Glenn Reynolds, Richard Vedder Talk Higher Education Bubble on InstaVision


Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds talks with Ohio University economist Richard Vedder about the higher education bubble. Vedder is a longtime analyst of higher ed trends and the coauthor of a recent study finding college grads are filling many jobs that don't require higher education.

Vedder argues that "there are simply too many kids going to college" given current labor-market demands. He does grant that going to college can be fun and rewarding regardless of post-graduation outcomes, but stresses that there's no way the government should be floating as much free and cheap money into grants, loans, and the like. And there's little question that one of the reasons (not all but one) college costs keep going up is the heavy subsidy from such dollars.

Whether you agree with him or not, this is a great conversation to horn in on. About 12 minutes. Click on the image above to watch.

Reason on edjumication, both higher and lower.

Back in 2009, Reason's Matt Welch interviewed Dr. Prof. Vedder about why college costs so damn much. Have a look:

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  1. You know, if it weren’t for the insanely inflated cost of college, this would be much less of an issue. I have no problem with people spending a few years expanding their horizons, even in areas without direct financial benefit. The problem is that it costs so damned much that the debt hole many people have to dig out of is career-smashingly daunting.

    1. This. Plus the expectation that there will always be a huge financial benefit by simply completing a course of study – ANY course of study, no matter if there are marketable skills involved. That, and the way graduates tend to limit themselves to very specific niche jobs.

    2. The problem also is tha the taxpayers are expected to subsidize this activity in all sorts of ways.

      And we are subjected to condescending crap from the people who support and/or benefit from these subsidies that it’s a necessary “investment” and it’s what has enabled the country to prosper, et. etc. blah blah blah.

      1. Taxation for the schools. Subsidization of tuition. Subsidization of student loans. Etc., etc., etc. There’s not a finger on the scales, it’s an elephant. No wonder the market is distorted in a way that makes the last real estate bubble look like a bargain.

        I could buy a friggin’ house for the total cost of some graduate degrees. A house.

    1. Wow. Fucking fire their fat asses already. There are going to be plenty of educational executives looking for jobs in Cali pretty soon, it’s not like they’ll be hurting for replacements.

  2. The cost of college is too damn much!


  3. What’s funny about all this is just how perfectly the flood of dollars has been accompanied by the draining away of academic rigor (outside of math and science, anyway).

    As a group, the cheap money students want their degree to mean something, but individually, they have every incentive to tear down standards of merit. And as long as it keeps the pace of decay in line with that of other institutions, the school can certainly oblige.

  4. What’s awesome is when the State interferes with crap like telling me that in order to get a license to practice, I must have a master’s degree. Nevermind that I’ve learned more in my 8 years in the workforce then I have taking out student loans so I could afford to go to the cheap school.

    And nevermind that it’s fucking bullshit that I need a license to practice in the first place.

    1. Practice what, IIMA?

      1. Renting?

  5. What!!!!
    No calls for genocide by the professor today? He usually calls for the killing of innocent civilians while sipping his morning coffee.


    1. IMAO did this much better.

      1. Yeah, Jay’s just phoning ’em in lately. He’s not fit to lick up my boy Frank’s spilled pixels. Though he’d like to.

  6. As a college professor, I fully agree that there are too many people in college who don’t belong there and the costs is overly subsidized by our taxes. However, I think a couple of issues get lost in the “too many waiters and cashiers have college degrees” story.

    1) Most “waiters and cashiers” don’t need a high school diploma either. High school students frequently do these jobs quite well so there’s clearly no need for them to actually finish high school to continue doing those jobs.

    2) For jobs that really did require a high school diploma 30 or 40 years ago, it’s entirely possible that the dumbing down of education in both K-12 and college has made today’s average college graduation merely equal to yesterday’s average high school graduate.

    Thus, if we argue that subsidies of higher ed should cease because the labor market doesn’t really need all those college graduates, then maybe we should also cut public high school funding for the same reason.

    On the other hand, if we say that there are important non-economic, intangible reasons that tax payers should support high school education, then the colleges can make the same argument to keep their subsidies.

    In short – in the cost/benefit debate about education, I don’t think K-12 and higher ed can easily be separated. First we need to figure out if and why we want any publically supported education. Only then can we discuss how much education we want to pay for.

    1. Fire. Pure, cleansing flame.

    2. Thus, if we argue that subsidies of higher ed should cease because the labor market doesn’t really need all those college graduates, then maybe we should also cut public high school funding for the same reason.

      Fuck yeah! Then the middle schools, pre-K, kindergarten and finally primary education. Personally I favor abolishing ALL education as the institution currently exists but as a libertarian I reluctantly support the right of others to chose private voluntary education.

  7. “2) For jobs that really did require a high school diploma 30 or 40 years ago, it’s entirely possible that the dumbing down of education in both K-12 and college has made today’s average college graduation merely equal to yesterday’s average high school graduate.”

    Test scores are flat compared to where they were at 30 or 40 years ago or down slightly. To say that a college education today is equivalent to a highschool education decades ago sounds like nonsense. Unless that wasn’t what you meant to imply and I read your statement incorrectly, but I don’t see how that could be the case.

    1. I’m not sure which tests you’re talking about but the ACT and SAT have been re-normed. Technically, the intent wasn’t to raise the scores, but that was the result. An ACT of 30 in 1980 shows better performance than a 30 in 2010.

      Along with re-norming admissions tests, an increasing proportion of high school students are pushed into college. Then colleges have to do more and more remediation with varying degrees of success. To keep the tuition coming in, there’s pressure keep students moving through and eventually graduate them. The result is that the average (and I used “average” in my original post) level of skill and knowledge in our college graduates is dropping.

      Similarly, high school graduation rates rose dramatically in the last half of the 20th century. There’s no doubt that some of the increase was due to removing various types of socioeconomic discrimination but there’s also no doubt that standards were lowered to get more students through. This can be seen by comparing the reading levels of textbooks from the 40’s and 50’s to current books. Again, the average has gone down.

      So have things dropped so far that today’s average college grad is equivalent to yesterday’s high school grad? There’s no way to be sure but I wish we had more people today with the math, science, reading and writing skills of our average 1950’s high school graduates.

      Our top high school and college students are a different story, but most of them aren’t using their college degrees to get jobs as waiters.

  8. What astounds me about both interviews, given the market orientation of the interviewers, is that it was never once suggested that people start businesses at 18. Instead, it was lamely suggested that maybe they should pursue some sort of “career training” as a substitute for a 4-year college. What is wrong with Americans of the 21st century? As von Mises pointed out, your earnings under capitalism are directly proportional to the extent by which you improve the lives or circumstances of other people by means of your product or service. It’s the most “selfless” (in the sense of “other-directed”) system you can think of: you only prosper in proportion to how successful you are at improve things for others. Kids need to take that ball and run with it – from their earliest years, learn to start enterprises which earn a profit making life better for others. Then expand. Why do you need a college education to do this? It seems that what you need is street smarts, ambition, and the willingness to seize an opportunity to improve the world and turn a profit. I’d rather loan my children money to start an enterprise then loan them money to get a bachelor’s degree.

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