No wonder the collision of the higher education bubble and the job market is proving to be so painful.
This Real News Network interview with Jeannette Wicks-Lim shreds the idea that getting a college education is a way to get a well-paid job. While there is still an upper tier of positions that require a college education and in many cases, advanced degrees, the bulk of employment growth in this economy is in badly paid service jobs. Despite the fact that the pundit class keeps wailing how America isn’t growing enough high skilled workers to compete in the world economy, the evidence is otherwise. For instance, Gene Sperling will regularly contend that America needs more engineers. Yet engineering jobs don’t pay enough to reward the cost of getting that degree. I’ve had engineers regularly say in comments that the only way to do well with an engineering degree is to then get a law degree and become a patent/intellectual property attorney. If the US really does need more engineers for competitiveness reasons, then it needs to get the cost of their education down, much the way it subsidizes the cost of educating elite mathematicians and physicists.
The proof of the notion that a college education is a bad investment for many. From the inteview:
So if you look at these $10 an hour or less workers, you see that between—you know, over the last three decades, there was 25 percent of these workers who had some college experience, and now you’ve got 40 percent of these workers with some college experience.
Now of course, one can flip this on its head: the only reason to look at higher education in such a mercenary manner is that it HAS become so costly. It was not all that long ago that a college degree was seen as worth having for its own sake, for personal enrichment and as something that was broadly beneficial to society. For instance, why was it even remotely acceptable for women to get college degrees 50 years ago, when the overwhelming majority became full time wives and mothers? Sure, some of it was that educated women were perceived to make for better mothers, but on an NPV basis, that sort of “investment” doesn’t make sense. It was because education was perceived to have broader social/civic benefits; it
Based on the comments I’ve gotten from readers regarding the education of their kids (in quite a few cases, encouraging them not to go to college or only a community college, out of a desire to spare them student loan debt slavery), we are in the process of rapidly making Americans less well educated. This trend is underway; the US is the only advanced economy to show falling educational attainment levels, which results in its falling in world rankings. In 2007, the US was 12 of 24 OECD nations tallied; it had fallen from number 10 in a mere two years.
It’s hard to see how this situation gets turned around without tackling out-of-control higher education costs head on. And the precedents are ugly. From Richard Kline, hoisted from comments in an earlier post:
A better comparable might be The Dumbing of Hispania. In c. 1250, the Iberian Peninsula had a culturally diverse (if frequently warring) mosaic of ethnically distinct states, some of them with the best educational and literary cultures in Western Europe. By 1650, Hispania was an intellectually backward, econonmically pallid backwater, living off imperial rents and colonial slavery. That happened when rascist, ultra-conservative, aristocratically choked Castile conquered the rest, expelled or ‘converted’ those different (when not massacring them outright), eliminated any but the most rigidly orthodox education, neutered (and rapidly snuffed) such quasi-democratic institutions as had sprung up, and founded a military conquest state off whose extractions overseas the domestic state lived wildly beyond its means in a zombie-like fashion with utter disregard of the domestic economy. The same trajectory could be argued for several of the all-China imperial aggregations there, or the Persian Empire for instance.
That is what ‘decline’ really looks like in the historical record, folks: ultra-conservative, think-not empires run for the benefit of a tiny, parasitic elite. Historically, the process hasn’t been quick, taking numbers of generations. Whether those trajectories are accelerated in the modern age (since 1600 in most of the world) is debatable, if quite possible. It is a joke of the universe or some gods in it that ‘conservatives’ of the rejectionist sort are literally their own worst enemies in the long run—but they don’t care about the long run, only about staying rich and in power till they, personally, die in any given generation.
In our case, the elite would be the financiers, who’ve created allies in the sectors that benefit, at least short-term, from the bubbles they help create.
From Real News Network: