Monday, March 7, 2011

A College Degree Guarantees Very Little, Except Possibly For Student Debt

I have believed for some time now that the panacea of a college education for everyone was not going to solve the problem of jobs or a higher standard of living.  So I was glad to see Paul Krugman arguing the same thing in his column today in the NYT.  Here are the last couple paragraphs:
But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.
It seems that the revolt of the Wisconsin public unions against the attempt by their governor to destroy them is stimulating some new thinking about the importance of a strong labor movement in saving the middle class in America.

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