Disinvest in higher education

by Joseph Perkins | February 5, 2013 1:44 am

student loan diploma mill, cagle, Feb. 4, 2013[1]Feb. 5, 2013

By Joseph Perkins

College is overrated. That’s the ineluctable conclusion to be drawn from a new study[2] published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

The study’s co-authors, Richard Vedder, Jonathan Robe and Christopher Denhart, examined employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They found that nearly half of college grads in 2010 held jobs that didn’t even require a college diploma.

The center’s findings jibe with U.S. Census data, released last November on recent college grads here in California. Some 260,000 of the Golden State’s supposed best and brightest were working food service, retail, clerical, personals services or other menial jobs the last two years or so.

Now, the prevailing wisdom is that the underemployment of recent college grads, those still in their twenties, is attributable to the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009.

But researchers Vedder, Robe and Denhart note that the trend has been underway since at least the 1970s.

Indeed, their study looked at six occupations for which skills have not changed appreciably over the past 40 years, including taxi drivers, shipping and receiving clerks, salesmen and retailers, firefighters, carpenters and bank tellers.

In 1970, only 1 percent of taxi drivers were college grads, compared to 15 percent in 2010. Fewer than 5 percent of firefighters boasted college diplomas in 1970, versus 18 percent today.

Vedder, Robe and Denhart argue, persuasively, that the country has an oversupply of college graduates. As a result, employers are increasingly filling with overqualified college grads jobs that used to go to those who needed only a high school diploma or G.E.D.

Those findings have tremendous implications for California. It suggests that roughly half the $43 billion the state will spend on higher education in 2013-14, as proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget[3], is a waste of money.

Indeed, by operating on the egalitarian notion that any and every California high school student should go on to college and should obtain a degree, the state actually has devalued higher education.

At the same time, it has marginalized many, if not most, of the state’s high school grads, who really don’t want to go to college — or don’t need to go to college — for the jobs and careers in which they are interested, or for which they are suited.


If Brown and the Legislature weren’t beholden to the higher education establishment — the University of California Board of Regents, the California State University Board of Trustees, the California Community Colleges’ Board of Governors — they would reinvent post-secondary education to reflect the realities of the population the state is supposed to be serving.

California doesn’t need 10 UC campuses, 23 CSU campuses and 112 community colleges. It probably could make do with half as many of each.

Indeed, all one has to look at is how much UC and CSU schools have lowered admissions standards over the years to enroll so many students who otherwise would not qualify. Or how many community college students drop out before completing their studies.

By diverting resources to vocational education that now go exclusively to higher education, California can better match up the state’s high schoolers with their interests and skill sets.

Collegians could concentrate themselves on careers that actually require an expensive four-year degree — such engineering, investment banking, software development or financial analysis.

Meanwhile, those who opted for vocational education could pursue careers in rewarding fields that don’t require college, such as automotive services, computers and information technology, hotel and restaurant management, events planning and sports and entertainment.

By investing more on vocational ed and less on higher ed, state education spending would be far more cost-effective, saving California taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

And there would be far fewer overqualified, underemployed UC, CSU and community college grads waiting tables to pay off their student loans.

  1. [Image]: http://www.calwatchdog.com/?attachment_id=37563
  2. new study: http://centerforcollegeaffordability.org/uploads/Underemployed%20Report%202.pdf
  3. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/pdf/BudgetSummary/HigherEducation.pdf

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2013/02/05/disinvest-in-higher-education/