Howard Dean has a problem with Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree.

“Scott Walker, were he to become president, would be the first president in many generations who did not have a college degree,” said Dean, a 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Vermont, today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Commenting on Walker’s response to a question on evolution, Dean continued, “The issue is, how well-educated is this guy?”


It’s true: Walker, Wisconsin governor and likely GOP presidential contender, started but never finished college.

But he’s hardly sat around since or held dead-end jobs. Besides governing a state (and, oh, getting elected and re-elected as a conservative in a blue, progressive state), Walker served for four terms in the Wisconsin Assembly and served as Milwaukee county executive for eight years, slashing the county’s debt.

>>>Watch: ‘Morning Joe’ Host Schools Howard Dean on Scott Walker and Value of College Degree

No, Walker never made it as a barista in Brooklyn—which seems to be the ideal job for college grads these days—but nothing he’s done demonstrates a lack of education or aptitude.

Nor is he alone in opting to drop out of college. The late Steve Jobs of Apple and Pixar, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, John Mackey of Whole Foods all dropped out of college.

Clearly, there are more ways to climb the ladder of economic opportunity than college alone.

It’s easy to go to college and not get much of an education. Between the notorious trend toward grade inflation (is anyone flunking out of college these days?) and the constant stream of laughable classes (Cornell University offered a course on tree climbing and Tufts University had a course on “demystifying the hipster,” according to the Huffington Post), a college degree doesn’t necessarily say much about a person beyond confirming he didn’t get the lowest SAT scores in the country when he applied six years ago.

In fact, the 2010 book “Academically Adrift” confirmed that for many people, college isn’t a significant learning experience, with about a third of students “not demonstrat[ing] any significant improvement in learning,” according to Inside Higher Ed’s write-up on the book. “How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much,” wrote the book’s authors.

It’s also not cheap to learn about tree climbing.

Currently, average tuition and room and board at an in-state public university is $18,943 a year, while it’s an astonishing $42,419 at a private nonprofit university, according to College Board.

Does it really make sense for everyone to spend that kind of money … just to prove to Howard Dean that they’re educated?


Plenty of smart people decide to forgo or leave college, for a host of reasons—from financial to personal.

As college costs increase and colleges fail to prove they’re consistently actually educating those they graduate, it’s time for our culture to remove the stigma behind choosing options other than spending four expensive years at State U.