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College Degrees Are A Bubble — And A Collapse Is On The Way

“Some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.” — Mark Twain

In the field of economics, a “bubble” refers to something that is being absurdly increased in value, much more than its true worth. The classic examples are the tulip mania bubble and the South Seas bubble. One could even make the case the 1929 U.S. stock market was a bubble. The results of such bubbles are invariably disastrous.

College degrees are a bubble. Many, if not most, degrees being granted are geared to be circular, that is, they are required for an academic setting. There, college graduates can happily regurgitate what their former professors told them, who in turn, repeated what their professors told them, each academic at each level in the process feeling very intellectual and very original. The problem is that there is a limited number of institutions that employ people to work in those fields or teach in them. Some politicians are proposing to exacerbate the quandary by offering free tuition, with the slogan, “Everybody deserves [?] a college education.”

Third World countries are faced with a huge mass of college graduates who cannot find a job — any job. I do not exaggerate when I say that if one of those college graduates lands a job at a local MacDonald’s, that graduate feels lucky, indeed. As has been observed, this tends to radicalize the resentful, unemployed, graduates, since they feel they are owed a job and status simply due to having gone to a university.

The U.S., on the other hand, has a mass of college graduates who cannot find a job in the field that they studied, though they can obtain a job in a field other than in what they and their parents spent tens of thousands of dollars to get a degree from and which job they could have acquired the moment they graduated from high school. (Ancient Greece solved the problem of excess population by establishing colonies, where towns and farms could be built, and these colonies often became successful. But that is another story.)

The undeniable, harsh, fact of the matter is that there is almost no demand outside of academia for someone who has graduated with a degree in anthropology, literature, philosophy, sociology, history, gender studies, queer studies, art history, black studies, etc., to work specifically in those fields. Each year, thousands of college students graduate in fields for which there is no demand, i.e., no jobs, and are still living in their parents’ homes. In the United States, many of them are saddled with a gargantuan college debt that goes towards paying the universities, which ruthlessly exploit them with high tuitions, hidden fees, and ridiculously priced textbooks. Many such graduates, not having learned their lesson (ironic), stick around to get an advanced degree in those same arid fields, thereby prolonging childhood even longer and avoiding adult responsibilities.

As Dalrymple has stated, “It is true that a deception has been practiced on them: In large part, they have been tricked into indebting themselves to pay for their own unemployment.”

Such is the rapacious outlook towards students that, in their enthusiastic participation in the COVID farce, universities charged full tuition while keeping students off-campus; universities are going to soon face the music on that trick. Simply put, universities feed on their students just as African predators feed on wildebeest and North American predators feed on mice and deer.

Only certain fields guarantee being able to earn a living, specifically the sciences (including medicine) and business. The top ten salaries are in the engineering fields and computer science. The least paying salaries are in liberal arts fields like literature, foreign languages, and psychology, with some paying less than mundane jobs paying minimum wage. All of this has become common knowledge (one college professor recently got publicly upset when he learned that he earns less than a manager at Panda Express). Incoming freshmen should focus on STEM fields.

This situation has led to a joke that goes: An engineering graduate asks, “How does that work?” A business or accountant graduate asks, “How much does that cost?” A law graduate asks, “Does that have a patent?” A liberal arts graduate asks, “You want fries with that?” Indeed, Americans are nothing if not practical, so a lot of scorn has poured on the college fiasco, much of it spot on.

Consequently, many graduates with a doctoral degree hang around universities waiting and hoping for one of the old geezers to finally kick the bucket, so they can fill in his/her shoes (after a knock-down/drag-out fight among themselves). These are the adjunct professors. Shamelessly exploited by the universities for a pittance, and perpetually feeling like they are under Damocles’ sword, they nevertheless desperately ingratiate themselves in the hopes that they will one day be employed full time. What they do not realize is that college administrators have realized that it is better to employ a mass of cheap adjuncts than to pay for full-time faculty, and, indeed 65% of the nation’s undergraduate faculty consists of adjuncts (perhaps they should unionize). The big six-figure salaries are reserved for the administrators — people like “Diversity, Inclusion and Equity” (DIE) enforcers who comprise a modern-day Inquisition. As Camille Paglia has said, “The administrators are the enemy!”

But are professors telling their students these hard facts (and no, this is not “disinformation” and “misinformation” like so many other unwelcomed, facts)? Don’t be absurd. Instead, they emphasize vague, fuzzy, concepts like “broadening the mind” and “inclusiveness” while some even claim with a straight face that college “promotes critical thinking” (similar arguments were also employed in the first half of the 1900s when the elimination of mandatory learning Greek and Latin for any university degree was proposed; supposedly, learning those languages disciplined the mind). They also sneer at the desire to earn money instead of yearning for “a higher purpose” in life — as they themselves scramble for tenure or a higher salary. Here are three elaborate defenses of a college degree. See if you can spot the sophistry in them.

But what makes a liberal arts degree even more unpalatable than the dismal job prospect is the undeniable fact that they have been totally taken over by totalitarian fanatics, imposing rigid censorship and dogma, which range from the unbelievably idiotic to fake facts to advocating hatred. Here is one student faced with the dilemma of whether to continue his studies, considering the toxic atmosphere:

“The new orthodoxy is imposed with an iron fist and will spare no room for heretics. Aggressive ideological conformity has infected not only the usual suspects (history, literature, etc.) but even my own area of interest, international relations. IR scholars are deeply conformist, with few professors leaning center-right and few willing to digress from teaching IR theory or military history without looking through the glasses of race, gender, and class.”

Simply put, these professors’ goal is not education, but indoctrination.

Because the majority of universities and community colleges have been primarily subsidized by the governments (local state governments spend about $86 billion on higher education every year, and this does not take into account the federal subsidies, totaling $200 billion), there has been for decades a proliferation of those institutions. Even so, some colleges may be closing their doors for financial reasons, a portent of things to come, and on top of that, some conservatives are arguing that, since universities have become indoctrinating centers for totalitarian ideology, they should be defunded altogether by the government (indeed, some departments exist solely for the purpose of indoctrination, Gender Studies being the most obvious).

Regardless of the reason, it seems that the university bubble will inevitably collapse and some have already even predicted the “crash.” The writing is on the wall. There will be many within academia who will howl about how essential colleges are and how relevant are their particular fields, but the bubble will inevitably collapse.

All bubbles do.

Armando Simón is a retired college professor and forensic psychologist, having an additional degree in history. He is also the author of When Evolution Stops, The U, and Fables from the Americas.

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2 comments

  • The purpose of higher education is to provide its graduates with knowledge and skills in one of the fields that require such advanced knowledge. Universities and college should be required to provide potential students with a comprehensive list of each course offered ie including each “studies” course, the number of enrolled in each course, the number of students graduated in each course, the number obtaining jobs in their field of studies, the starting salaries of those with jobs. If students are expected to invest tens or hundred of thousands of dollars in a college education they should be made aware of the potentials of a college education otherwise it is like buying a “pig in a poke”.

  • Ivan Illich, an astute individual, advocated not only the elimination of higher education but that of secondary education as well, relying on individual autonomy in pursuing useful knowledge. Sadly, the idea that the only education needed is that necessary to acquire employment is hardly valid, either. Western culture, with a heritage of thousands of years, isn’t being passed along by the current educational system, whose goal seems to be the creation of business robots with no appreciation of history, sociology, art history or any other subject that’s not directly related to increasing gross domestic output. The one abstract field of study that attracts big numbers of students is law, a completely parasitic enterprise. In some ways the West isn’t as civilized as an African bushman.

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