Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum received quite a bit of criticism for calling President Obama a “snob” for suggesting people should go to college.
As reported by The Washington Post, Santorum, a conservative who has played up his working-class upbringing, said during a campaign stop in Troy, Mich.: “Not all folks are gifted in the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands .... President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”
The Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar and David Nakamura wrote, “To some critics, this latest attack goes beyond his typical anti-elite rhetoric and flies in the face of what has long been drilled into American families: that a college education is the most certain path to a brighter future for students as well as the country.”
In the president’s defense, Obama said his higher education agenda includes helping people who do not attend traditional universities, the Post article said.
In an address Monday to the National Governors Association, Obama responded indirectly to Santorum with: “I’m not only talking about four-year degrees. I’m also talking about going to community college to get a degree for a manufacturing job where you have to walk through the door to handle a million-dollar piece of equipment.”
Personally, I’ve been called a snob -- although that exact word wasn’t used -- for going to college. While I was getting my degree at the University of Maryland, one relative said to me, “You think you so much better than us because you’re in college.” That hurt. There was no provocation for the comment. I hadn’t bragged about getting a college degree nor looked down on that relative for her lack of a degree.
But I wonder whether by touting college as the only way to achieve success we aren’t diminishing people who don’t go to college?
I think Santorum was out of line for calling Obama a snob, but there is some truth in his trash-talking. There are folks right now looking for jobs who have years of excellent on-the-job training who can’t get employment because they don’t have a college degree. They are competing for those jobs with holders of college degrees, even though the former have more experience. It’s as if all their work or training doesn’t count for anything without a degree. For example, I know several people who worked for government contractors who started out in administrative positions and eventually moved up to management jobs before being laid off. Now they are having trouble finding a management position without a college degree.
When I suggest that students save money by attending a community college first and then transferring to a four-year, some people look at me funny. They seem to be implying that community colleges aren’t good enough. They are being snobs. Just like with four-year schools, there are good and bad community colleges.
As the cost of college keeps rising, we need to explore ways for people to get affordable employment training so they can get good-paying jobs that allow them to raise a family, buy a home and save for retirement. For many, that may mean a college education. For others, it may not.