Glenn Reynolds has been blogging up a storm about the higher education bubble. Here is a link that will conveniently get you all of his posts together:
I, for one, have never understood the wisdom behind spending $50K/year on vapid “studies” programs, nor the bizarre concept that everybody (including those in the two bottom quartiles of the IQ distribution, presumably) should get a college degree. This sort of thinking has already led to a disastrous dumbing down of high-school, and this trend now extends to universities. Nor is it limited to the USA — I have seen similar tendencies in Europe and Israel.
For example, Belgian friends have told me that when they were young, all it took to become a bank teller was a high-school disploma. Subsequent ‘degree inflation’ went as follows. Banks started to first request ‘maturity certificates’ (a college admission requirement), at which point high schools started basically giving them to all graduates. Then the banks started requiring the Belgian equivalent of associate degrees from junior colleges. Currently they require college degrees. And bank tellers are not necessarily more konledgeable or intellectually acute. All the banks really wanted was people with above-average intelligence — and the credentials guaranteeing that kept going up as programs were dumbed-down in fallacious pursuit of higher credentialing rates.
This type of ‘degree inflation’ took place in the natural sciences as well, to the extent that employers in, say, the chemical industry there there that used to require a ‘licentiate’ (a.k.a. ‘Diplom’, the primary Euro college degree, kind-of in between a BSc and MSc) started requiring a doctorate, and now might even expect some postdoctoral experience.
Educational institutions (and Education ministries wrongly looking at credentialing percentages as a measurement of success) appear to be engaged in the intellectual equivalent of ‘printing more money’. At some point, something will have to give, or the academic ‘currency’ will lose all market value and alternative ‘currencies’ will emerge, akin to the use of scarce commodities as barter currencies in countries stricken by hyperinflation.