Useless College Degrees Proliferate; Millions Waste Lives in Academic Bubble

Do we need more college grads?,” asks John Leo in Minding the Campus.  The answer is surely no: a study highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Education shows

“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.” This means that the great push to increase the number of college grads has apparently come to very little — only a minority of the additional grads are in occupations regarded as requiring a bachelor’s degree.  Of the nearly 50 million U.S. colleges graduates, 17.4 million are holding jobs for which college training is regarded as unnecessary. The number of waiters and waitresses with college degrees more than doubled from in the years 1992-2008, from 119,000 to 338,000, and cashiers with college degrees rose from 132,000 to 365,000.

In “The Great College Degree Scam,” expert Richard Vedder points out that “[s]ome in higher education KNOW about all of this and are keeping quiet about it because of their own self-interest. We are deceiving our young population to mindlessly pursue college degrees” they don’t need.

In “Four Years of College to Become a Bellhop“, Stephen Kanfer laments:

“Like the dollars that pay for them, degrees from U.S. colleges and universities are rapidly declining in value. . . a B.A. is hardly a guarantee of salary or success. . . Examples: Nearly 30% of flight attendants had BA’s. Some 24% of retail salespersons had similar degrees. So did more than 17% of baggage porters and bellhops. Taxi drivers: 15%; hotel, motel and resort desk clerks, 16%; manicurists and pedicurists, 11.5%. The list goes on to include locksmiths, shampooers and telecommunications installers. . . the principal reason for the lack of high-grade employment lies with the colleges themselves. Anyone who inspects their catalogues will find a glut of courses designed to separate the student from his cash, without imparting anything that might be defined as wisdom. Core curricula . . . have been elbowed offstage by banal courses in feminism, black studies and queer theory. . .The result: students who can spout a line of political correctness designed to dazzle their peers and professors. With that and $1.50 they can get a bus ride downtown to the unemployment offices. And when and if they do land a job, chances are that their abilities will be sorely tested because they come to work with an ignorance of history, economics and society. The future is not hard to predict. If current conditions prevail, the deflation of a bachelor’s degree will soon be accompanied by a corresponding inflation in the value of advanced degrees. A B.A. will be considered the equivalent of a high school diploma, and candidates for fast-track jobs in business or the professions will have to enter the work force with at least a master’s degree. Colleges will grow richer and students poorer. And if matters go far enough, one day municipal workers will have Ph. D’s to qualify for a position in the sanitation department.”

We earlier discussed the college tuition bubble, and the uselessness of many elite law schools, in “The College Debt Bubble: Is It Ready to Explode?”

Image credit: Honeywell-Nobel Initiative’s flickr photostream.