Policy

The College Bubble

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college

In Forbes, Kathy Kristof takes on college loans, arguing that there is

an unfolding education hoax on the middle class that's just as insidious, and nearly as sweeping, as the housing debacle. The ingredients are strikingly similar, too: Misguided easy-money policies that are encouraging the masses to go into debt; a self-serving establishment trading in half-truths that exaggerate the value of its product; plus a Wall Street money machine dabbling in outright fraud as it foists unaffordable debt on the most vulnerable marks.

At one point Kristof tackles the oft-cited factoid that college grads earn $1 million more over their lifetimes than people who only made it through high school. She argues that the figure is misleading, but I have a more fundamental question about it: If such numbers are accurate, to what extent do they mean that a college degree makes your labor more valuable, and to what extent do they mean that college itself is overvalued? In a world of degree inflation—and unnecessary licensing laws—is college lubricating class mobility, or is it an expensive barrier between the classes?