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Higher Education Bubble
Fewer High School Grads Going to College

The slow upturn in the job market may be causing fewer high school grads to pursue a college degree. Only 66 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2013 enrolled in college for the fall of 2014, reports FiveThirtyEight. That’s the lowest percentage since 2006, and the 16-24 year-old age bracket saw its biggest drop in college enrollment in decades. The article continues:

The drop in college attendance among recent high school graduates appears concentrated among groups most likely to be deciding between going to school and joining the labor force: Part-time and community college enrollments saw the sharpest decline. Meanwhile, the enrollment rate increased for four-year colleges, where costs have been rising the fastest. […]

For young people employed full time, median wages rose faster than inflation in 2013 for the first time since the recession. Importantly, the recent drop in college enrollment appears to be driven by high school graduates entering the workforce, not staying home on mom’s couch: Among 2013 graduates who didn’t go to college, 74.2 percent were working or actively looking for work, the highest since 2010. The share of high school graduates who are neither working nor in school fell in 2013.

As FiveThirtyEight notes, this isn’t all good news: college graduates still out-earn high school grads, and over the course of a lifetime, can make around half a million dollars more. It’s likely that some students may be hurting their future earnings by foregoing college. On the other hand hand, it’s good news that the job market is finally providing enough jobs for high school graduates that they feel they have other options besides spending heavily on a degree.

In the long term, we should be looking for ways to provide many of the benefits of a college degree without forcing them to take on debt and spend years of their life out of the workforce. But in the near term, perhaps this news is also another sign that the higher education bubble is slowly losing air. We’ve already seen that enrollment is declining at many schools due to their high costs. If still more students are choosing work over college, it will force colleges to become even more competitive to attract students. If more competition leads to lower prices, this would be a major boon.

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  • CubbyTBear

    This is not clearly a bad thing; I’ve often thought that I would have gotten more out of college if I’d had a year or two in a working job to give me some perspective. I made some really bad choices in college, which just a little bit more exposure to the world could easily have prevented.

  • Andrew Allison

    “College enrollment surged during the recession as young people hid from the weak job market by staying in school. The increase was particularly pronounced at community colleges and among older students — those in their late 20s and early 30s — likely the result of people who lost jobs returning to school.” suggests that the decline is due to improved job prospects. As to “college graduates still out-earn high school grads, and over the course of a lifetime, can make around half a million dollars more”, I wonder whether this assessment includes college debt repayment.

  • Tate Metlen

    1. I am working on my second Masters degree because it is paid for and mandated by my job/career path. And while not completely useless, it also is of only marginal benefit. Much of which could have been gained by reading a few books. I feel my time could be spent much better in other pursuits.
    2. How much of that increased earns was from the attributes intrinsic to college graduate and how much was it value added by the college? I would be willing to bet it was more due to intrinsic ability.
    3. Those really interested in learning will do so. Those who aren’t interested in learning, won’t. Attending college and being awarded a degree is irrelevant to this true.

    • Ghosts of Benghazi

      Wow all that education and I cannot deduce your point. Maybe your second masters degree has made you incomprehensible to others, kind of like a cloak?

      • Tate Metlen

        1. Due to reduced entrance standards and grade inflation, the singling effects of a degree has become increasingly irrelevant to employers. The fact that intrinsic ability matters more than the education received at college has become more glaring as college is no longer restricted to the most gifted.
        2. With the advent of the internet, recorded lectures, and the availability/price of outdated versions of textbooks, information is no longer restricted to colleges.
        3. Points 1 and 2 coupled with the increased cost of college, has people opting out of the experience. It becomes apparent college is less effective at raising a person’s lifelong standard of living than in the past. The only reason the model has been able to continue stumbling along is the degree to which credentialism has been codified into large organizations and in the minds of those who grew up in a time in which a college degree actually singled quality.
        My point in the post above was college has, overall, become a poor usage of time and money. The general public seems to have begun to sense this as represented by the reduced enrollment in the article above.

        • Ghosts of Benghazi

          Much clearer, thank you! Was beginning to think my single masters degree was failing me!

          • Tate Metlen

            LOL, if I had continued to be incomprehensible, it would have only further proven my point. I assume your graduate education was through an accredited program; as was mine. If we couldn’t understand each other, obviously at least one of our degrees would not accurately signal quality!

          • Ghosts of Benghazi

            Yes, accredited. However, I have learned to avoid your somewhat pompous posture when getting my educated point across, succinctly.

          • Tate Metlen

            Other than snarkiness, what has been you point?

          • Ghosts of Benghazi

            Go back and read your posts herein, shit you cannot even write.

          • Tate Metlen

            So, nothing of substance.

  • BobSykes

    66 % is too high by a factor of 5. These kids are being robbed. Eventually, they will know it, and there will beva revolution.

    • bobbyfischer1971

      Well certainly you should never have gone.

      You don’t even know what Lysenkoism is, let alone why ALL behavioral genetic research is meaningless.

      But you’re almost certainly a hick with hick parents so you’re forgiven.

  • Fat_Man

    “college graduates still out-earn high school grads, and over the course
    of a lifetime, can make around half a million dollars more.”

    Really? Are you sure that this figure is not a time machine figure that is based on men who graduated when there were few college graduates, courses were more rigorous, and many of the small class of graduates wound up in lucrative professions such as law and medicine?

    “Only 66 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2013 enrolled in college for the fall of 2014”

    Two thirds of high school graduates is way more than can successfully complete a real college curriculum. The number should be more like one sixth to one quarter. In fact half of the current 2/3rds stand almost no chance to complete a college course as things are right now. They would be far better off not bothering.

  • AllanDale

    Unless you can win a scholarship based on academic performance, you don’t have any business being near a university unless it’s to meet your date. The vast majority of university matriculators are ladder-climbing degree-collectors and should stick to community colleges. Anyone who benefits from a thoughtful higher-education and extensive reading is destined to arrive at the conclusion that the only way to win the game is not to play it.

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