Monday, December 05, 2011

The higher ed bubble is bursting, so what comes next?

I've said once before here, if my degree has about the same value as a high school diploma then I have a very expensive high school diploma. Something I have to pay back with student loans. Check out this column by the Instapundit:
This is a simple case of inflation: When you artificially pump up the supply of something (whether it's currency or diplomas), the value drops. The reason why a bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor's degrees.

There's something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we'll have more middle class people.

But homeownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits -- self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. -- that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.

Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers.

Professional basketball players have expensive sneakers, but -- TV commercials notwithstanding -- it's not the shoes that make them good at dunking.

I've become a proponent for encouraging education in the trades. We will always need carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. What does Professor Reynolds say?
Another response is an increased emphasis on non-college education. As the Wall Street Journal has noted, skilled trades are doing quite well. For the past several decades, America's enthusiasm for college has led to a lack of enthusiasm for vocational education.

That may be changing as philanthropists ranging from Andy Grove of Intel to Home Depot's Bernie Marcus work to encourage the skilled trades. We need people who can make things, and it's harder to outsource a plumbing or welding job to somebody in Bangalore.

Of course, the thing about skilled trades is that they require skill. Even with training, not everyone makes a good welder or machinist any more than just anyone can become a doctor or lawyer.

And there are dangers in focusing too narrowly on a career path that looks good right now: The biggest constant in the global economy of the past several decades has been wrenching change. Jobs that look great today may not look so good in a few years.
Finally this comment from Newsalert:
The laws of microeconomics apply to higher education. Just a reminder, at a certain price a college degree isn't worth it's present value discounted for inflation. Anyone considering going to college should read this rather honest article from Professor Glenn Reynolds.
As a Black male, it's not a bad thing to encourage our young people to go to college. What we should want is from them to be wired for success in whatever they do. That means earn a living doing what they really want to do, where ever their talents would take them. Of course, if it's as a musician or an athlete or a carpenter or electrician then hopefully this will lead to a comfortable living with them being able to pass their wealth to their future generations.

What that means is we really need for them to know what they expect to get out of college. Don't go because your family expect you to go to college. Do it for you and hopefully you will have some goals for your future. If your goal is to find a job then that means you must find an option that will help you find a job. Easy said sure, but have some goals is the main lesson here!

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