Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Unconventional wisdom on "higher education"

John Carney has some unconventional advice for students who are looking to follow the conventional college-career path: don't do it.

Here's an excerpt from Carney's reimagined version of President Obama's speech to American students:

"
For most of you, college is an expensive waste of time. At some of our elite schools, you would form connections that are invaluable. It’s one of the things our elite colleges do best—putting the highly intelligent in the same place as the well-off and well-connected. Going to these schools serves as heuristic for employers—your admission to the school is short hand for intelligence and diligence.

But this kind of education—the standard college education—is really only suitable for somewhere around 15% of the population. Unfortunately, we now send a much higher proportion of our students to college, which amounts to a terrific economic waste.

Much of this waste—let’s call it the college education bubble—is due to distorted economics, bad government policy and misplaced social pressures. Government subsidized loans have made college attainable for many—but the ultimate debt burden can be untenable for many.

The economic rewards of attending college can make it attractive—but most of those are concentrated in the extremely smart and capable. Perhaps most damaging of all, we have a create a culture of collegiate achievement that discourages you from pursuing your education and careers in ways best suited to your abilities.


There’s a serious danger that the college education bubble may burst. As more and more people get college degrees, which inevitably have to become easier to get in order to increase the amount of graduates beyond its realistic levels, the market will eventually figure out that the degree doesn’t mean what it used to. It will become less useful as a heuristic for intelligence and achievement. And college graduates will find themselves with an asset—a degree—whose value is dropping while their debt remains high..."

Check out the full piece (and ensuing comment thread debate) at the link above. You'll find more on this theme in our related posts section.

Related articles and posts:

1. Avoid college for as long as you can - John Carney.

2. Are too many people going to college? - The American.

3. College a waste of time & money? - Controlled Greed.

4. "Corporate slave auctions" or, "How Joel got into Princeton" - Finance Trends.