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31 julho, 2012 • 10:42 Enviado por Bernardo S Franklin

ARE WE BECOMING OVER EDUCATED?

Será que nós brasileiros também estamos caminhando para esse fim?

Janitors With College Degrees and the Higher-Education Bubble

by

John Leo 

Students are paying a bigger share
of their college bills, parents are paying less, and families are
beginning to turn away from well-known and expensive colleges in favor
of cheaper ones, including community colleges or anything near home. So
says the 2012 version of Sallie Mae’s annual report, “How America Pays for College,”
a collection of dry statistics that nevertheless reflect the rapidly
rising anxiety about higher education and whether the cost is worth it.

The
anxiety seems justified amid the growing number of students who, after
running up $100,000 in student loans, take $25,000-a-year jobs after
graduation—placing them in a position akin to the postcrash debtors
whose homes are now worth less than what they owe on them.

how-america-pays-for-college-leo-tease

Glenn Reynolds, the professor and pundit who runs the influential site Instapundit, has popularized the term “higher education bubble,”
Some dark scenarios see several hundred colleges disappearing as
students turn to online education or skip higher education altogether.
Pundits like George Will have embraced the bubble theory
(“Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly
rising prices for something of declining quality”) and billionaire
Peter Thiel, who spotted the housing bubble early, is now paying selected students not to go to college.
Sallie
Mae’s report offers a brighter view. It says students and parents
strongly agree that higher education is a worthwhile investment in the
future and 70 percent think college is needed more than ever. That’s
comforting, but several arrows point in the other direction.
Almost 54 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed or
unemployed, even in scientific and technical fields, according to a study
conducted for the Associated Press by Northeastern University
researchers. The study said college grads under the age of 25 were more
likely to work at Starbucks or a local restaurant than as engineers,
scientists, or mathematicians.

Bureau
of Labor Statistics data show that as many as one out of three college
graduates today are in jobs that previously or historically have been
filled by people with lesser educations or none. The U.S. now has
115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses.
Employers,
because they realize that many college graduates aren’t really
educated, now routinely quiz job seekers on what they majored in and
what courses they took, a practice virtually unknown a generation ago.
Good luck if you majored in gender studies, communications, art history,
pop culture, or (really) the history of dancing in Montana in the
1850s.
Current
and former collegians now owe more than $1 trillion in student
loans—and only 26 percent of the debtors are currently paying anything
back, down from 38 percent five years ago. (These loans cannot be
discharged in bankruptcy, a reform imposed to stymie borrowers who would
graduate and promptly file for bankruptcy.)

The
cost of college rose 440 percent between 1982 and 2007, compared with
cost of living increases of 106 percent and family income growth of 147
percent over the same period. The Sallie Mae report indicates that even
students from high-income families are taking out student loans—27
percent used federal loans in 2012, up from 19 percent last year.

According
to the “Bennett hypothesis,” named for former U.S. Secretary of
Education William Bennett, federal aid doesn’t help students because
colleges and universities just cream off the extra money by raising
prices. Peter Wood, now president of the National Association of
Scholars, recalls numerous meetings of college administrators where the
topic was setting tuition for the next year.

“The regnant phrase was ‘Don’t leave money sitting on the table,’” he writes.
“The metaphoric table in question was the one on which the government
has laid out a sumptuous banquet of increases of financial aid. Our job
was to consume as much of it as possible in tuition increases.”
Where
does all that money go? Much of it to lavish spa-like facilities and
grand new construction, including $100 million or so for multicultural
centers and sports stadiums. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88
percent since 2001, to $307 billion. Jeff Selingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education writes about a “lost decade”
of wild campus spending: “The almost insatiable demand for a college
credential meant that schools could raise their prices and families
would go to almost any end, including taking on huge amounts of debt, to
pay the bill. In 2003, only two colleges charged more than $40,000 a
year for tuition, fees, and room and board; by 2009, 224 were above that
mark.” And now many are inching toward (or past) $50,000 a year.
A good deal of the money also goes
to a spreading bureaucracy of administrators, who now outnumber teachers
on American campuses. They work in multicultural programs, deal with
the blizzard of government paperwork, and have job titles unheard of a
decade or so ago: “Assistant Director of Residential Education,” “Vice
President for Strategic Enrollment Management,” and “Student Services
Program Coordinator.” Colleges gain another windfall by employing
“adjuncts,” the serfs of the academic world, who teach for about $3,700
per course. Adjuncts and other “contingent faculty,” such as lecturers,
make up more than half of college and university teachers.

Meanwhile,
learning has presumably decreased—students are studying 50 percent less
than a couple of decades ago. Courses are often watered down and much
easier. Pop-culture courses are spreading—studying Lady Gaga, Madonna,
or a TV sitcom is no longer unusual—and grade inflation, which long ago
virtually abolished the F, has made the C obsolescent as well. But
rigorous courses can still be found, and as Sallie Mae reports, families
remain confident that a degree from a good college is a reliable ticket
to the good life.

Colleges are entering a critical period, but so far the customers still believe.