Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out of college in his senior year — and he doesn't seem to have done too badly. But could his failure to graduate now stop him from becoming the next president of the United States?
Vox's political writer Libby Nelson
doesn't think it should make any difference in the 2016 race, in which the Republican governor is already one of the front-runners, along with ex-Florida Gov. Jed Bush, in a large GOP field.
Walker left Marquette University in Milwaukee during the spring of his final year and never returned. But Vox pointed out that nearly 70 percent of Americans don't have a bachelor's degree either, while white voters without a degree tend to lean Republican.
The last president who didn't graduate from college was Harry Truman, who served from 1945-1953.
"Walker's lack of a bachelor's degree might end up mattering, but it shouldn't," wrote Nelson. "Higher education is more economically valuable today than it's ever been, but that doesn't mean a college degree needs to be a prerequisite for the presidency."
Nelson noted that there are two theories about why a college degree is so important for young Americans. But together, she says, they explain why Walker's lack of a certificate may not really matter.
"The first theory is that a college education makes a difference by turning people into better, more productive workers who are worthy of higher wages," she wrote. "This is called the human capital theory.
"It holds that earning a college degree really does change you, whether by teaching you skills you can use on the job … or by building bigger life skills, such as an ambitious social network or the intrinsic motivation you need to study instead of partying.
"The second theory is that employers look for an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff when hiring. Under this theory, a college degree actually doesn't make you any better at what you're doing.
"It just serves as an easy signal to employers: this person is a valuable employee, because they are the kind of person who earns a college degree."
According to Vox, Walker attended classes regularly at university, although he was sometimes late for French. And, of course, he was active in student government.
Although he was technically a senior, Walker had not earned enough credits to get his degree on time — he was 34 credits short of a degree when he left Marquette. Yet, the college dropout still has about three years of classes on his education resume.
"If a college degree is valuable because of what you learn along the way, Walker probably reaped most of the gains anyway," wrote Nelson.
"So the only plausible way to argue that Walker's lack of degree matters to whether he's qualified for the presidency is to say he could have picked up something invaluable in those final 34 credits — something he couldn't have learned in any other way in the 25 years that have passed since then."
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