I like this analysis; I think it’s spot on. Still, it’s worth noting that when children are required to go to school, it means that they cannot be easily forced into child labor under unsafe conditions. Thus, those requirements were an unambiguous good.
Mandatory college is a bit of a different story. College is wonderful in many ways (and I’m incredibly glad that I was able to go before tuition really shot up), but practically mandatory college is causing a lot of problems (even as it solves others). First, students find it difficult to hold down full time work while they go to school, which means that most college students will earn less money than they would if they could find full time work instead of going to college for four-plus years. Second, tuition is so high that students almost always have to go tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in debt to finish a degree or two. Thus, college students lose money two different ways: through decreased opportunities for full-time work and through expensive tuition. Students may then lose money a third way: being unable to find a job that requires a degree, like Niela Orr working for Instacart (After all, going to college is only worthwhile, from a purely financial point of view, if students are able to get jobs with salaries that compensate for the loss of their four-plus years of full time employment as well as their loans and the attendant interest interest payments.).
I think that in many ways, it’s wonderful that so many people are going to college these days (College isn’t just for getting skills and credentials; it’s for expanding your mind and taking classes that you don’t “need” and meeting new people and dating and picking up your roommate’s love of French New Wave film.), but increased demands for credentialization are financially useless if there are not enough jobs requiring credentials available for those who spend so much time and effort acquiring the demanded credentials.