Democrats are lobbing criticism toward Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker after learning that he did not complete bachelor’s degree while in attendance at Marquette University in the 1980s.
While Democrats nationwide believe that attacking Walker for this lack of education may aid in their fight against Walker as he prepares for a potential 2016 presidential bid, they may be alienating more people than they are winning over.
According to recent data, 68% of Americans 25 years or older do not currently hold a bachelor’s degree, which equals 142 million potential voters who may be offended by the attack on Walker’s education, writes Jason Russell for The Washington Examiner.
In addition, because Walker accumulated 75% of the credits necessary to graduate during his time at Marquette, he currently has a higher level of education than almost three-fourths of the country. Only 37% of Americans hold that many credit hours of college education.
Overall, there have been 10 presidents to serve the country without a bachelor’s degree, the most recent of which was Harry Truman. Notably, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln also did not have degrees.
Walker’s supporters believe his other qualifications, such as his record as governor, should keep him in the running for President and that he is just as qualified as every other candidate.
There are a few theories pertaining to why exactly his lack of education could be significant during the next presidential campaign, writes Libby Nelson for Vox. One, the “human capital theory,” suggests that a college education changes people into harder working individuals who have the intrinsic motivation necessary to know when to work instead of party.
The second, the “sheepskin effect,” suggests that a college education signals to employers that a person is a valuable hire.
In addition, current studies have shown that college attendance advances economic inequality as graduates do not have significantly better prospects at employment and typically have higher rates of student debt. Another study, ‘Academically Adrift’ by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, found that 36% of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” upon graduating with a degree, writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today.
People like Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, did not need degrees to begin their companies and achieve success. However, neither of these men were seeking the presidency, nor did they need the approval of the American electorate to find that success.
His supporters believe that because Walker completed 75% of his degree, he still maintains the knowledge and skills given to him in that time, and that he was also highly active in student government.
As the election season matures, we may see whether the college degree has created a class system in America — a divide between those who are formally educated and those who are not.