I’ve been harping on the calamity that is higher education for some time now. A recent article by Issues & Insights guest contributor Armando Simón posits that this issue is in fact a bubble, and one that is soon to pop. Excerpts, with my comments, follow:
In the field of economics, a “bubble” refers to something that is being absurdly increased in value, much more than its true worth. The classic examples are the tulip mania bubble and the South Seas bubble. One could even make the case the 1929 U.S. stock market was a bubble. The results of such bubbles are invariably disastrous.
College degrees are a bubble. Many, if not most, degrees being granted are geared to be circular, that is, they are required for an academic setting. There, college graduates can happily regurgitate what their former professors told them, who in turn, repeated what their professors told them, each academic at each level in the process feeling very intellectual and very original. The problem is that there is a limited number of institutions that employ people to work in those fields or teach in them. Some politicians are proposing to exacerbate the quandary by offering free tuition, with the slogan, “Everybody deserves [?] a college education.”
And this is where the stupidity begins, with the idea that “everybody deserves a college education.” Not only are plenty of folks not suited for higher education, either for reasons of temperament, intelligence, ambition or a host of other reasons, but there are many, many vital roles in society that are filled by non-college types. Tradesmen, for example. You don’t need a college education to be a carpenter, plumber or electrician, and those are stable, solid, respectable jobs that require skill and brains – and pay pretty damn well. And just look at what wages accomplished welders are bringing down right now! But of late American education has downplayed or downright ignored the trades in too many places.
Here’s the onion:
The undeniable, harsh, fact of the matter is that there is almost no demand outside of academia for someone who has graduated with a degree in anthropology, literature, philosophy, sociology, history, gender studies, queer studies, art history, black studies, etc., to work specifically in those fields. Each year, thousands of college students graduate in fields for which there is no demand, i.e., no jobs, and are still living in their parents’ homes. In the United States, many of them are saddled with a gargantuan college debt that goes towards paying the universities, which ruthlessly exploit them with high tuitions, hidden fees, and ridiculously priced textbooks. Many such graduates, not having learned their lesson (ironic), stick around to get an advanced degree in those same arid fields, thereby prolonging childhood even longer and avoiding adult responsibilities.
Insert my standard rant about bullshit degrees here. Too many of these “studies” degrees are pure corral litter, suitable only for enriching lawns, and yet stupid kids keep signing up for them. It’s fraud, a particularly egregious and cynical fraud, foisted on these stupid kids by the education establishment.
Because the majority of universities and community colleges have been primarily subsidized by the governments (local state governments spend about $86 billion on higher education every year, and this does not take into account the federal subsidies, totaling $200 billion), there has been for decades a proliferation of those institutions. Even so, some colleges may be closing their doors for financial reasons, a portent of things to come, and on top of that, some conservatives are arguing that, since universities have become indoctrinating centers for totalitarian ideology, they should be defunded altogether by the government (indeed, some departments exist solely for the purpose of indoctrination, Gender Studies being the most obvious).
Get government out of education! That will pop the bubble right damn now.
Regardless of the reason, it seems that the university bubble will inevitably collapse and some have already even predicted the “crash.” The writing is on the wall. There will be many within academia who will howl about how essential colleges are and how relevant are their particular fields, but the bubble will inevitably collapse.
All bubbles do.
Stein’s Law applies here too: Something that can’t continue, won’t continue. I hadn’t thought of the current higher education nonsense as a bubble before. I find it difficult now to think of it as anything else.
We don’t see here any speculation as to when the education bubble might pop, other than “soon.” It can’t come soon enough to suit me. My kids are all educated and working, but I have one grandchild in college (in a pre-med program, so at least learning something useful) and another reaching college age in a year. I’d like their education to be worth something.