Talk of the “higher-education bubble” seems to be increasing. This short article from a North Carolina-based think tank pretty well sums it up:
Like the nation’s housing bubble, which eventually burst, the college bubble is caused by a number of factors. But the biggest force is, as my colleague George Leef has often pointed out, the overselling of higher education. The housing bubble was created, at least in part, by the conviction that everyone ought to own a home; the college bubble is occurring because so many peoplebelieve that everyone ought to attend college.
It’s depressing because so many people whom I know are employed in higher education, want to be so employed, or are connected with it, such as through academic publishing.
Speaking of the United States, what is the figure for entering freshmen who actually complete a bachelor’s degree in a generous six years? Under 50 percent, right?
Yet every high-school guidance counselor tells kids that even if they take on a pile of debt to get a degree, they will earn it all back and more. Not always true.
I don’t think making university education dramatically cheaper is the answer either. Some countries do — and then they end up with large numbers of young people who are now “above” working with their hands.
So they get jobs in bloated government bureaucracies, sit around drinking tea and soliciting bribes — or they emigrate.
(I’ve heard enough horror stories from the international students, of whom my university has quite a few.)
After decades of growth, starting post-World War Two when university education was subsidized for returning servicemen, then when the Baby Boom went to college (1960s-1970s), and then the “bubble” years following those, it is really hard to think that higher education might be contracting.
But it might. And we have to have some response to that, right?