Burst the Higher-Education Bubble; Subjecting Academia to Market Forces Would Raise Diploma Value

By Leef, George | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

Burst the Higher-Education Bubble; Subjecting Academia to Market Forces Would Raise Diploma Value


Leef, George, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: George Leef, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A lmost everyone knows the country went through the wringer after the housing bubble burst. Now a new bubble looms before us - the higher-education bubble.

Just as easy money, lowered lending standards and political hype came together to vastly overinflate the housing sector, a combination of easy money (federal grants and loans available for nearly every student), lowered academic standards (colleges that readily accept students with pathetically weak basic skills) and political hype (the notion that getting a degree will guarantee a huge boost in earnings) have produced a vastly overinflated higher-education system.

The higher-education bubble has been inflating for decades, and it's ready to burst, or at least deflate. That's because many Americans are realizing that the huge cost of college is often a waste. Whereas college degrees used to be regarded as sure-fire investments, the labor market has become glutted with people who have been to college but can't find good jobs.

Did you know that 22 percent of customer-sales representatives and 16 percent of bartenders have bachelor's degrees?

Furthermore, at many schools, academic standards have fallen to the point where students can coast through without learning anything worthwhile. As University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds recently wrote, The higher education bubble isn't bursting because of a shortage of money. It is bursting because of a shortage of value.

As a result, many students and parents are looking for less expensive, more effective alternatives to the traditional degree. They're finding plenty of new options with online courses and independent certification of competencies, such as ACT's National Career Readiness Certificates.

This educational revolution will transform higher education for the better as people shop for good value for their education dollars rather than robotically enrolling in a college, taking its courses and paying its bills.

During the bubble, colleges could get away with offering lots of courses that met a standard that former Indiana University English professor Murray Sperber characterizes as the faculty/student nonaggression pact. That is, the professor didn't demand much of the students and gave high grades; in return, the students didn't expect much from the professor, who wanted time for academic research projects. …

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