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.