University enrollment will decline this decade, and that’s probably a good thing

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If you sell hot dogs at a baseball stadium, your income is probably good. Now imagine that the stadium has 6 hot dog competitors next to you. Are you still going to do well or will your hot dog income go down? Unless you’re Paul Krugman, you know the price is going to drop. Now imagine the stadium telling you that 6 people like you doing the same job are a positive thing; more people will enjoy hot dogs, and the hot dog market will likely grow because there is so much to choose from.

It may be true, but it doesn’t help you at all.

It’s the fate of new PhD students who discover that much of the reason they got the PhD, to do research at a university, is going to involve a challenge that few have told them about. The college doesn’t mention that while they tout college life over disgusting corporate work, they produce 6 times more doctorates than what can be employed in academia.

In 2010, I started to worry that government science funding agencies spending science funds to advertise how much you should want to stay in school and compete for government science funding were showing effects ; 5,000 doctoral students worked as janitors. It needs some context. If you have a doctorate. in 18th century French poetry, and you have a real level of literacy, you know that a paid job in your field may take longer. There aren’t a lot of jobs there. Yet it also had an impact on scientists. Due to the glut of doctorates, post-doctoral researchers fell, some positions became unpaid. Some even offered them if you brought your own purse.

We don’t need more critics than critiques of Proust but we always need more doctorates in science, don’t we? Not if they are going to work as bartenders, and not at the expense of becoming doctors or other professionals. And that has been a problem; we weren’t creating new science doctorates out of people who would otherwise sell cell phones, we often cannibalized smart people from other fields. Or we would encourage people who would have been better off in the private sector to get higher education, where at 40 and after three low-paying post-doctoral jobs, they have a lower quality of life than friends who got a bachelor’s degree.

I wrote about the doctorate. bubble ever since and universities still plague young people with monstrous debt to pay famous economists like Robert Reich hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to teach two hours a week. This “propaganda by apologists for higher education”, such as Richard Vedder in The Chronicle the formula, is at the origin of the boom in student loans. In the late 1980s, politicians saw statistics showing that college education led to higher lifetime earnings and vowed that college education should be a “right.” So they made student loans unlimited. You no longer needed to get a scholarship, progress, or have parents who could afford it. By 2010, 21,000,000 were enrolled in university, most of them financed by debt.

What had also happened was quite predictable in a subsidized area; universities have found ways to take more of the increased money.

According to National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost just for a bachelor’s degree is now over $ 112,000. When Congress decided that a college education should be a “right” and made student loans unlimited, the cost was less than $ 27,000. It’s $ 53,000 adjusted for inflation, so it’s almost doubled. It’s not a big deal over the decades, the price of cars in California has gone up much more than that over the same period. It’s really less than 3% per year and not that bad.

Except Federal Reserve Bank data shows that the average annual wage growth during this period was only around 0.4%, even with the large increases in the early years of the Trump administration. Thus, the cost of higher education has been multiplied by 7 what salaries have, and all that debt was for naught.

Worse yet, 300,000 people with university degrees worked as waiters and waitresses. The same job they could have had without a college degree – with no debt. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees worked in jobs that did not require student debt – 80,000 bartenders, for example.

Academia was once a labor of love, but now the average professor earns $ 120,000 a year – scientists far more than that, even if they are sitting in a foreign prison. In wealthy schools like Columbia, the average is $ 260,000. This is great income and worth the student loan debt if you are an undergraduate student and are truly determined to secure a permanent job. However, with 6 times more doctorates than jobs, obtaining a permanent position is a real challenge; the average age for an initial R01 grant is now over 40. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go if you want to, I want the best minds to compete for basic research just like I want the best in anything that competes, but a glut of people means that the best minds often won’t win; someone cheaper and ‘good enough’ will.

And if student loan debt is canceled, as the incoming administration has promised, there will be consolidation not seen since the 1980s; because all the old expenses of the university system will remain. All these student loan buildings, all these salaries. These costs cannot go down, so the only place they’re going to go down is the salaries of graduate assistants and adjunct professors. It’s like a stage adding hot dog vendors to compete for the same customer pool, while securing the wages of the first vendor there – and then deciding that the hot dogs should be free.

In the current 10-year data available, young people with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 31% to 37%. It sounds good if a degree means someone is smarter, or at least better off. Yet wages show that they are neither. It is being fixed. The most recent data among young people shows a 6% decrease in the number of students graduating from college. Even with the growing population and graduation by a large “non-traditional” age group (over 18-24), we won’t see a return to 2010 graduation levels until perhaps. 2030.

This is a good thing. This means that young people engage in critical thinking about their future, exactly what we want future leaders to do. And critical thinking says that at current cost levels, a college education can be a bad investment for hundreds of thousands of young people.

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