The Education Bubble Will Burst (before I have college age kids)
Higher education is becoming more and more expensive. The level of debt that a student must accept is too high for the results that follow. Consequently, there must be a day of reckoning—the bubble will burst.
Why is education overpriced? Because families don’t have the same levels of wealth that they did years ago, but it is more than that. Quality education is truly expensive—and plenty of schools pretend to be quality without delivering on that promise.
Think of the sub-prime mortgage crisis: thousands of homes near default were bundled together and sold as overvalued assets to unsuspecting investors. There was not a clear level of transparency—buyers didn’t know that their assets weren’t worth what they were paying. The apple looked lovely on the outside but was rotten on the inside—and only once the customer had taken a bite did they find out. Then it was too late to return the apple.
An education isn’t an apple, it’s a &;4 year investment that doesn’t have a guaranteed return. What can I do now that I am a college graduate, that I couldn’t before college? The question is rhetorical, but worth considering. Statistics tell us that I will make X amount higher wages simply because I have a college degree. But I didn’t go to college so that I could get a higher wage on the other side.
I went to college because I wanted to be educated. I wanted to think more critically about the world I live in. Yes, I now know more than I did, but I also know that I know much less than I thought I did. I can communicate my thoughts more skillfully than I could before, and I have a higher level of skill at engaging with ideas. Education has made me better because it had made my mind sharper, more useful than it was before college.
It’s all a measure of degree, but I imagine this is not always the case. If you spent 4 years partying at a state school in a cornfield (or worse, a city), all the while getting by on your classes because you had to, then what? And what if your classes weren’t the type that challenged your ways of thinking? What if your teachers were bad? What if you didn’t care about the subject so you checked out most of the time? Was it worth the five to six figures that you paid?
We like to say that you get out of something what you put into it, but that isn’t always true. I can put my money in a toilet instead a bank and I shouldn’t expect to ever see it again. And if not all colleges are made equal (and they are not), how can you know until you’re there—or sometimes until years afterward—that you were putting money (probably that you borrowed) into a nice-looking toilet? What’s more, some investments are just bad. How can you recoup from a bad investment? It takes years—and the burden of the debt in the meantime.
Increasingly, America’s education is slipping. Our schools are being beat out by numerous other countries at this point. This trend shows no signs of stopping.
Why is this happening? We can all offer our opinions, but in the end, what really counts is: did this school make me better than before I was in it? I’m not talking about financial ROI, though I could be, but I mean the question philosophically. Am I wiser? Smarter? It’s not enough to know more facts. Google can tell me and any third grader facts. Am I more discerning? Do I understand human nature? Am I better prepared to govern myself? Control my appetites, reflect, choose a course of action instead of always reacting? Plato talks about the three classes of men—bronze, silver, and gold souled men. Am I at least aware of when I am being driven by my appetites? Do I know that I have a choice to act on my thoughts instead of simply my feelings (passions) or wants (appetites/desires/lusts/etc.).
I do not see enough members of my country taking the access to education that they do have (at each level of its disparate degrees) and using it to become better humans. Wiser. More compassionate. More considerate. More thoughtful.
And schools aren’t equipping people to do this, because there aren’t classes for “life.” Most people aren’t told: here is why you’re going to school and what you should be striving to learn from it. They just tell you: go to school. It’s what you have to do. Maybe you’re told it will make you more money, but that’s a bad motive (as a primary motive) to go to school.
And that is ultimately why we have an education bubble that will burst, and with the information revolution, I predict it will sooner than later.
People don’t know why they’re going to college. They are just doing it because it is the cultural norm. Then, like lemmings, people do what is popular and not what is smart. So tons of programs and institutions have been created over time by people who don’t know what they want, probably will never use their major, and those investments in the students aren’t working out too well.
We need more discerning students