anything, you learn, in a liberal arts education setting, about these ideas, you know, these big ideas such as wealth and power and morality. And you take those out of the classroom into the world, and I think you start to realize how you fit into the grand scheme of things a lot better than if you, say, had just come out of high school and went into that same world, unprepared, I guess.

CONAN: All right. But you still obviously needed training in long-haul trucking after you finished your degree.

BEN: That's right, $3,000 compared with $25,000, so that's why I'm not prepared to say one way or another whether it's monetarily worth it.

CONAN: All right, good luck, Ben, thanks very much for the call.

BEN: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Joining us now is Julianne Malveaux, who serves as president of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, an historically black women's college. She's with us from her office. Nice to have you with us today.

Ms. JULIANNE MALVEAUX (President, Bennett College): Good to be here, thank you.

CONAN: And I know you've been listening to this, and historically, black colleges have, well, a special role to play here.

Ms. MALVEAUX: Yes, we do. I mean, we were created out of the segregation that excluded us from predominately white institutions. Although we can trace back to W.E.B. DuBois attending Harvard at the turn of the century, of the 19th century until the 20th, we still know that there had been legal segregation, and that's why so many historically black colleges were created.

Thirty-nine of us belong to the United Negro College Fund. We're small, private, primarily liberal arts colleges. The others are predominately public, land-grant or other colleges. And there's a difference between our size and our scope and all those things, but as I listen to this conversation, I miss the whole notion of exclusion in the context of the conversation.

I find it very easy for a majority of people, for Caucasian folks, to talk about the unnecessary - how unnecessary it is for folks to go to college. African-American students, and some of my students, do come from the bottom of their class, but guess what? They come from the bottom, and they leave in the middle, if not at the top, because we basically nurture students. We have emerging-scholar programs. We circle around them and make sure that they have the tutoring and other opportunities that they need.

So there's some interesting reverse elitism, I think, going on implicit in the conversation. You can't tell folk who have been - had doors slammed on them for basically a century, oh, well, you don't need to go to college now. Now, I'll admit there are some folks who shouldn't be within spitting distance of a college. But none of them would go Bennett College for Women, and very few of them go to historically black colleges.

We - our colleges are on a mission not only to help President Obama attain the goals that he said, but to make sure that our community is educated. There's nothing wrong with a liberal arts education to be able to speak concisely, to write clearly, to think. These are skills that will take people through the 21st century, whether they choose to be engineers or not. Let me just say one more thing about our college.

CONAN: Sure.

Dr. MALVEAUX: Been here almost three years. The four foci that we have are global studies, entrepreneurship, communications and leadership. These are skills that we believe will take young women through life, no matter what they major in. Most liberal arts students, they have a major in Africana Women's Studies. Well, who's going to hire an Africana Women's Studies major? I've got an answer for that. All these women's think tanks in Washington and lots of other places.

Who's going to hire global studies major? Someone who understands that we need to see the world outside simply U.S. eyes. So, liberal arts students bring a lot to the table, if people will only make room at the table for them. But I cringe whenever I hear this, oh, there are too many people going to college. And I really do hear some (unintelligible) therein, and ignoring of the racial dynamics of our nation's history.

CONAN: You've also written that when some people say everybody doesn't have to college, that you have the sneaking suspicion that they're not talking about their children.

Dr. MALVEAUX: Precisely. I - you know, I've had these debates over the years. You talk to people over the years. I've sat around tables with people who - too many people are going to college. And I'm like, where's you child, dude? Then he answers probably Harvard, Yale, Princeton or somewhere else. So we're really looking - there's nothing wrong. In fact, the brother who was on the phone earlier talking about tile and crafts, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, that's honorable work. It's good work. And it's even lucrative work.

But let's make sure that every student who wants to have higher education has it. Some won't. I've got a nephew who files occasionally for NPR, works at Youth Radio. He refuses to finish college. I think it's just my revenge.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. MALVEAUX: But he's�

CONAN: And I could tell you, that's not all that lucrative.

Dr. MALVEAUX: No. It really isn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. MALVEAUX: But he's doing this thing. He wants to be a comedian, and he doesn't see the need for a four-year degree. I tell him, when you're 30, you're going to be singing another tune. But he has a right to make that decision, and he has about two-and-a-half years of college under his belt. Let's let the young people make some of these decisions, and let's make sure that we keep college affordable and available to them.

CONAN: Julianne Malveaux, thank you very much for your - thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Dr. MALVEAUX: Thank you.

CONAN: Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College. She was with us from her office in Greensboro, North Carolina.

And I wanted to throw in this email from Rick: I am a middle school science teacher in Ohio. For years, I have questioned why we force 75 percent of our students down a college prep path and only provide 25 percent with the option of a tech or a vocational track option. Statistically, 75 percent of our students would be better suited in a vocational track and 25 percent college prep. Have universities and colleges forced public school's hand to ensure that they have steady revenue stream? The vocational program is very high quality and expensive to run. Is this the reason we do not see more of this type of educational opportunity for public school students?

We also have this from Annie in New York. I shouldn't send an email like this, as I teach at the university level. But yes, this is very right. Too many kids are going to college who don't want and don't need to be there. We need more folks going into trade schools to work in jobs such as plumbing, building and so forth. College, however, should not be job training. Job training is not the purpose of a liberal arts education. It's utterly bizarre that for so many, college is regarded as job training, not as the mind training that it always has been.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And our guests are Marty Nemko, a career counselor in the San Francisco Bay area, and Sandy Baum, who's a senior policy analyst at the College Board, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Skidmore College.

And I wonder, as you listen to Julianne Malveaux and some of those emails, what's your response is. Marty, you first.

Mr. NEMKO: Well, of course, I am a white guy, and she brought the race card into it, so I have to address that. But I try to put myself in the shoes - if I were, indeed, as she asked, if I were the parent of a kid, African-American or otherwise, who, in school, elementary school, was way below - who was reading well below grade level and was hating school ever more as the work got harder academically, I can swear to you that I would want not my child treated as an African-American or as a white, but as my child. And I would want my child to have a diversity of options.

And when we see what happens on average when we do admit the hundreds of thousands of students in the bottom half - from the bottom half of their high school class, because she raised it. They are disproportionately people of color, but certainly including people of all races and ethnicities - that their dropout rate is horrendous. Their employment rate after they graduate - if they defy the odds and graduate - is terrible.

I think it is time that we stop looking for averages. Just like, if I owned a clothing store, I wouldn't - just because the average height is average, I wouldn't just buy medium-sized shirts. I would offer a diversity of shirts. I want each customer, whether they're going into a store or deciding what they're going to do postsecondary, to have full, transparent disclosure of what the odds are. And then, the student, with the shepherding of counselors - because students, when they're 16 or 18 - I don't know about you, but most of us, when we're 16 or 18, really are not in the best position to make a judgment at what to do postsecondary - with the shepherding of our counselors, to make a wise, eye-open decision. But let's not throw the race card in there, because I think that deserves everybody.

CONAN: Sandy Baum?

Prof. BAUM: Well, I think that one thing that's very important to remember is that just as there's great diversity among students, there's great diversity among schools. And there's a significant problem that many students are being sorted into the wrong institutions. And part of this comes from, unfortunately, counselors who don't have better information.

There's considerable evidence that particularly for low income and first generation college students, if they go to the local two-year college or the local state college when they would be qualified and could get into a more selective institution, a more challenging institution, their chances for success are much less.

So students need to be encouraged to get a lot of good information, to find a place that's the best fit and to stretch a bit, because they are actually more likely to succeed and graduate if they go to a place where they will have to stretch and where there's a culture of completion. So - and I think one of the callers or one of the blogs that you got - again, there's a vocabulary problem. Talking about college, only as four-year college really blurs the conversation because we're really talking about an array of postsecondary choices.

CONAN: Postsecondary, yeah. Right. Let's see if we can get one more caller in. Let's go to Katie, in Cleveland.

KATIE (Caller): Hi. Neal, I love your show.

CONAN: Thank you.

KATIE: I was just going to mention, actually, something that has to do with what she was just talking about. I'm actually in a suburb of Cleveland, and I kind of felt like in high school, they kind of push you towards a four-year liberal arts college. And I learned the hard way that that really wasn't for me.

CONAN: And what - I'm afraid we're running out of time, Katie. What do you think�

KATIE: I know. I notice the music.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's a trained listener.

KATIE: Yes. I just, you know, wanted to say that maybe in high school they could operate, you know, I mean�

CONAN: Okay.

KATIE: �everybody has a stigma about community college. And�

CONAN: And we should get over the stigma. And Katie, I'm sorry to cut you off, but thank you very much for the call. And our thanks to Marty Nemko and Sandy Baum, as well. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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