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SO WAIT, ALL THAT STUDENT-LOAN DEBT AND NOW THE MAIN REASON MANY PEOPLE GO TO COLLEGE TURNS OUT TO BE FAKE? 6 Reasons The ‘Hookup Culture’ Is A Myth. Talk about deflating the higher-education bubble. . . .

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Teenagers Flee The Bursting Higher-Education Bubble For Brown Jobs.

The real significance of the story is that brown jobs are making it possible for Americans to make a decent living without a college degree. It’s a heartening sign of a new reality that some teens are finding ways to launch a middle class life directly out of high school. As the energy boom continues, we may be seeing a lot more of this. New developments in oil and gas extraction are already helping to point us towards energy independence. If they can also help build up the middle class, that’s even more reason to celebrate them.

My question. The New York Times seems upset that teenagers might skip college — which could lead to an, er, white-collar job — in favor of going straight into a “brown job” out of high school. So, according to the NYT, white=good, and brown=bad. Uh huh. Got it.


The spiraling rise of component costs in higher education are helping to inflate the higher-education bubble. One of the reasons those costs are out of control is that colleges and universities see no merit in keeping track of some of the larger ones. You cannot exercise fiscal discipline if you have no idea what you’re spending. Higher education has at least two major cost drivers that it hides from rational oversight: diversity and sustainability. . . .

Of course, diversity and sustainability have real costs, even if they aren’t properly counted or disclosed, and such ideas can and should be subject to critical scrutiny. I’ve been doing my part in developing critiques of both movements. The dysfunctions in higher education’s financial model seem likely to make these matters more urgent. The “common good,” as my correspondent phrases it, isn’t achieved by pretending that we can ignore costs and bypass reason. Ostriches may achieve a certain moral clarity but we would do better from a higher vantage point.

When I see a school bragging about its “sustainability” efforts, I take that as an indicator that it’s on an unsustainable financial path. And I wrote at some length about university administrations’ efforts to expand diversity bureaucracies even as they cut teaching faculty.

JOHN LEO: Janitors With College Degrees and the Higher-Education Bubble. “Employers, because they realize that many college graduates aren’t really educated, now routinely quiz job seekers on what they majored in and what courses they took, a practice virtually unknown a generation ago. Good luck if you majored in gender studies, communications, art history, pop culture, or (really) the history of dancing in Montana in the 1850s.”

All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

DAN MITCHELL: The Higher-Education Bubble and Third-Party Payer.

JAMES TARANTO: Alternative Certification and ‘Colorblind Racism’ — The sooner the higher-education bubble bursts, the better.

The higher education industry’s credential cartel is under financial threat owing to the necessity of state and local (and eventually federal) budget cuts and the increasing sense that a degree isn’t worth incurring a mountain of debt. It is under legal threat, too. There is a strong likelihood that the Supreme Court will abolish or severely curtail the use of racial preferences in college admissions sometime in the next few years, a possibility that led to gnashing of teeth at the New York Times editorial board. Thanks to the senescence of white guilt, explicated here Monday, it is also under cultural threat.

Now, as Vedder reports, there is a competitive threat as well. We can expect that the higher-ed industry will do whatever it can to crush this threat. The obvious point of attack would be to claim that the new skills tests have a racially disparate impact.

No industry loses market share without a fight.

BEACH READING: I just noticed that Charlie Stross’s Rule 34 is now out. I read an advance copy a couple of months ago. Here’s what I said then: “It’s like the perfect InstaPundit novel — there’s a burst higher-education bubble, talk of the Singularity and artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and even home-based fab/maker technology. What’s not to like?”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Young Americans, Forget Your Student Loans And Move To GonzoTown. What’s interesting is to see the same higher-education bubble critique coming from a different political slant. The notion of student loans as debt-slavery has really taken off.

SO THANKS TO ALL THE GUESTBLOGGERS, WHO DID A GREAT JOB. Meanwhile, I was scuba diving again — with my friend Nat Robb’s dive operation — and taking some Internet-free time to clear my brain. I love the Internet, but time away from it can be therapeutic. . . .

I also read Charles Stross’s new book — not out yet — Rule 34. It’s like the perfect InstaPundit novel — there’s a burst higher-education bubble, talk of the Singularity and artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and even home-based fab/maker technology. What’s not to like?

I’ll be ramping up back to normal as the day goes on. I’m tanned, rested, and ready!

KEEPING THE HIGHER-EDUCATION BUBBLE INFLATED: Mom Hates Boyfriend Because He Has No College Degree.


Also, here. “The truth is, there is no Santa Claus, dot-com stocks are not invincible, home prices will not experience double-digit gains every year and most college degrees are not worth decades of debt.”

WHAT WORRIES ME IS THAT this may not be part of the higher-education bubble. On the other hand, assumptions that tactics won’t be reciprocated may indeed be a sort of bubble of their own.

WENDY KAMINER: The SaVE Act: Trading Liberty for Security on Campus. And, mostly, ensuring that the higher-education bubble will deflate even faster.

IN RESPONSE TO MY HIGHER-EDUCATION BUBBLE POSTS, reader Edwin Leap sends this on the high cost of medical education. “The thing is, American health-care is expensive. But so is medical education. As we embark on this century, what are the odds that physicians with $240,000 loans for medical school will be able to offer inexpensive care? What are the odds they will enter low-paying specialties? They might be interested in charity care at first, but when the first loan payments come due all the good intentions in the world won’t change the fact that lenders want their money back.”

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Who is this defender of free markets against the scourge of government regulation? Has he spoken to the Post’s editorial board lately? Heh. More:

There is a point about government involvement that’s worth making here. If, as critics claim, there is too much money going to these institutions too fast, its at least partly because the government is making so much cheap capital available to attend them. If there’s one thing we should have learned from the housing bubble it’s that the lure of cheap credit is hard to resist. And what happens when lots of dollars chase limited goods or services? Prices go up of course. Take the government money off the table (or reduce the amount) and the market will settle. Eventually, institutions like Kaplan will be forced to lower prices and improve offerings to bring in students.

I think the attacks on for-profit schools like Kaplan have been unfair — and largely meant to protect their traditional-school competitors from the higher-education bubble talk. But this is true.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

All through the health care debate the president and the advocates of his horrible health care bill repeated again and again how we pay more than other leading countries for far worse results. Why do they not make the same argument about public education? Instead it’s always how we need to pump more and more money into the system.

We both know the answer, but it would be nice to see some Republicans ask the question.

Interesting point.

MY HIGHER-EDUCATION BUBBLE TALK AT CLEMSON is now available on video online.

HIGHER-EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Reader Brian Wohlgemuth writes:

My wife and I are getting hounded with four/five calls daily for various for profit universities trying to speak to my daughter. I’ve overheard their approach and it can be best described as a “desperate used car salesman”. I’ve told them to stop calling, some have listened. Some have also apparently outsourced their marketing to overseas call centers.

Last night they called at 10:06pm EDT. I have a feeling I’m going to get more calls like that…

If my theory of the higher-ed bubble is right, its bursting will show first in those places that are (1) most dependent on student loan money, and (2) least able to convince students to go into debt for their services. So desperation here would be a leading indicator, I think. It’s when traditional colleges start showing similar desperation that we’ll know it’s really happening.

LAST NIGHT’S lecture on the higher-education bubble went well; there was a crowd of around 300, mostly students who probably would have preferred a more upbeat treatment. The Q&A lasted about as long as the lecture, which is always a good sign. One point that I haven’t blogged, but that is worth mentioning here: The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

ONE PERSON’S GUIDE TO passing the bar with minimal effort? But wait — who is the hard-studying law student in the photo? You might recognize her . . . .

Related: Emory Law Student Lament: ‘We don’t need donuts, we need jobs.’ More evidence of a higher-education bubble?

Also: Even U.S. News Suggests Law School Tuition Is Getting Ridiculous.

BUBBLE? In the comments to this post, law students are talking about crushing — $150-250K — debt loads and no jobs, and being advised to flee the country since the debt is non-bankruptable. I’m hearing more stories like this, and I wonder if it’s not a sign that the higher-education bubble is starting to burst.

A MARKET BUBBLE in student loans? I wonder if it’s a student-loan bubble — or a higher-education bubble? Bubbles are usually inflated by easy credit, and usually end when the credit market gets less generous. I suspect that runups in higher education costs have been underwritten by the availability of easy credit to students and parents, and I wonder if colleges and universities won’t meet a lot more market resistance if that credit dries up even partially.

UPDATE: Reader John Costello sends this bit of anecdotage: ‘My girlfriend works for a bank that bundles student loans. They just let most of their people go. She reports that many people who had gotten loans for their first two or three years are now unable to get loans to continue (which means, of course, they are likely to default on the loans for their uncompleted educations.)”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Dean Esmay writes: “I think it’s probably true. The market of easy credit for student loans has resulted in a glut of people demanding to go to school and thus lowered the value of a college degree. I went to school for four years and in my heart of hearts I truly wish I’d never done it.”