Is The Education Bubble About to Burst?


Glenn Reynolds writes in the Washington Examiner about suggestions that the higher ed bubble is at a bursting point.

Bubbles burst when people catch on, and there's some evidence that people are beginning to catch on. Student loan demand, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, is going soft, and students are expressing a willingness to go to a cheaper school rather than run up debt. Things haven't collapsed yet, but they're looking shakier—kind of like the housing market looked in 2007.

Back in March, Tim Cavanaugh noted that students are borrowing twice as much as they were in the good ol' 20th century, that defaults on student loans are up, and that the feds are pumping even more money into the system. That's a recipe for disaster.

Random but important points: 1. Getting a college edjumication does not (NOT) raise your lifetime earnings by $1 million. When you control for inflation, opportunity costs of going to school, advanced degrees, and the kitchen sink, you're looking at about $280,000 more over a lifetime. 2. Where you go to college is far less important to future earnings than that you go to college. According to Princeton economist Alan Krueger, the returns to attending an elite university (defined as one that will put you in the poor house) are far from clear. In fact, where you apply to college is a better indicator of future earnings than where you actually go (Memo to my kids: Apply to Harvard, enroll at Wright State, and we'll split the difference in the 529 accounts!) on the education bubble and new flows of federal money to same:

NEXT: T-Shirt Tuesday: Get Your Miranda Rights On Your Chest

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In fact, where you apply to college is a better indicator of future earnings than where you actually go…

    Correlation, not causation, of course. That said, this makes sense. Most people who don’t have a shot of getting into Harvard don’t apply. Those who do also typically apply to safety schools (Dartmouth!) and their local state schools. In a lot of cases the local state school will give this kid a scholarship.

    1. Of course, you could just go to Brown. (snickers)

      1. Brown has Emma Watson. It can’t be that bad.

        1. Speaking of Brown, does anyone know if this passed? Because that’s a massive amount of bullshit.

          1. I hadn’t heard of that. And it is bullshit. But, considering that the little bastards that attend Brown are overwhelmingly liberal and pro-tax, I can’t see why they would complain. I mean seriously, Providence is a city full of poor people and struggling schools. The little bastards ought to be sending their taxes in voluntarily right now.

            1. We have some of this type of town/gown tension. The real mistake the college town rulers make is thinking that the town would even exist without the university. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them would be a flyspeck without the college.

              But, yes, I encourage all pro-tax liberals to voluntarily give their money away to the point of insolvency. After all, they didn’t do anything for it, just luck and racism, right?

              1. Same thing happens in military towns. The locals just view the college/military base as a nuisance to be ripped off at every opportunity. The idea that that they might kill the golden goose never enters their minds.

              2. That tension is one of the things I liked about the film Breaking Away.

              3. If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

                All it would take for the tax (and the mayor) to go down would be a welll publicized boycott by the students of all local businesses who depend on the students for their livelihoods.

                1. Brown students got a green party candidate on the city council a few years back, and street next to campus always has flyers up all over the place with the socialist hammer and sickle.

                  Then the students at the other private schools in the city (Providence College and Johnson and Wales) are too busy getting wasted and don’t have a clue what is going on in local politics.

              4. The real mistake the college town rulers make is thinking that the town would even exist without the university. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them would be a flyspeck without the college.

                Ha ha ha. This “town” came immediately to mind.

          2. More importantly, how long before Watson decides to prove her chops as an adult actress by showing the goods in some “art film”?

            1. She is on record as saying she won’t rule it out.

              She said: “I would go nude, for Bernardo Bertolucci. It depends. I’m not taking my clothes off anytime soon, but it is part of my job.”


              1. She will do it. Some Eurotrash pervert will do the world a great favor.

          3. Mayor Lego-Head Ravenstahl tried that here in Pittsburgh too. Surprisingly, the City Council acted rationally and told him to go to hell, since education (and health care, which is largely run by U-Pitt anyway) is roughly the only source of growth in this city.

            Of course, Pitt and CMU made a deal where he promised not to bring this proposal up again if they paid an undisclosed “voluntary contribution” to the city each year in lieu of a tuition tax.

      2. Didn’t you go to Brown, Otto?

        1. Yep. Almost got tenure, too!

          1. I’m sick of your Vassar bashing, young lady!

    2. You shouldn’t step to the 603, punk.

  2. . Getting a college edjumication does not (NOT) raise your lifetime earnings by $1 million. When you control for inflation, opportunity costs of going to school, advanced degrees, and the kitchen sink, you’re looking at about $280,000 more over a lifetime.

    Umm, yeah, if you double-count the cost of tuition and room and board, assume it takes six years to graduate, and assume a private college rather than a state one. These are the assumptions in the article you cite:

    Substituting some of his own assumptions for those used by the board – including six years of tuition costs (and hence two fewer years of work), private college tuition instead of in-state public tuition, etc. – Miller calculates his own college premium. “[P]roperly using the present value of the lifetime earnings, adjusted for the cost of going to college and the difference in the number of working years, and excluding those graduates with advanced degrees, calculated at the three percent discount rate used in the report,” he wrote, “produces a lifetime earnings differential of only $279,893 for a bachelor’s degree versus a high school degree!”

    The exclusion of advanced degrees makes sense — those should be analyzed separately. But his other data-massaging is ridiculous. Most people don’t take six years to get a BA. And factoring in the tuition costs is dirty pool. If a baseball franchise is worth $1 billion, but it cost $990 million for the owner to buy it, you’re not going to tell me that it’s really only worth $10 million after you factor in the purchase price. That’s not what people mean when they talk about what something’s worth.

    1. The link from the article you cite to Miller’s letter to the College Board, which presumably lays out his calculations of the $280K figure, is a dead link. But I’d love to see what kind of income he’s assuming during the extra two years and what other artificial massaging he’s done to the data to knock $720K off of lifetime earnings.

    2. But don’t you have to factor in the purchase price? Let’s say I offer two people 10 shares of stock worth $100 right now.

      One guy refuses to pay. The other buys all ten shares.

      After 20 years, the stocks are still worth $100. The second guy sells thhe stocks and gets $100.

      Is he up $100 on the guy who didn’t buy the stock? Or do we take into account that he paid something to get them in the first place?

      1. Not only do you need to count purchase price, but also inflation. If, for instance, a fellow bought $100 shares of stock in 1913 and his kids sold them for $100 in 2010, the family will have lost about $97 in purchasing power, start-to-finish. Or, more to the point, the original $100 would have been worth around $3333 in today’s purchasing power back then. So, left with only $100 in today’s money, the kids would have seen an erosion of purchasing power by something north of $3200, from their point of view.

      2. You should definitely take it into account, but it’s misleading to say that the stocks are worth $0, because that’s the value minus the purchase price.

        When you say that a college degree is worth a million dollars in lifetime earnings, no one thinks you’re including the cost of tuition. Obviously that cost is going to depend on several factors unique to an individual: which school you go to, whether you work while in school instead of taking loans, how long you stay in school.

        Another way of putting it is, that if having a car will allow me to make an extra $5000 this year by delivering pizza, Miller’s analysis would say we have to subtract the cost of the car (and assume that the car is a brand new Lexus, and that I drive a mile out of my way with the air conditioner on all the time on every trip) to find out what the car is really going to make for me. It seems more sensible to just give the figure that doesn’t take that into account, so that those who wisely buy a beat up Geo Storm instead can calculate their own expected value more precisely.

        1. “When you say that a college degree is worth a million dollars in lifetime earnings, no one thinks you’re including the cost of tuition.”

          But that’s the thing. When they think that way, they are wrong. It’s clear that what we are trying to calculate here is a real and accurate statement of the earnings premium associated with going to college. Jack does not go to college and stands to make $1 million over 40 years. Jill does go to college and stands to make $1.5 million. In that case, going to college “earns” you an extra $500,000. But that’s a ridiculous place to stop the calculation. If the education cost her $200,000, the the premium is actually only $300,000. Worse, if she could have been making $50,000 per year during those four years, then the premium is only $100,000, expressed in terms of lifetime earnings.

          Then throw in the fact that if she would have gone to work and made the $50,000, and borrowed the $200,000 in tuition and invested it instead of going to college… clearly there is no lifetime wage premium to college.

          I made all these numbers up, and there might indeed be a premium. But objecting on the grounds that nobody should take the cost of an investment into account seems very, very strange.

          Quick: Someone offers to sell you a Van Gogh for $1 million. You buy it and a few month’s later you sell it for $1.1 million. Sure, the painting was WORTH $1.1 million when you sold it. But to calculate the value of the transaction you just undertook, you have to take the cost into account. You made $100,000, not $1.1 million.

          1. Of course you take the cost into account. But everyone’s cost is going to be different, so it’s silly to come up with a one size fits all number for the earnings advantage minus tuition. (And Miller’s assumptions are such that the costs are exaggerated — six years at a private school? That’s not average by any stretch of the imagination.)

            So it would make more sense to say that the earnings advantage of getting a college education is $1M, but you have to deduct the costs that you in your particular situation are incurring in the process of getting that degree.

    3. I think these days a lot of people do take six years to get a Bachelor’s degree. Often more than four, anyway.

      1. You’re right. So not only is tuition going up per year, but then you have to factor in how many students are paying for more semesters. And at my school, where many/most students received at least some sort of scholarship, the fifth year could be a real killer because scholarships were only for four years. If I had stayed a fifth year it would have cost more than my first four combined.

  3. students are expressing a willingness to go to a cheaper school rather than run up debt.

    But I’m surely going to do good things when I spend 100 large on women’s philosophy and religious whatever, right?

    1. If it was YOU getting that degree, sure Sage. But for 99.9999999% of the population….they can’t make it marketable.

      Back to School with you.

      1. Hey wylie, why don’t you call me some time when you have no class?

  4. But we have to rely on college degrees as a placeholder for job qualification. Employment testing is RACIST!!!

  5. I think the bubble is going to burst. And it is going to have a couple of effects. First, the Ivies are going to either get cheaper or get smaller. The value of those degrees in no way matches the cost for most students. People talk about the connections that such a degree produces. But what they fail to mention is that many of the students at those places go there already having family connections. If I am John Kerry or Mitt Romney I already have a ton of connections. But, those two are lumped in with the hard working middle class kid with no connections who manages to get in. It may be a great deal for Kerry for whom money is no object. But that doesn’t mean it is a good deal for an average person. More and more middle and upper middle class kids who are today taking debt to go to the Ivies are going to take the full rides available to them at cheaper less competitive schools. The Ivies are going to be left with the idiot son full pays, a few very elite students that can go on scholarship and a few diversity entries.

    Second, the non Ivy private schools are going to have a very hard time. Just what do schools like Gettysburg or NYU offer? Why on earth would anyone who doesn’t print their own money pay to go there? The non-Ivies who offer elite engineering or science degrees like Harvey Mudd or Carnigie Mellon will do okay. But the second tier liberal arts schools are going to have a very hard time.

    1. Harvard could probably give every student a full ride for the next 10 years given the size of their endowment.

      Funny you mention CMU. Their endowment took almost a 50% hit last year, partly because of the stock market trouble, but also because they got taken to the cleaners by a Bernie Madoff – type scam artist. And you’re talking about an endowment north of $1B.

      1. Maybe they could. I said they would have to either get smaller or get cheaper. But their endowment, thanks to “genius” Larry Sumners investment advice is not what it once was. They will do one of two things. Either they will crack into their endowment and go cheap by paying everyone’s tuition or they will downsize. But they cannot go on as they are charging middle class kids $200K in debt for degrees.

        The only reason I mentioned CMU and Harvey Mudd is that they seem to offer actual marketable degrees. Maybe they don’t.

        1. Oh, CMU is a good and prestigious school, don’t get me wrong. But as a denizen of a lesser Pittsburgh school I have to take every shot at them that I can. It’s a rule.

      2. Uh, not anymore. Harvard’s endowment took a 30% hit in 09. Couple that with all the expansion and building they now owe on and they are headed for the poor house.

        All the Ivies took a hit due to the way they managed their endowments. Times are tough all over, but they are looking tougher at the top of the edumacation ladder.

        Sleepy Larry rocks!!!

      3. I could give every woman in America a ride for free given the size of my endowment. 🙂

        1. When just about ANYTHING can be interpreted as smut, this is not funny

    2. NYU’s math department is the best department in the world for applied mathematics. The business school isn’t too bad, either.

      1. I don’t know about the world. US News gives them a #1 ranking this year for graduate studies in applied math among US colleges, though that’s unusual — in previous years it’s consistently been Cornell and Berkeley at 1 and 2.

      2. let’s not forget film. Sure it’s no USC but still.

      3. NYU’s med school is top twenty as well.

        1. I can’t speak for the other disciplines, but the rankings given by U.S. News on med schools should be used as fertilizer. They have no bearing whatsoever on the actual quality of medical education at those school and are mainly based on the test scores of those getting admitted on entrance exams (meaning they were smart before they arrived) and the amount of research money the school gets. Nothing to do with the scores on the USMLE exams, which all medical students take and which would actually reflect the quality of instruction, nor with the success rate of students getting the residency position of their choice.

          1. schools

            The need for an edit button continues.

  6. But going to Harvard makes you SMART!

    1. Smug, Manipulative and Retarded Tautologies.

  7. Don’t screw with me. This is how I make my money. If talentless, starry-eyed fat girls stop applying for degrees in Musicology I may have to get a REAL JOB.

  8. When the choice is between the Crimson and the Crimson Tide, the choice is clear.

    1. Tide with whiteners is better still.

  9. And factoring in the tuition costs is dirty pool.

    Not if you’re trying to track opportunity costs.

    I don’t think its dirty pool at all. Say I spend $100K on a degree, and that $100K raises my income potential by $5K a year. Is that a good investment of $100K? Not if it could return more than that invested elsewhere.

  10. I believe the saying is “In higher education you may question the value of everything, except the value of higher education.”
    Looking back on it, I should have become a welder.

    1. From what I’ve read recently, I would have become a cop or fire fighter in California. I could retire at 55 in style. After a thirty year stint, I would get a lifetime inflation-adjusted pension compliments of productive taxpayers.

      Only suckers get a productive job like a welder. They pay taxes; civil servants receive taxes.

      1. And all the horrible nightmares to go with it. Cops, firemen, EMT’s all earn those pensions, believe me. By 55 they are all used up.

        1. Speaking as an eventual receipent of a nice defined pension (however no where near as luxurious or gameable as a CA Civil Servant pension), I doubt that the majority of the police, FF, EMTs, whatever, in CA will have actually “earned” the benefits they’ll receive. I have no doubt that some inner-LA EMT will have seen some horrible things during their time, but that won’t be the majority of them.

    2. Contrary to popular belief, people with college degrees can rehabilitate themselves into productive welders.

    3. My friend Tom started out as a welder. He is now a multi-millionaire with a hourse rance in New Zealand.

      1. Somehow, I don’t think this is typical of welders

  11. I think this collapse would be great for the economy in the long run. Every politician and economist is talking about needing jobs – in manufacturing, energy, etc. Who the hell is going to do all that work when we have a generation of graduates with useless degrees, who feel entitled to a high-paying desk job? I say, the more people we send to trade schools and community colleges, the better our economy will perform.

    1. Think of all the money we are spending to pay for “women’s studies” and “Chicano Colonial Oppression Clinic” professors that could go to other things.


        (Stamps feet in impotent frustration)

    2. Trade schools are okay, but much of what community colleges do is dubious. My kids attended a well-regarded community college for junior and senior high school years. Most of Murray’s criticisms of the BA apply to community colleges as well.

      Here are two easy tests of how badly your local community college is performing. Drive around the parking lot at 10 am in mid-September and make note of how full and congested it is. Repeat in early December. I’d wager that the parking lot is about 40% less full then. That’s been my experience in each of six semesters that my kids have been at community college. My kids report that a large fraction of entering students is either too dimwitted for anything resembling higher education or plain uninterested, but access to “free” money for college makes it far more attractive than work.

      The second test is to browse the course offerings. The local CC has the same dubious offerings as their big brothers: Women’s Studies, Peace Studies, African-American Studies, Humanities, Psychology and Sociology.

      Based on my experience with the kids, the CC does a good job with math and hard science. English instruction was comparable to what I got in public high school. History and government instruction was awful. The instructors all taught from a watered-down leftist perspective, but were too dim-witted to know the arguments for their own opinions. Thus, the kids were indoctrinated in anti-American history and collectivist government without learning the intellectual agruments for these perspectives.

      1. I did my Math, Physics, and thru Organic on the way to a ChemE degree at the local CC. Trust me, it beat paying 3x as much to sit in a class 5x as large. The juco kids were at no disadvantage when we hit the major classes, either. Though to be fair, I went to a CC in a college town, where transfer to the big U was the major mission of the Associates programs.

        1. I currently work in the software development side of IT and am currently dabbling in the hardware side by taking classes at my local CC.

          I am currently working on an associates in Computer Forensics. I must give a shout out for my CC. The classes I have taken are just as good as what I received at a 4 year college.

          Also, all of my instructors have ‘day jobs’ in IT. The teach these night classes for fun/giving something back/beer money.

  12. The physics major asks “how does this work?”

    The engineering major asks “how can I make this better?”

    The liberal arts major asks “do you want fries with that?”

    1. Does anyone know if there are actually large numbers of liberal arts graduates working in low paying food service jobs? This hilarious little trope is repeated over and over, but I have my doubts that it is true. Apart from some particularly useless majors (mainly fine and performing arts), it seems that a bachelor’s degree in most anything is helpful in finding decent employment.

      1. Doesn’t matter if it is true or false, as and Engineer with a degree in Physics, I just love repeating it.

        1. As AN attorney who attended an elite liberal arts college, I love pointing out the basic grammar and spelling mistakes of self-important engineering trolls

          1. Never said engineers could type well.

          2. You have my condolences that you could not find something more productive to do with your life.

          3. As an engineer who tested out of the majority of his gen ed requirements because he aced AP and IB tests in English, history, and philosophy, I love pointing out that a liberal arts degree is completely unnecessary to do well in law school. Indeed, I hear that engineering majors do very well on the LSAT and in law school.

          4. I like periods at ends of sentences.

      2. The only information I have is annecdotal.

        I have two friends who are English majors. Neither one of them has worked in a low paying fast food job, but neither one has had a job that they really like.

        One of these friends has been downsized twice and is now working in collections. He would like to find a better job, but has been unable to find one.

        I received a degree in Computer Science, and while I haven’t always been able to find a better job, my career prospects have always been better than theirs.

      3. fine arts degrees are far from useless. Well the degree is useless but that is only because the portfolio you have at the end is all anyone cares about. There is actually a lot of work for artists if they “sell out”.

  13. Gillespie, Wright State not Miami? Don’t want them living at home?

  14. I was walking around Cambridge the other day and saw a guy in a Harvard Crimson Football t-shirt. It had a picture of the stadium on the back with a “Not in Our House” slogan.

    That’s how delusional these people are.

    1. Harvard does have one of the great old school football stadiums in the country. The buildings are okay. It is the people who suck.

  15. I went to Cornell and am now getting a PhD at Rice, so I’m getting a kick…

    But seriously, I don’t see why having a college degree is seen as a qualification for most jobs that liberal arts majors get (my undergrad degree is in engineering and my PhD in geology, so schooling means the acquiring of actual jobs for me). Learning to think is valuable, but not necessarily a job qualification, I don’t think.

    1. It’s my experience from my (admittedly) brief private sector employment that a good half of corporate jobs involve copy-paste, primarily.

    2. It isn’t. In fact, you can work for 20 years in many liberal arts fields with an entirely fake degree. Happens all the time.

    3. Being able to think and write somewhat well is something a lot of people pick up at college, regardless of their major and that is good for a lot of jobs. Unless you specialize in a technical field, your actual course of study doesn’t matter much. But I think that the biggest thing that a college degree tells employers (particularly about younger prospects) is that you are willing to stick with something and work reasonably hard.

  16. I don’t see why having a college degree is seen as a qualification for most jobs that liberal arts majors get

    It’s a lawful way to screen out black guys.

    1. Exactly. Businesses used to give aptitude and intelligence tests when hiring. But the CRA ended all of that because those tests were seen to have a “disparate impact” on minorities and thus illegal. Now they look for a piece of paper instead. The CRA had a lot to do with the education bubble.

      1. But they’re not trying to screen out blacks. Pretty much every major corporation in American is begging to add qualified blacks to its payroll, recession or no.

        1. didn’t say they were. But they are prevented from using aptitude tests. So instead they just hire based on degree whether having one actually means anything to the job or not.

  17. My prediction: higher ed costs continune to go up, funded by student loans that go unrepaid, with the taxpayers ultimately footing the bill.

    Tenure. What a fucking joke. Education is the one occupation that still operates like a medieval guild. Well, that and working at Medieval Times.

    1. Actually the apprenticeship-and-guild system wasn’t all that bad, especially in comparison with what has taken its place in the modern age. In software development, for instance, everyone wants to hire people with masters’ and PhD degrees — at least if you go by the posted job listings. But as a practical matter, time on the job under the supervision of an experienced senior developer is much more valuable than any sheepskin.

      1. Oh, and I forgot the obligatory: Go Bears!

        1. Did somebody mention White Bear Lake and I missed it?

          1. I’m a former Berkeleyite and father of another. Whenever talk of higher education comes up, it’s “Go Bears” around our house.

      2. I have to agree. I work in IT (for 15 years now)and I have exactly ZERO certs and not 1 day in a college but i rarely find employment an issue. Every ad I answer ask for a degree but once i talk to them experience is always preferred. To date I havn;t lost a job due to lack of a degree.

  18. When I was in high school I really, REALLY wanted to go to the University of Chicago. When I got in, I assumed that’s where I was going. Then they asked my PARENTS to take out $80k in loans (on top of what they wanted me to take out). The day I got my financial aid package was the day I decided to instead go to a small liberal arts school in Indiana that offered me a three-quarter scholarship. Six years later, when I was at my law school orientation and discovered most of my classmates went to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, U of Chicago, etc., I felt pretty good about my decision. And I feel even better about my decision as I’m paying back my law school loans and don’t have to worry about undergrad loans on top of it.

    1. I did the same thing, although I was too much of a bum in high school to get into a place like Chicago. I had a chance to go to several expensive private schools. Fortunately, my parents told me to pound sand and I ended up going for free to a state school. Thank God.

    2. It was made very clear to me that I wasn’t turning down any scholarships just because I wanted to go to a different school.

      Result: free ride as an undergrad, at a school I would never have even thought of.

      But was nonetheless both (a) a partay school and (b) plenty good enough to get me into Harvard Law.

      1. For a lot of top grad schools it actually helps to have gone to a no name state school. At my law school, we had plenty of Ivy League and “public” ivy grads. Not so many kids from Ohio State, Oregon, or South Carolina, though. If you didn’t go to a top undergrad, chances are you went to Murry State, University of the South, etc. I think the admission’s system had points for underrepresented areas and schools.

    3. Where you go does matter in some instances.

      The large law firm I used to work for, for example, *only* recruited out of the Ivy’s and select state law schools, such as U of Penn and UVA. if you went to a 2nd tier school, don’t even think about it. There’s a nice gummint job or 40-lawyer firm you can work at.

      1. Yes, but they didnt care about your undergrad. And you can get into Harvard Law from virtually anywhere.

        1. Current (counting Stevens) breakdown of the Supreme Court:

          Law school: 4 Harvard, 3 Yale, Columbia, Northwestern.

          Undergrad was slightly more distributed: 2 Stanford, 2 Princeton, Chicago, Harvard, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Cornell. Not exactly State U.

          1. My high school guidance counselor told me the same thing back in the 80s. No one cares what undergraduate school you go to, only what graduate school you attend.

          2. I’m thinking that “Current Members of the US Supreme Court” is going to have a bias towards the right side of the bell curve when it comes to education. I’d think a list of the undergrad schools for, say, all federal judges would show a bit more diverse selection. Or would better refute what our HS guidance counselors told us.

            1. I’m thinking that “Current Members of the US Supreme Court” is going to have a bias towards the right side of the bell curve when it comes to education.

              You must not read their opinions.

          3. So in other words, go to a big name law school and undergrad because you might otherwise miss out on a job that has an opening about every eight years or so.

        2. Exactly, Rob. There’s a reason I decided to shell out some big-time bucks to go to a Top Ten (or Top Fifteen, depending on the year) law school. Undergrad is a different story (though even there I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all; I’m saying that, on the whole, the benefits don’t outweigh the avalanche of debt).

      2. U of Penn is a private school. My sister-in-law is going there and the cost of her tuition is forcing my father-in-law to delay his retirement. Oh, and she’s getting a degree in Chinese. Personally, I’d tell her that her ass better be getting a Wharton degree or she can pay her own way.

        1. Why not take the money and spend four years in China instead?

          1. because China doesn’t give you an accredited piece of paper for spending four years there

        2. U Penn is also in the Ivy League.

      3. UPenn is a private school. I think you mean the so-called “public ivies,” like Berkeley, Michigan, UCLA, UNC, and UVA.

  19. I’ve had a lifelong dream of being an education-based supervillian named The Headmaster, but I need an abandoned college campus as a hideout to train my henchmen (The Hall Monitors) and sexy assassins (the School Marms).
    Hopefully the bubble bursting will give me something to work with…

    1. You’ve been watching a lot of the Venture Brothers, haven’t you, Jeff?

  20. Thank god for my crappy state undergraduate degrees (and thank you tax payers). I even managed to be the best of the worst!

    Having spent some time in faculty meetings or meetings with faculty I think this saying for Harvard is pretty accurate: “At Harvard they don’t have to worry about teaching the students as much as they need to worry about not fucking them up.” At some point the selection process for undergrads tends to be a self fulfilling process.

  21. I’m paying out of state tuition to Purdue for a degree in engineering. I thought I was just paying for the name on the degree, but the older I get, the more I realize that companies don’t hire people for a degree or a GPA. They hire someone because he has a particular personality.

    I think I’ve always been an engineer. Taking a test, getting a certain GPA, or getting a silly piece of paper isn’t going to change that. The diploma is just a formality that society (the legal system) requires.

    Not all degrees are like that though.

    I’d like to go to grad school and get a masters, but all these schmucks defaulting on their loans are going to make it harder for me. In engineering, advanced degrees are considered the equivalent of so many years of work experience, which translates directly into higher salaries so it’s definitely worth the money. Not to mention, in STEM fields, most people get paid to go to grad school.

    1. Dude, the main reason a company hires a person is if he knows what the fuck he is doing. I hope you are trying to get internships/co-ops doing the kind of work you want to do. And R C below is right. Having a degree from a good school with a good GPA opens doors.

      1. Well yes, you have to know what you’re doing. During interviews, most companies only ask behavioral questions because they aren’t allowed to ask technical questions unless they ask everyone the exact same question – so as far as interviews go, you have to make it obvious that you’re the kind of person they want to work for them. You don’t learn anything specific in undergrad anyway – you learn a basic set of tools and how to teach yourself, and then you get a job and teach yourself specific skills on the job.

        I’ve been co-oping since after my freshman year. I’m actually on my last work rotation right now, so I’ll be graduating with two years of work experience.

        1. Just out of curiosity, which field are you in?

          1. electrical engineering

          2. electrical engineering

          3. electrical engineering – the field’s pretty broad so it’s really difficult to “specialize” in undergrad beyond analog vs. digital

            1. Which of the two do you prefer?

              1. Most of my classes so far have been analog, but I’m teaching myself digital controls – VHDL, CPLDs, ASICs, etc – at work right now and I’m really enjoying it.

                I really liked my signals class, so I was looking to go into RF or signal detection, but I really like the digital stuff I’m doing now.

                So who knows…

                1. JEP: How are you at programming?

                  1. I’ve done C, Fortran, taught myself most of VBA, played around with Python, taught myself a little HTML.

                    I didn’t know a lick of VHDL three weeks ago, but now I’m programming Altera CPLDs to take inputs, manipulate them, and output to an LCD screen. I’m starting to get the hang of the concurrent vs. sequential logic.

                    I have friends who have written their own OS kernals, interned at nVidia writing drivers, and interned at Google. I haven’t been that ambitious, but my logic is sound, I learn crazy fast, and I have the basics to allow me to pick up new languages really quickly.

                    My school email is alt texted in my handle…

              2. Analog has a much warmer sound.

                1. I agree. As soon as I find some spare time/money, I’d like to make a tube amplifier.

                  Unfortunately, very few young people know how to work with tubes these days, so the information might be hard to come by.

                  1. Apparently, you can fake a tube real well by using the same transformers a tube amp would use.

                  2. There are a lot of people out there into hot-rodding amps, and I haven’t met many guitarists that don’t prefer tubes, so maybe not quite so hard as you might think.

                2. For $99, I can play through my computer on Guitar Port / Gear Box and multi-track record on Sony Acid Pro. I’ll take the trade off.

  22. the more I realize that companies don’t hire people for a degree or a GPA. They hire someone because he has a particular personality.

    Degrees (subject matter and school) are used to filter resumes, to come up with a short list for interviews.

    Once you sit down for the interview, all the paper goes out the window.

    A Brand Name degree won’t get you a job, but it will get you interviews. Trust me on this one.

    1. Yes, many companies will have a GPA cut off and graduating from a decent program will get you interviews.

      I’m not saying that you should go to ITT tech and graduate with the minimum requirements. Only that, as far as engineering goes, companies will look to see if you have a GPA from a not shit program.

      I’ve heard many companies eliminate 4.0 engineers before the interview because it means they don’t know how to interact with people, handle failure, and will make the work environment uncomfortable.

      My point is that how good of a “whatever you want to be” is going to rely much more on what kind of person you are (work ethic, etc) than on the program you graduate from.

      I get really good reviews from the company I work for, and then I go back to school and struggle to keep my head above water. Doing well in school generally just shows you know how to take tests well and/or take advantage of the system.

      1. I can do the job. I want to do the job. I can fit in.

    2. My wife took a class from a professor that worked with HR in several local corporations. One day, the professor decided to explain how the big companies sort through the resumes of new graduates:

      1) No cover letter — rejected without reading

      2) Any color paper besides white — rejected without reading

      3) Anything without the right degree or grade point — rejected without further consideration.

      The students were aghast.

      The professor replied that they would still have too many resumes to really review effectively, so they weren’t worried about losing good candidates to the sorting process.

    3. When I interviewed for my job, my future boss and I spent the entire time talking about beer (I had my homebrewing club listed under “other activities”) and baseball. I left the interview thinking there was no way in hell I was getting that job since he had only asked me one question specific to my experience. He later told me he knew based on my law school and GPA that I would know what I was doing; he wanted to make sure I was somebody he’d want to be around 50 hours a week. (And no, 50 hours isn’t a typo… I’m fortunate to work in an office where attorneys are allowed to have lives.)

      1. Exactly. When I interview people, I already know their qualifications, or at least what they claim that they have.

        The interview for me is to see if they can string a coherent sentence together and what kind of person they are. Hasn’t failed me yet.

      2. At my former firm job, I used to interview a lot of the prospective summer associates. They were all pre-screened by the recruiting department (for high grades, law review, moot court, or top school), so all we really had to talk about was what they like to do when they aren’t working. You really do have to work with these people 50+ hours a week (sometimes 80+). You better like them personally.

  23. What Dean Said,

    Just look at the Supreme Court, if you didn’t go to Harvard or Yale you don’t even get an interview.

    And according to Scalia, who I disagree with frequently he was quite honest. If you want to be a clerk for the Supreme Court, you’d better go to one of the top five law schools. Wrong, you bet, but at least in law school, where you went matters- A LOT.

    This is completely wrong, but its the way it is.


    Joe Dokes

    1. You are correct. The legal profession is the most guild like of all the profession. It is the only profession that actually cares where you went to school throughout your career. It is absolute insanity. Compare it to the IT field, where you can never even go to school but prove yourself a great code writer and write your ticket.

      I will say however the entire big firm model of the legal profession is in the process of dying. And I think the whole “we only interview those who went to X ranked schools” will go with it.

      1. Yeah, it really is stupid, especially considering some of the idiots I went to law school with. That being said, I hope the model holds up long enough for me to pay off the debt I incurred getting my X-ranked school degree!

        1. I remember in trial practice class in law school we had this video on how to examine an expert witness. The tape used video from the Chevy rollover trials. And they used GM’s defense attorney’s direct of his experts and cross of opposing experts as text book examples of how to fuck up such endeavors. The guy literally had become a poster child for how not to try a case, which BTW cost his client something like $200 million.

          Anyway, just for fun I looked the guy and the plaintiff’s attorney up on Martin Dale Hubble. The GM attorney was Harvard law review, associate track then partner at some NY Law firm whose name I forget. And here he was getting his clock cleaned by University of Missouri Kansas City law graduate who made his living hustling PI cases (for a big PI firm granted but hardly Sullivan and Cromwell). It was at that point I started to realize how stupid the legal profession really is.

  24. Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.

  25. Oh, college. I remember that.

    After high school I went to a local state college (Rutgers) where the Biology Professor told students during lecture not to eat cows and to only have 1-2 children because of the Earth’s ‘carrying capacity.’

    I didn’t enroll for a second semester.

    1. It’s not just the Bio department, Ehran. I majored in English at Rutgers and was told similar things. Also that women and minorities are victims of capitalist white male hegemonic control. And that veganism is the purest and only way to save our planet. And that I should ignore anything and everything I know about an author’s life and times and simply focus on the way the literature “sounds” when I read it.

  26. Jesus

    How many assholes lawyers do we have on this ship, anyway?

    1. Nothing like working with and around assholes lawyers all day to make you realize you don’t want said assholes lawyers controlling your life and your bank account.

    2. Keep firing lawyers!

  27. I’m going to be applying to PhD programs for Fall of 2011. I blew away the GRE, so I’ll mainly be looking at what they can give me – 100% tuition remission is a given, it’ll depend on what kind of fellowships they have.

    1. Le Grats. I too am PhD shopping. But I’m limited by a wife who makes enough income that leaving her for a PhD is not an option. Well, that and I kinda like her.

      1. I should also add I’m old. So running off to BFE to live with kids is not all that appealing. Unless I can sit out front and scream get off the grass, then I might consider it.

        Just think of the frisbees I could collect from the patchouli smelling hippies on the quad. hmm Maybe I will try out of state.

        1. I’m also old, but don’t currently have a woman I’d wait for a cab for, let alone stay in town for, so I’m not restricted.

          I’m actually looking for the BFE campuses. The main reason is the price of housing. Although winding up next to undergrads isn’t my idea of fun, either.

          OTOH, one of the universities I’m considering is UM AA – and I was actually thinking about moving to Detroit for cheap housing options. Of course, getting shot isn’t a good career move, so I’d need to research that a bit more.

          1. You only get shot if you stop moving and shooting. =0

    2. Right now, due to the dire financial straits of both state governments and private university endowments, getting support as a graduate student is more competitive than ever. Even in the hard sciences.

      1. I would disagree. The MA/MS MBA realm has some stiff competition. I’m finding state universities trying to attract qualified PhD to increase their private sector grants. Good students bring in good grants which makes the school money. After sitting on a Strategic Planning Committee for a state university I can tell you first hand this is a common strategy.

        1. …PhD students…

          The students got lost on the way to that response.

  28. The bubble is being caused by irresponsible borrowing. Not all students borrow irresponsibly, but those who do are growing in number due to the ease of enrollment and obtaining the loans. There’s no credit check or debt to income consideration given. As long as you have not already defauled or maxed out, you qualify for the full amounts. The Department of Education allows for generous amounts above and beyond the costs of tuition. Those who drag their program on by attending part time, borrow the max each term (above and beyond direct cost of tuition and fees, for “living expenses”), then go on for a masters before even trying to pay down their undergraduate loans, end up getting in debt over their heads. In every case I have seen as a Financial Aid Advisor, those who max out their loans received at least a third of their total borrowing as refunds. Never assume someone’s student loan debt load went entirely to the school. In almost every case someone got over their head, it was their own lack of foresight and overborrowing, not the cost of the school that caused this result.

  29. It’s too early

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.