Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ancillary Theory on the Rise of Higher Education

The higher education bubble is near its peak. We are now over 1.1 trillion in student debt in the US, with many of the loans of dubious means or use. While I love the theory that the Griggs vs. Duke Power case is why higher education exploded, let me put forth a helping hand theory. I am skeptical of a magic bullet, but Griggs is great as the start of using college as a measn to weed out the dumb while not being called racist. There is something to be said for the geographic diversity of BA requirements for jobs. The northeast has many jobs that require a BA, but in other regions of the country, those jobs don't require a BA. Without the need for a BA, many kids would never go to college. The college degree promotion was a means to save the state and regional economies for the first states hit by the gutting of American manufacturing.

Americans know the Rust Belt idea, where the Upper Midwest has decaying cities that were fantastic and full of manufacturing plants and jobs just 30+ years ago. This concept already happened in New England and NY a couple decades earlier. That same region is the region that requires BAs for the most mundane office jobs. State governments looked at the destruction of manufacturing in the northeast and looked for a way to offset the loss of jobs. By requiring BAs, businesses automatically created a demand for getting a degree. This would flood universities with far more applicants than the status quo. More demand for BAs, more demand for employees to staff these colleges. More spending on dorms and buildings to house and teach these students. The ripple effect would be huge. It would offset partially the loss of manufacturing jobs. Those New England unionized plants were the first to lose out to lower cost areas. They have been the most vocal on pushing the college degree at all costs mantra.

The higher education bubble is not a bubble as much as a spiders web. The spiders web was woven long ago, and has been expanded to the point where we are all caught in it. The hunt for good schools, the pressure to save enough money to go to a good enough college, and the debt burden all weigh on the mind of every middle class and upper middle class American parent. The Griggs case as well as my theory on the northeast saving their economies are but small pieces to that giant puzzle.

1 comment:

Gabe Ruth said...

Another somewhat more intended consequence seems to me to be (native) population control.