The most scandalous statistic in higher ed

Richard Vedder reveals in the Chronicle of Higher Education what he thinks is “the single most scandalous statistic in higher education”:

Approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked in jobs that the (Bureau of Labor Statistics) considers relatively low skilled — occupations where many participants have only high school diplomas and often even less.

That stat alone, he writes, reveals “many current problems and ones that will grow enormously as policymakers mindlessly push enrollment expansion amidst what must become greater public-sector resource limits.

Read the full story here — his article The Great College-Degree Scam.

  • Before I go on to read this article, I’m just going to venture the guess that the entire premise of the author is that the purpose of a college degree is to get a particular kind of job. If you reject that premise, as I do, then this figure is not a scandal or a scam, but a great accomplishment! More people are choosing to COMPLETE a college degree (not everyone does) than previously, and maybe for many reasons other than immediate employment prospects. It also says nothing about WHY we have greater public-sector resource limits: the “no new taxes” starve-the-beast politics of that very same period. As they say, SMH.

  • Anonymous

    You do make a good point, and one I’ve had in my head for a long time. The college-as-meal-ticket idea seems so antiseptic — and such a narrow way to look at things. But I may be too idealistic. The fact remains that a college degree is a necessity for a lot of people. And so much of the college sector sells itself as the ticket to good employment opportunities. So the idea of people entering college to get a better job, only to find themselves stuck in unskilled jobs, is arguably a scandal.

    • What the piece doesn’t say (but should be part of the conversation) is that a college degree IS still a good investment in increasing your opportunities over time, even it your first job out of college is being a waiter. And what is wrong with being a waiter, anyway? There are a lot of crappy waiters out there; being a really good waiter has nothing to do with degrees or lack of degrees, and everything to do with respect for work well done. Similarly, the scandal for me is that many students are spending too much money on their college degrees, and don’t care about learning, while there are people who can’t afford college who would be thrilled to study rather than booze it up. But that is another conversation 🙂