In a recent Atlantic article titled “Why College Isn’t a Bubble”, featuring Georgetown’s campus and professor Stephen Rose of the Center on Education and the Workforce, a strong argument favors the idea that a college degree results in more than just piles of student debt and unemployment. Front-and-center on the online article was a picture of Georgetown’s Healy Hall [pictured right]. The article discusses why the concept of the “college bubble,” where students bulk up loans to a dismal job market, is not necessarily a fair depiction of a college degree’s worth.
Jordan Weissmann, associate editor of the Atlantic and author of the article, argues that the current university system is, while not perfect, functioning well enough, and that many of the rumors about the bubble are untrue. Tuition is not soaring as much as many complain, the job market is not that bleak, and, apparently, students are still learning, according to Weissman.
Rose contributes to the article, dispelling the idea that graduates end up in jobs below their skill level. This “over-qualification problem” is, according to Rose, “easily exaggerated.” The over qualification idea is that college graduates pay for expensive college degrees, only to end up in coffee shops or as bartenders. Rose argues that the way the Federal Bureau for Labor Statistics qualifies jobs is out of date. For example, according to the BLS, insurance agents do not require a bachelor’s degree. While this may have been true 50 years ago, in today’s job market insurance agents are at a significant financial advantage holding anything higher than a high school diploma.
“Half of all insurance agents now have a BA, and they make 40 percent more than their high school-educated peers,” Weissmann wrote. ”For men, that means a median salary of $78,000.” According to Rose’s preliminary research on college graduate underemployment, 15 percent of college graduates work in jobs don’t require their skills.
Although Weissmann argues that college is not in fact in a bubble on the brink of bursting, he encourages some changes to the system. To secure at least a middle-class lifestyle, college is still very important. However, he argues that there should be other options, such as apprenticeship programs, to allow people to develop strong career paths without needing to afford a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Photo: Reuters via The Atlantic