Is a college education still worth it?

The LA Times takes on the Higher Ed Industrial Complex.  Bottom line: Higher Ed must be  teaching skills that can be used in rebuilding our local economies – this is the only path.

“After spending tens of thousands of dollars on higher education, often taking on huge debts along the way, many face a job market that doesn’t seem to need them. Not only is the American economy producing few new jobs of any kind, but the ones that are being added are overwhelmingly on the lower end of the skill and pay scale.

In fact, government surveys indicate that the vast majority of job gains this year have gone to workers with only a high school education or less, casting some doubt on one of the nation’s most deeply held convictions: that a college education is the ticket to the American Dream.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that seven of the 10 employment sectors that will see the largest gains over the next decade won’t require much more than some on-the-job training. These include home healthcare aides, customer service representatives and food preparers and servers. Meanwhile, well-paying white-collar jobs such as computer programming have become vulnerable to outsourcing to foreign countries.

“People with bachelor’s degrees will increasingly get not very highly satisfactory jobs,” said W. Norton Grubb, a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. “In that sense, people are getting more schooling than jobs are available.”

The article leaves us with the thought:  it’s still probably better to get a college education, but only in an area that cannot be done with a computer or can be outsourced.   This leaves a pretty narrow window of majors under the current system. 

What that really means is that our higher ed system must begin teaching skills that can be used to build local economies.  That will ensure that humans cant be replaced or our jobs outsourced by global corporations.

read it here:,0,5466021,full.story



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3 responses to “Is a college education still worth it?

  1. Danny

    I’ve been coming at this topic through the lens of UK’s Top 20 push for a little bit (going back to a Nougat article on it). And here’s the kicker: the turn to ‘go to college or else’ has also made those at the top of the university infinitely better paid–presidents, fundraising heads, rock star professors, etc., most of whom are shipped in from other areas.

    Here’s a deschooling editorial that touches on some of it:

    A look at the UK student body over the past 10 years:

    A look at Lee Todd’s salary and bonus:

    And for icing, an article on the creative class that mentions the bullshit claim that the knowledge economy is a job producer:

    A couple more are in the conceptual pipeline. Once school comes back, and all the students and tenured profs return from their vacations away from Lexington, maybe I’ll write them.

    • steveaustinlex

      good stuff – what are the learning alternatives to the current system of higher ed?

      • Danny

        Practically, I’d say nothing. Intellectual energy, public discourse, state money and degree-based hiring values pretty much make college the funnel through which people must pass.

        Ideally, I’d say things like Seadleaf–both on the knowledge formation side of things (as they learned from local farmers through an informal apprenticeship and backyard gardeners through word of mouth) and on the knowledge dispensation side (going to schools to learn by doing). Carpentry, food production (gardener, cook, canner, grocer, waiter, bartender), landscaping, etc.–these really don’t require getting captured by a wealthy and unproductive college experience that, effectively, dislocates you from communities to chase knowledge jobs and keeps you out of the work force for , potentially, 2, 4, 6 economically productive years of your life.

        Which isn’t to say that college is worthless, just that in its current dominant state it’s worthless (and worse, detrimental) to most. Of course, I also think that garbage collectors should get paid as well as (if not better) than most of the white collar jobs produced by colleges.

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