Pop goes tuition

Jenn questions that whole Higher Education Bubble business promoted by the Instant Man and others for the last couple of months:

It’s true that education costs are rising much faster than the rate of inflation, much like housing prices a couple years ago, but from what I have seen the increase in cost is mainly at private schools — both the “elite” Ivy League schools, and at schools like the University of Phoenix.

The Ivy degree, she says, is valuable mostly for access:

With Harvard or Yale on your diploma you are essentially guaranteed access to jobs in the upper levels of government or access to those who take them. That is a valuable commodity and will always be so.

Then again, there are gatekeepers way down here in the Real World too:

The for-profit schools … also provide access, but of a much different sort. They just get you past the idiot HR people, if you are lucky. Their cost is rising because a college degree has become a screening tool for almost every job and there is no access to the state run university systems for most of the people who attend these schools. The managers at these schools have recognized this and are churning out graduates in a very small number of fields very quickly … Unfortunately the market has now been flooded with marginally qualified graduates of courses in Business Administration or Information Services.

And market imbalances tend to be self-correcting in time. Meanwhile, your best buy might well be Obscure State University.


  1. ak4mc »

    7 October 2010 · 8:54 pm

    Obscure State is where I got my B.A. and it has not been the guaranteed entree to wealth and power that everybody said it would be.

    There’s gotta be somebody I can sue — but silly me, I decided to keep my soul and not go to law school.

  2. Brian J. »

    8 October 2010 · 6:52 am

    Marquette University is up to 40k a year. If you follow Instapundit closely, you’ll see very obscure colleges coming up at 20-30k per year instead of 8-10k.

  3. fillyjonk »

    8 October 2010 · 7:25 am

    Not to brag too much on my Obscure State U. department, but we’ve had students come back for visits after they went to graduate school at Moderately Impressive Large State U. and tell us that the coursework we gave them was a good preparation. And we have a decent record of placing people in careers, and not careers stocking shelves at the supermarket, either.

    I do agree with the “access” comment, though that’s a lot more important in some fields than in others. (I think Law and Business would be two where “who you know” could approach “what you know” in level of importance.)

    I also think we may be headed for a system not unlike what has happened with grocery stores and other types of stores: you can pay big bucks for a resort-like atmosphere with lots of amenities, or you can, figuratively, bag your own groceries and save money. The problem comes when the campuses that were bargain campuses in the past decide they have to “compete” with the fancy campuses, and wind up doing things like building ritzy “suite dorms” and state-of-the-art workout facilities, and then find that they have to jack tuition up or not staff empty positions. I think some campuses may just have to decide that they’re going to be the Aldi’s of the education world, and be happy with that decision.

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