Nobel laureate Gary Becker speaks about importance of college education

Levy Yun/Staff

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A Nobel Prize-winning economist spoke to the campus Wednesday to confirm that even with increasing tuition rates, a college degree remains the “world’s best investment.”

University of Chicago economics professor Gary Becker explained the worldwide boom in education, both for rich and poor countries, as well as the rise in women’s education and relative decline in the nation’s competitive edge in public education.

“The message is clear: Stay in school and graduate,” he said.

Due to the empirically proven low risk associated with taking out student loans to pay for college, Becker argued that rising tuition rates do not have as adverse effects as commonly assumed.

“(College students) should pay for most of their education — they will make more than the rest,” Becker said.

At the lecture, Becker emphasized the need to improve students’ ability to repay their loans as well as the need to increase the number of college graduates in the nation. Becker proposed doing so by strengthening family values, increasing high school graduation rates and liberalizing drug laws.

Professor Enrico Moretti, a UC Berkeley labor economist, was the featured lecture respondent. He agreed about the incomparable gains of a college degree but disagreed on several points in Becker’s solution, including Becker’s call to liberalize drug laws.

While such a move may have an indirect positive impact, Moretti said he doubted such a policy’s ability to increase graduation rates.

The lecture was hosted by the department of political science at Sutardja Dai Hall as part of The Baxter Liberty Initiative. The series was established in 2011 by UC Berkeley Foundation trustee Frank Baxter, former CEO of Jefferies & Company and former ambassador to Uruguay.

Becker won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992 “for having extended the domain of microeconomic analysis to a wide range of human behaviour and interaction, including nonmarket behaviour,” according to the official website of the Nobel Prize.

Alex Berryhill covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @berryhill93.