Does everyone really need a college education?

For more than a century, Wisconsin has held up the basic idea that every student should have the chance to earn a college degree and that a public university system bolsters growth and investment throughout the state.

But now there's a growing debate on whether the cost of a diploma is really worth it.

Students and families are taking on enormous debt with no guarantee of a well-paying job. Some ask whether technical or online learning might be the smarter choice.

Meanwhile, others question whether universities still maintain their status as safe havens for intellectual inquiry. Some argue political correctness has so infused the academic experience that conservative ideas are no longer accepted.

Has college lost its role as a place to challenge one's personal and political thinking?

Together with Wisconsin Public Radio, we tackle these questions and more as we try to decide who college really serves in 2017.

Join us on March 7 at 7 p.m. CT by streaming the live event on this page or via NPR Facebook.

Who do you think needs college? Join the conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #NPRWhyCollege?

Featured Social Media Guests

Kevin Helgren, @kevinhelgren, student body president, University of Texas at Austin

Virginia Kastilio, @Ginicanbreathe, CEO of GiniCanBreathe social media consulting, started to pursue a college degree but decided to leave to launch her career

Jared Kleinert, @jaredkleinert, entrepreneur, author of 2 Billion Under 20 and 3 Billion Under 30, chose not to pursue a college degree and instead started his businesses

Marty Nemko, @MartyNemko, renowned career coach

Featured Panelists

Stephen Thompson, NPR Music editor, co-creator of Pop Culture Happy Hour, University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus

Lynda Barry, cartoonist, writer, associate professor in Interdisciplinary Creativity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Deshawn McKinney, University of Wisconsin-Madison student, president of the Wisconsin Union

Brian Raffel, co-founder and Studio Head at Raven Software, Studio Head at Raven Shanghai, University of Wisconsin-Madison alumnus

Charlie Sykes, author, radio host, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee alumnus

Robin Vos, speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alumnus

Sam Park, University of Wisconsin-Madison student

Brooke Evans, University of Wisconsin-Madison student

Kaitlynne Roling, University of Wisconsin-Madison student

Featured Performer

First Wave Scholars

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit

300x250 Ad

300x250 Ad

Support quality journalism, like the story above, with your gift right now.