PERHAPS THE WAY TO REDUCE COLLEGE COST IS TO FIX HIGH SCHOOL

PERHAPS THE WAY TO REDUCE COLLEGE COST IS TO FIX HIGH SCHOOL

Matt HealeyMonday,4 March 2013

The Snap:

This is the second post on the topic of the rapidly increasing cost of college. As was mentioned in the previous article, the costs of a 4 year undergrad degree has skyrocketed over the past several years. This is leading to an increasing number of people questioning whether college is worth the cost. This post focuses on one of the causes of increased demand for a degree.

The Download:

There was an article recently in the The New York Times that discussed the phenomenon of degree inflation. Degree inflation is the practice of requiring a 4-year degree for jobs that previously did not need a 4-year degree. The article profiled a law firm in Atlanta that required a college degree for anyone who worked there. Clearly there are jobs at a law firm that require a college degree and beyond. Paralegals need a degree, the IT staff should have a degree, accountants, finance, etc. all should have college degrees. But everyone? This particular firm requires that the unskilled positions, the receptionist, and the runner — whose only job to to run papers over to the courthouse — have a college degree.

To me this seems both sensible and totally ridiculous. It is ridiculous, because why does a runner need a 4-year college degree? I was a runner for Morgan Stanley in the mid-1980s over the summers while in high school. It is a mindless job. You pick up papers — in my case mortgage backed securities — and take them from one place to another. But on the other hand it makes total sense. The reason it makes total sense is that the assumption is that if a person does not have the drive to go beyond high school, then they will not be serious enough to be able to hold a full time job. Given the state of the public education system in the U.S., this is not necessarily a bad assumption. Because getting a high school degree often requires almost nothing, a potential employer cannot hire someone with only that degree. So everyone now needs a college degree. Increased demand, at least according to the microeconomics course I took, will usually result in increase cost.

So in order to reduce the costs of college, perhaps improving high school to the point where the degree means something would have an effect. College is not required for many of the jobs that employers require it for today. It is now a proxy for character and work ethic. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Hat Tips:

NYT, BA required, US education ranking, Image Credit: Flickr

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