Does Scott Walker Need A College Degree?

Do you need a college degree to get elected president? Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who doesn’t have one, wants to know.

As Walker begins contemplating his 2016 presidential bid, John Fund reports, his incomplete education is raising concerns among Republicans. Walker started college at Marquette University but dropped out to join the Red Cross. He never returned.  Amidst these grumblings, however, Walker is now considering finishing his degree.

We already know the answer to Walker’s question, as nine of our Commanders-in-Chief– among them the greatest (Washington, Lincoln) and most obscure (Taylor, Fillmore)– never received a college education. But Walker’s concerns are understandable. Americans today place a much higher premium on a college degree than they did in the past, and it’s quite possible that swaths of the electorate will write him off as a result.

Walker has indicated that if he does finish his degree, he’ll do it through the University of Wisconsin’s FlexOption, which allows students to obtain a degree at their own pace online. FlexOption relies on a “competency-based model,” which offers credits for subject mastery rather than in-class seat time. To that end, highly self-motivated students can complete their degrees as quickly as they can pass their assessments. Such programs present a worthy challenge to the traditional model of higher-ed, which places little stock in how much students have actually learned.

If Walker finishes his degree, then, he’ll not only improve his electoral prospects but also bring renewed attention to one of the most important innovations in higher-ed today. If he’s wise, he might even choose to make higher-ed reform a key campaign promise. He could certainly speak from experience.


3 thoughts on “Does Scott Walker Need A College Degree?

  1. The question of the value of a university degree was answered by a professor writing 90 years ago. Walker took the hard way, but his achievements speak for themselves. It is not readily apparent how his success in his chosen profession would be greater if he had a degree.
    “The idea is, of course, that men are successful because they have gone to college. No idea was ever more absurd. No man is successful because he has managed to pass a certain number of courses and has received a sheepskin which tells the world in Latin, that neither the world nor the graduate can read, that he has successfully completed the work required. If the man is successful, it is because he has the qualities for success in him; the college “education” has merely, speaking in terms’ of horticulture, forced those qualities and given him certain intellectual tools with which to work-tools which he could have got without going to college, but not nearly so quickly. So far as anything practical is concerned, a college is simply an intellectual hothouse. For four years the mind of the undergraduate is put “under glass,” and a very warm and constant sunshine is poured down upon it. The result is, of course, that his mind blooms earlier than it would in the much cooler intellectual atmosphere of the business world.
    A man learns more about business in the first six months after his graduation than he does in his whole four years of college. But-and here is the “practical” result of his college work-he learns far more in those six months than if he had not gone to college. He has been trained to learn, and that, to all intents and purposes, is all the training he has received. To say that he has been trained to think is to say essentially that he has been trained to learn, but remember that it is impossible to teach a man to think. The power to think must be inherently his. All that the teacher can do is help him learn to order his thoughts-such as they are.”
    Marks, Percy, “Under Glass”, Scribner’s Magazine Vol 73, 1923, p 47

  2. I wouldn’t have thought of voting for Scott Walker when it never occurred to me to ask whether he had a degree.
    I won’t be voting for him after he completes his online degree.
    No matter how many graduates of elite universities praise him for his bold move.

  3. What I think this shows is how absurd America’s fixation on educational credentials is. Walker has proven himself to be a good public servant. He wouldn’t have been any better if he had completed his BA at Marquette.

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