Posts tagged ‘Bachelor’s degree or higher’

June 28, 2013

Are climbing college completion rates a good trend?

by Grace

College completion rates continue to climb, as shown by these charts from the Pew Research Center.


Slightly higher rates for the younger population:


For years, the idea has been growing that college is as necessary as high school was 40 years ago. In 2010, 75 percent of Americans said college was very important, compared with just 36 percent in 1978, the report notes.

President Obama has set a goal for the US to lead the world by 2020 in the percentage of young people earning college degrees or postsecondary certificates.

The increases in the Pew report indicate a “rather slow climb” that would need to accelerate to meet the president’s goal, says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While the long-term trend is up, recent increases could be related to the difficulty of finding jobs during the latest recession.

During better economic times, education attainment rates have been more stagnant. It’s possible, Fry says, that rates will tick downward somewhat as the labor market improves.

Maybe lower education attainment rates would be a positive change, since we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs.


Ann Althouse speculates about the reasons “Young adults are earning college degrees at a record rate.”

Good question. Why? Doing what you’re told? Nothing better to do? Putting off the time when the consequences of your decisions become apparent? High self-esteem leading you to think you’re the exception to the trend? Being part of the trend, going where everyone else is going?

Related:  College graduates are no longer ‘special’ (Cost of College)

February 11, 2013

College graduates are no longer ‘special’

by Grace

 the signaling value of a bachelor’s degree declines as a larger proportion of the population achieves it.


50 years ago, college graduates were considered “special”, according to a report released last month by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

… People with such degrees were among a relatively small, even elite, proportion of the population believed to have, for example, very high levels of erudition, intelligence, and discipline. Even graduates of mid- to low- quality institutions were viewed as somewhat special. If in, say, 2025 close to half of adults have such degrees, by mathematical necessity, some graduates are at best just about average, not endowed with relatively high levels of the productive attributes desired by employers.

Today we are trending to a place where only graduates of certain elite colleges and those with advanced degrees will be considered “special”.

… Students are clamoring to attend the 25 or 50 top universities and liberal arts colleges in America. Applications are soaring for those schools, while applications for lesser colleges are stagnating as the number of 18-to-22 year-old Americans (particularly those expected to attend college) plateaus.37 In response, new signaling devices are arising
to broadcast true excellence: attendance at a high quality institution, such as Ivy League schools, Stanford, M.I.T., Duke, Northwestern, Chicago, Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, etc., or getting even higher degrees, such as a master’s or even a doctorate.

With some negative effects on higher education

…  unintended consequences, such as the denigration of the value of a bachelor’s degree, a lowering of collegiate academic quality, a growing reputational inequality among colleges, etc….

So, is it worth spending $50-$200,000 to send your children to college?

Families feel pressured to send their children to college because average figures continue to show that college graduates earn more than those without a college degree.  But when the data is disaggregated, and the increasing debt burden along with opportunity costs are considered, it becomes clear that parents should be more thoughtful in making decisions about their children’s college plans.

  • Comparing average college and high-school earnings is highly misleading as a guide for vocational success, given high college-dropout rates and the fact that overproduction of college graduates lowers recent graduate earnings relative to those graduating earlier;
  • Not all colleges are equal: Typical graduates of elite private schools make more than graduates of flagship state universities, but those graduates do much better than those attending relatively non-selective institutions;
  • Not all majors are equal: Engineering and economics graduates, for example, typically earn almost double what social work and education graduates receive by mid-career;

Since nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualifiedit is worth reconsidering whether college is the best way to spend what may be $100,000+ and five years of your life.  It could be thatskipping college for a high-paying job might be the right move‘. 

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