Dedonmilanesizziamo la laurea!

College has been oversold – Launching The Innovation Renaissance: A New Path to Bring Smart Ideas to Market Fast – Alex Tabarrok


Tesi: l’alluvione di matricole nuoce al sistema, l’università di massa è una iattura.


Looking at the flood of students on college and university campuses, the education stagnation isn’t obvious.65 Enrollment is at an all-time high, and a greater percentage of high school graduates than ever will attend college.66 Look below the surface, however, and the stagnation remains.


Only 35 percent of students in a four-year degree program will graduate within four years, and less than 60 percent will graduate within six years.


A college degree does pay for most people. College graduates earn about double what high school graduates earn, and high school graduates earn significantly more than dropouts… In 2010, the unemployment rate among high school dropouts was close to 15 percent; it was about 5 percent for college graduates. More education is even associated with better life satisfaction, lower divorce rates and less criminality,


College has been oversold, and in the process the amount of education actually going on in college has declined as colleges have dumbed down classes and inflated grades to accommodate students who would be better off in apprentice and on-the-job training programs. As the number of students attending college has grown, the number of workers with university education but high school jobs has increased. Baggage porters and bellhops don’t need college degrees, but in 2008 17.4 percent of them had at least a bachelor’s degree and 45 percent had some college education.


More than half of the college graduates in the humanities end up in jobs that do not require a college degree. Not surprisingly, these graduates do not get a big “college bonus.”


It may seem odd that at the same time that the United States is failing to get people through high school, it is also pushing too many students into college. But let’s compare the situation with Germany’s. As we said earlier, 97 percent of German students graduate from high school, but only a third of these students go on to college. In the United States we graduate fewer students from high school, but nearly two-thirds of those we graduate go to college, almost twice as many as in Germany.73 So are German students undereducated? Not at all… It’s not just Germany that uses apprenticeship and training programs. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland between 40 to 70 percent of students opt for an educational program that combines classroom and workplace learning….


The U.S. has paved a single road to knowledge, the road through the classroom. “Sit down, stay quiet, and absorb. Do this for 12 to 16 years,” we tell the students,


American students are also not studying the fields with the greatest potential for increasing economic growth. In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. Not bad, but here is the surprise: We graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago! In comparison, the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts in 2009 — more than double the number of 25 years ago! Figure three shows some of the relevant data. Few fields have been as revolutionized in recent years as microbiology, but in 2009 we graduated just 2,480 students with bachelor’s degrees in microbiology — about the same number as 25 years ago. Who will solve the problem of antibiotic resistance? The U.S. graduated just 5,036 chemical engineers in 2009, no more than we did 25 years ago. In electrical engineering there were 11,619 graduates in 2009, about half the number of 25 years ago. In mathematics and statistics there were 15,496 graduates in 2009, slightly more than the 15,009 graduates of 1985. In comparison, the U.S. graduated just under 40,000 students in psychology 25 years ago but nearly 95,000 today. Perhaps most oddly, the number of students in journalism (!) and communications has nearly doubled in 25 years, rising to 83,109 graduates in 2009. Ask your bellhop for more details. Bear in mind that over the past 25 years the total number of students in college has increased by about 50% so the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has stagnated even as the total number of students has increased. Figure Three: Math and Science Degrees have Stagnated… There is nothing wrong with the arts, psychology and journalism, but graduates in these fields are less likely to find work in their field than graduates in computer science, microbiology and chemical engineering.


Economic growth is not a magic totem to which all else must bow, but it is the primary reason we subsidize higher education. The wage gains for college graduates go to the graduates — that’s reason enough for students to pursue a college education. We add subsidies on top of the higher wages because we believe that education has positive spillovers, benefits that flow to society. The biggest positive spillover is the increase in innovation… an argument can be made for subsidizing students in fields with potentially large spillovers, such as microbiology, chemical engineering, nuclear physics and computer science. There is little justification for subsidizing sociology, dance and English majors….



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