Really nice piece in the WSJ on the slowing educational attainment gap between generations. According to the authors and various sources, the current generation of 20-30 year olds is the first not to earn substantially more ‘education’ than their parents.
The article starts with a premise which may not be true — “Throughout American history, almost every generation has had substantially more education than that of its parents.” Don’t know about that. Regardless, the piece by David Wessel and Stephanie Banchero touches on many important issues surrounding higher education, its value, and the future of the segment. From the piece:
This development already has broad ramifications across the U.S. job market: Those with only a high-school diploma had an 8% unemployment rate in March, roughly double that of college graduates, who had a 4.2% unemployment rate. Workers with bachelor’s degrees earn 45% more in wages on average than those of demographically similar high-school graduates. And in today’s highly automated factories, many manufacturers demand the equivalent of a community-college degree, even for entry level workers.
More serious consequences may be felt in the future. Without better educated Americans, economists say, the U.S. won’t be able to maintain high-wage jobs and rising living standards in a competitive global economy. Increasingly, the goods and services in which the U.S. has an edge rely more on the minds of American workers—than on their muscle. “The wealth of nations is no longer in resources. It’s no longer in physical capital. It’s in human capital,” says Ms. Goldin.
The reasons American education levels are no longer increasing as they once did are numerous: Despite years of effort, high-school dropout rates remain stubbornly high. College tuition is rising and the prospect of shouldering heavy debt discourages some high-school graduates from enrolling in college or sticking with it.
Lots of great data on completion rates, some international comparisons (be wary of those numbers), and great mini-cases.
The cases highlighted in the story are folks who chose not to go to college and they make some interesting points — that said — they are all in the midst of their youth. The authors should talke with some pioneers who decided college wasn’t for them in the 80s or 90s? How did it work out for those folks?
With so many seemingly dissatisfied customers (drop outs and those choosing not to go), there should be pressure on schools to create more relevant offerings. US higher education has historically been good at this. Some schools are doing this (how can you say MITx is not relevant?), but more is needed. Amazing opportunity for innovators in higher education. Again, nice piece, big ideas/issues presented.