Feature photo by Myrmi
According to recent figures, around 300 million souls reside in the United States. Roughly 27% of those souls have bachelor’s degrees (about 80 million people), 8.9% (27 million) have a master’s degree, and just 3% (9 million) have a PhD. As the number of graduates rises, the job market gets more competitive, which means that the average college grad has a tougher time finding a decent job. So, in order to be more competitive, more education would be required. Years ago (e.g. the 80s) and years before that, all one needed to find a decent job was a high school diploma. But the decline in industry in this country sort of killed that off. It is no hidden fact that the United States has a service-based economy. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many other economists, industrial jobs are what made the United States the super power that it now vaguely resembles. With fewer jobs and with colleges pumping out graduates in record numbers, what does it mean to have a college degree these days?
When a nation’s economy is on the fritz, the treasury prints more money in order to cover costs. When too much money is printed, the value of said money declines in value. This phenomena is called inflation. If we apply this concept to people with college degrees, we have an Educational Inflation. What does this mean for the average member of the unwashed hoards of recent college grads? In my opinion, it reflects a “better luck next time” moment. Since childhood we (at least I was) were told by teachers and family that all one needs to do to make it is to go to college. Then it happened. I went to college, I finished college, and I still don’t feel like I’ve made it. It has taken me nearly a year to find employment. It would be naïve to say that the only reason that it has taken so long to find a job is because a bachelor’s degree means nothing. There are far more factors to that equation, such as graduating in the midst of the worst economic recession in ages or having an almost useless degree (unless I decide to get my PhD). I feel that economic factors should not be a problem since the percentage of people with college degrees is relatively low.
This topic can be easily broken down into a discussion about the structure of the American economy, and how the diminishing of the labor and manufacturing sectors of the jobs market created a rise in the service sectors thus creating a rise in the need for more skilled laborers e.g. college-educated individuals. We as a nation have put all of our eggs in one basket, and our generation has to pay for the blunders of our forefathers. Years ago in statistics class there was a principle that was pounded into my head: correlation does not equal causation. I am afraid that in the case of economic inflation this rule is broken. The restructuring of the makeup of the American economy has lead to an American education system (at the university level) which is more accessible to more individuals. When the demand for a commodity raises (degrees) and manufacturers (colleges) increase production to meet demand, the leveling off of demand and production causes the value of said product to decrease (educational inflation).The silver lining to this situation is that there are more people getting a college education, you would think that with so many educated individuals galavanting about someone would figure out that our economic system needs a revamping. The diversification of the job market in the United States may just be the key to economic stability, but then again who am I to say that I have an answer to what ails us.