The Decline and Fall of College Education

From Market Watch:

Late summer is when parents bring their children to college. As they drive to campus they’re worried about tuition increases, the burden of student debt and whether their children will find jobs when they graduate.

Some parents and high-school students are beginning to question the value of a four-year college degree in this post-Great Recession world.   And you can certainly understand why they have these concerns…

…The job market for recent college grads is grim and incomes are down. The unemployment rate for all college graduates over 25 years old is currently 4.1%, less than half of the national unemployment rate of 8.3%.  But a recent Economic Policy Institute study reports that the unemployment rate is 9.4% for college grads ages 21 to 24 (not currently seeking a post graduate degree), and the underemployment rate for this group is 19.1% (this includes part-time workers who want full-time jobs). In 2011, those grads lucky enough to have a full-time job earned an average of $35,000 a year, a 5.4% inflation adjusted decrease from 2000 average income.   Finally, it is estimated that nearly 4 of 10 grads are working in fields that don’t require a college degree (the college-grad barista syndrome)…

The article details far more than that about what is wrong with getting a college degree – and then, in typical (for modern times) Alice-In-Wonderland mode, still goes on to claim that getting a degree is worth it.  I hold, though, that it is only worth it if you are going for a degree in medicine or one of the hard sciences (I don’t even count law school as worth it any longer as we have a glut of lawyers in the United States).  We have, in our higher education system, far too many people pursuing far too many degrees of doubtful immediate utility and the whole thing is financed with a trillion dollars (and growing) of student debt which is increasingly impossible for the college grads to repay.  What happened?

Government happened.  Government (lobbied by the education establishment) decided that everyone should go to college and so set up education systems designed to feed colleges as opposed to educate kids.  Government then set up a student loan program (initially via the private sector under government control, not entirely under government control) which provided easy funding (literally, an 18 year old with no income and no credit rating can borrow tens of thousands of dollars to go to college) for anyone who is willing to put his butt in a college seat.  Colleges love this because they get the money up front so it doesn’t matter if the kid ever graduates or whether the kid learns a marketable skill.  Colleges additionally love it because by providing loans the government allows the colleges to continually hike tuition rates outside of market variable – the kids aren’t thinking of having to pay that back four years later (four years to an 18 year old is forever in the future) and so aren’t actually calculating the loan cost against possible future returns; they are just told by guidance counselors that a college education will allow them to make more money than a non-college education.  No one ever tells them that there are college educations and then there are college educations…and education in medicine will immediately allow you to make a bucket of money per year while an education in post-feminist studies not so much.  As is typical whenever government gets in involved a tiny elite profits (in this case the education system) while the people get screwed.

In addition to that, except for those learning a hard science (in other words, those who are really in nothing more than a high-grade trade school), the kids aren’t even being educated.  100 years ago, a college education included learning Latin and Greek, just to tip-of-the-iceberg what isn’t being done in schools any longer.  We’ve massively dumbed-down college education to the point where I hold it mostly in contempt – because after all that time and money in the class room, I see no ability of a college graduate which is superior to my abilities.  I don’t know Latin or Greek, either…and I’d stack my non-college education knowledge of history, economics, philosophy and theology against anyone who graduated college in the last 50 years.  For most kids, it would be better if they went to a trade school rather than college – it would be cheaper and, for instance, if you are a tool and die maker you are in massive demand, even in this down economy.

When Obama talks about how he wants to spend more on education all he’s really saying is “I want to subsidize this massive failure because it provides campaign funds for me”.  The Education people know which side butters their bread – they know that as long as they keep the donations flowing to the Democrats the Democrats will keep the money flowing to the education system, no matter how lousy the product is and no matter how many poor kids are burdened with massive debt (nothing like starting out in life as a debt slave, huh?).  Its all a crock, a scam and a national disgrace – end the student loan program and you’ll pull the lynchpin out from under this rotten edifice.  It’ll collapse in a heap if there’s not a flow of loan money in to colleges – they’ll have to cut staff (and the staff most likely to be cut is the heavily liberal areas, such as the aforementioned feminist studies), cut tuition and start offering a more meaty education program which provides something you can’t get in high school or trade school.  We’ll also cut off a huge source of funds for the Democrat party and the larger left.  There’s no downside to eliminating student loans – certainly not for the kids who won’t be $30,000.00 in debt for a useless degree.

But, will we?  Not yet.  We’re still in a cowardly phase where we’re afraid of a Democrat “Republicans hate education” attack line.  But the fall of college education proceeds apace and maybe when we’ve got kids sitting under $2 trillion in worthless education debt there will come the will to change.