economics, education, Thought Provoking

College Degrees Are Losing Meaning: An Argument Against Accessibility

The Ph.D. will become a nonsensical title when it becomes commonplace in the workforce → This is the direction that the United States is headed.

On August 22, 2013, President Obama stated, “… [The] bottom line is higher education cannot be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative.” The president may be on to something. Generally speaking, the more college graduates that are in the work force, the greater the medium income for all families who hold a degree, or don’t. I will share why this is true a bit later. Obama’s vision for education in the United States is that, living in America means having the means to send your child to college. This vision culminated into a program called the American Graduation Initiative (AGI). The purpose of this initiative is to make college accessible to all citizens despite family income. The goal, Obama says, is that “By 2020, this nation will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

America is falling behind globally in this category. Countries such as Canada, have 57% of their working population with a university degree. While the United States is at 43% in the same category (ages 25-34). If Obama’s vision is realized, then 60% of U.S citizens will hold a college degree by 2020. A lofty goal.

To accomplish this, Obama’s $12 billion-dollar plan (later cut to $2 billion to pass Obama Care) focuses on funding community colleges. Community colleges were specifically chosen because statistics showed community colleges were underpreparing students who transferred to a university, which increased their likelihood to drop out. (Bound p.129-157).

Many universities united on this platform and continue to hold annual conferences supporting this educational goal. This policy gave the academic community a blue print for the future. So far, there is every intent to see it through.

Setting the Stage:

  • Due to underprepared students, there has been a decline in graduation rates, with the U.S ranking 19th out of 28 countries.
  • Obama counteracts this decline with the AGI’s plan for 60% of Americans to hold a college degree by 2020.

 

Let’s zoom out and take a brief look at what happened to the high school diploma. According to Educational Policy Institute’s publication, “Landscape of Public Education”, only 6.2% of the U.S. population held a high school diploma from 1910-1920. The data shows that education past the 8th grade was not necessary to find work during this period, enabling a clear majority of students to drop out after 8th grade. As time went on, the market became crowded, forcing workers to make themselves stand out. How does a worker establish themselves as more qualified when they have no prior work experience? Education, and it worked, for a little while anyways. One hundred years later, in 2017, 90% of students that attend high school graduated in almost all states. (Kamenetz, Anya, and Cory Turner). As a result, having a high school diploma does not make you qualified for much more than minimum wage. It is becoming increasingly clear that the bachelor’s degree is on a similar path, if not, already there.

Invocation:

  • It took the high school diploma less than 100 years to completely devalue in the workplace. History will repeat itself with the higher degrees.

At the core of this article is one question: what are the implications of having too many college graduates in the workforce? Does it depreciate the value of the diploma? The degree indicates “certified/qualified”. It’s supposed to be a form of accreditation that all employers trust. So, from an employer’s perspective, it must be concerning to hear that there is $12 billion dollars being thrown at colleges to make it easier than ever to get a degree. Naturally, the question arises: “If a University hands out too many diplomas, what happens?” Well, it devalues – in more ways than one. As education becomes more accessible, the standards will drop along with it, producing a less than capable workforce. Here’s what I mean → ⇓⇓

Is there explicit evidence that U.S standards of education are declining? Well, no, in the sense that there are no figures to glean at. That said, it is depressingly easy to find college grads and professors testifying this decline. Just a quick google search, “my bachelor’s degree is worthless” will land you with 798,000 results with the first 18 pages (that’s as far as I got) filled with “how to use your worthless bachelor’s degree” and multi-dozens of links to forums on the subject. In one such link, I found, Steve Patterson, who is the author of philosophically charged novel “Square One”. He spoke about the quality of education he received at a top-tier school. “Though it might sound silly, it was discouraging to get good grades with the amount of work I put into college. It just seemed wrong… There was no critical thinking, nothing but regurgitating the plot so the professor knew we read the book, then writing some fluffy nonsense about grandiose interpretations and personal feelings. And that exercise was supposed to strengthen my college education. As if creating wild meta-narratives and writing down my feelings were an employable skill.” Mr. Patterson was particularly mad about the lack of preparation for life outside of college. And he was not alone.

On the flip side, I found a tenured professor with 40 years of university experience relating the decline to overpopulation: “Over the past fifteen years my classes have more than doubled in size… the increase in class size means that it becomes necessary to cut down on writing assignments and allows less time per student for conferences, which are designed to support idea development, correct errors in usage and logic, or suggest productive lines of thought.” All the symptoms he listed happen to support a paper done on the subject, “Class Size: Does It Really Matter?”, published by John Hopkins School of Education. It validates that a smaller class size is beneficial to student learning in school and beyond. Think again about accessibility, do we really want to crowd colleges with more students?

Act I (on standards):

  • The more crowded college becomes, the harder it is to maintain high learning standards.

 

Before community colleges began turning out under-prepared students, hundreds of companies would set up job fairs on college campuses to farm for talent. This still goes on today but more as a tradition. The common reason is this: “… These companies are attending job fairs not because they have any intention of doing any serious recruiting work there but rather because they’ve just mindlessly decided that job fairs are something that their HR departments “should” do” (Green). The college campus is supposed to be where the qualified workforce lives and breathes. This may be true but does it translate into an employee that adds value to your company? Not necessarily. So, what does a company do when the educational qualifications are there but the talent isn’t? They outsource the talent. Specifically, they hire another company to farm for employable talent – a company like, Praxis.

Praxis is a nine-month, “boot-camp” alternative to college and serves a form of accreditation. The core of their education program specifically gears the individual for the modern workforce. The program includes a six-month internship and personal mentorship. Upon completion, the student is guaranteed a position at one of the tech-startups that partners with Praxis.

Isaac Morehouse, founder and CEO, was inspired to bring Praxis to life when he kept hearing that companies had no problem finding “qualified” candidates, but not talented ones. To solve this problem, Praxis does a rigorous four-step screening process to find the most ideal employee for the company. By the end of the program, students are better equipped and even groomed, for the workforce. In turn, they create value in the company that chooses them.

 

Act II (on alternatives):

  • Employers seek employees that add value to their company, which may mean having more than a college degree on your resume.

 

There is one glaring trend that I keep ignoring, but it’s too important not to include. That is the link between how educated the workforce is and how economically robust the city becomes.

Allow me to introduce Enrico Moretti, economics professor at University of California Berkley, and author of, “The New Geography of Jobs.” His book has made waves in its field of study. Mr. Moretti spent fifteen years asking one question, “What makes some cities more economically robust than others?” His research lead him to this insight: cities with a highly-educated workforce have the most creative and innovative workforce. The key ingredient being that the majority of citizens have one or more degrees. It made for an economically robust environment and in turn, a strong city. Specifically, what Enrico Moretti found was, “For each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created outside of the high-tech sector in that city, both in skilled occupations (lawyers, teachers, nurses) and in unskilled ones (waiters, hairdressers, carpenters).”  The thriving cites had within it, innovative companies like Apple, Google, and bio-tech startups. Most employees at a high-tech job, have a degree or multiple degrees. All this innovation creates a thriving economy that raises the median wage of everyone in it. His prediction is that this trend will only increase.

Act III (the opposition):

  • As of right now, a decorated workforce in education is a good thing for the economy.
  • As the workforce becomes more educated, the better paid everyone will be.

 

To wrap it up, here is a real picture of the market’s demand for a college diploma: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 27% of jobs in the United States require a college degree (associates degree or higher). But, as mentioned earlier, 47% of the workforce holds a college degree. The BLS projection for 2022 is illuminating. It estimates the economy creating 50.6 million job openings with only 27.1% requiring a college degree.

Living in 2017, we are able to see only the earliest stages of what I call graduate over-flow. However, it’s important to keep in mind where we are headed. There are government policies in place that will affect the climate of industry. If the trend parallels with the high school diploma, then we might have about 100 years before the Ph.D. reaches a similar value. However, I have faith that the market will correct itself and the demand for degrees will decrease.

 

Works Cited

 

Bound, John, Michael F. Lovenheim, and Sarah Turner. “Why Have College Completion Rates Declined? An Analysis of Changing Student Preparation and Collegiate Resources.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2.3 (2010): 129-57. American Economic Association. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Green, Alison. “Have You Ever Gotten a Job from a Job Fair?” Ask A Manager. Job Searching, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

Kamenetz, Anya, and Cory Turner. “The High School Graduation Rate Reaches A Record High – Again.” NPRed How Learning Happens. NPR, 17 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

PBS Newshour, Too Many College Grads? Or too few? Carnevale, Anthony, Strohl, Jeff, Smith, Nicole. February 21, 2014.

Obama, Barak O. “Remarks by the President on College Affordability.” State University of New York Buffalo Buffalo, New York. New York, Buffalo. 22 Aug. 2013. The White House – President Barak Obama. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Rios, Robert J. “Class Size: Does It Really Matter?” Johns Hopkins School of Education – Home. New Horizons for Learning, 15 May 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “Education at a Glance.” Business Insider Education, September 9, 2014.

Geiger, Roger, Heller, Donald. The Economist: Higher Education: Not what it used to be. December 1, 2012.

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Thought Provoking

The Implications of Infinity

My astronomy professor got to the “expansion of the universe” unit and went over how we figured out the age of the Universe using Hobble’s Constant, which is a measurement of the expansion of the space-time fabric that the universe is made up of. Hubble’s Constant came about from the observation that the more distant the galaxy is away from Earth, the faster it travels away from us. Then our professor told us something that is contradictory to the idea that space and time are connected. He told us that the universe is likely infinite in size. Infinity is defined as endless, without boundaries. Keeping this in mind, how far does space go? When we look out at the distant stars and galaxies, could that space be infinite?

                                         aHubbleLaw2

Before I go into why the universe must have a boundary, lets talk about the super cool parts of what it would mean for the universe to be without a boundary. If the universe really were infinite in size, then whatever fictional world of characters you could imagine, as long as it abided by the laws of the universe (laws of physics), it would be in existence as we speak. True infinity is to say there is someone out there exactly like you doing exactly as you are doing right at this very moment. So continue reading this along with your new clone. Too bad your clone doesn’t actually exist. The universe is not infinite and this is because the universe had a beginning.

Now let’s slow down and let it all sink in.

  1. If the universe were infinite in size, it’s “beginning” would have happened at an infinite time in the past.
  2. An infinite amount of time has not passed.
  • The universe began roughly 13.7 billion years ago as predicted by Hubble’s Constant. That means space has only had 13.7 billions years to expand to the size it is today. If the universe had infinite time to expand, the universe would have died a heat death. For those that don’t know what heat death is, essentially it is the certain fate that all of the stars and sources of light in the universe will burn out and the space between the stars will expand so far from each other, the universe will reach a temperature of 0 kelvin – absolute zero, the temperature at which atoms stop motion [zero energy]. However it is not the case that the universe has died a heat death because we are still here.
  • Since space and time are connected as one, there cannot be infinite space and finite time, because there is finite time, there is finite space.

Age

Here is the trip, and why my astronomy professor holds strong to the idea that space is infinite, despite how contradictory it is – when we look out into space and examine the distant galaxies all around us, we observe that there is an equal amount of matter in all directions. That is to say that we see no evidence of an edge to the universe. That leads to a couple possible conclusions: One, the universe is much, much bigger than we imagined, making our local ecosystem appear as a smooth drop in an even bigger sea. Or two, the universe began everywhere. When you ask astronomers where the universe began to expand, they are going to tell you that it began everywhere because at the very beginning, all points in space were at a single point, the same point. So what happens when I present my professor with this idea that space has a limit? He tells me that I misunderstand because there is an infinite quantity of points in space.

Well I am stuck. Are there infinite points even though not infinite time has passed on our clock? Maybe my understanding of space-time is wrong, or maybe our understanding as a scientific community is wrong. Logically it seems space can only be finite in size. There must be something missing: Relativity.

What philosophers and astronomers can both agree on is that space, at the very least, has a relative boundary. Any light beyond 13.7 billion light years away would have to be traveling faster than light to reach us – which also implies we would have to be traveling faster than light to escape the ‘edge of the universe’. I like to compare the relative edge to our universe as an ‘event horizon’ in a black hole. For those of you that do not know, a black hole is called a black hole, not because it is black, but because it does not emit light (meaning it is transparent and invisible). This is due to the fact that its gravity is stronger than the required velocity for light to escape it. The point at which the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light is called the ‘event horizon’. Am I sneakily pointing out that our universe exists within a black hole? Maybe.

What are we to make of all this? Are space and time really connected as one or are they separate and the universe is infinite in size but not infinite in time? Let those with integrity examine what is being said and decide for themselves the implications of infinity.

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Thought Provoking

Random Number Generator

What if we did a study where we asked many thousands of people to scribble on a sheet of paper and compared scribbles?

What would we find? Would the scribbles have any correlation to each other? What If scribbles point to a similar pattern within a culture, or maybe scribbles point to how your emotional state is, or a brain pattern, or a subgroup of people that all think similarly? Maybe all human beings have a common scribble. What do scribbles say about us? this is all very interesting.

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“They grow up placing their self-worth in that praise: If I’m not told I’m beautiful, she’ll start to think, then I must not be.” – The Key to Raising Confident Kids? Stop Complimenting Them!

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Words I really like
  • Festering
  • Phantom
  • Galvanize
  • reboot
  • syncronipity
  • gangrene
  • Maya: is the the measurement of the infinite as it becomes finite.

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Confidence: A seed of confidence is more powerful than any skill a person may be given. If a student leaves my class believing that they are destined for success, fated to accomplish something great, I have already given that student more than half of the tools needed to accomplish their goal.

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Losers don’t lose, they quit.

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  • Is knowledge best imparted through logical lines of thought or is knowledge best imparted through strong emotion? Most things that we consider “life lessons” are invaluable and shape us into who we are. Most often, we experience this “light bulb” that goes off in our head and an emotion follows. So is it an emotional experience that invokes the knowledge?

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Where were we before this world? Were we up in the heavens with Zeus and his possy of gods – assigned the job of making sure penny’s always landed Lincoln-side-up for good luck? Those would be the days, pre-mortal eleasticicty. What a tragedy it would be passing into mortality. It would not be peaceful. Picture traveling to another dimension – the kind of image most associated with that is going through a worm hole, sucking your matter into a great stretch and swirling it all down a tube like water down the toilet. It would be as dramatic as Zeus picking you out of his bucket of lightning bolts and throwing you down to Earth the moment mommy and daddy conceived. *CRACKLE then BOOM* you are now on planet Earth.

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Thought Provoking

Let’s Talk About Reality

Ok guys, I want to point out something that is rarely talked about, thought about, or investigated – that is the imagination (We will define the imagination as the mental images, and sensory details that you can experience with your minds eye). The imagination has fascinated me only recently over the past few months. I was inspired after watching Esther Perel’s TED Talk on, ”The secret to desire in a long-term relationship”. The idea was introduced to me that our imaginations are a much more active force in creating experiences  we desire than given credit for. It lead me to question, “how powerful is the imagination?”. We know that it is powerful enough to invent an understanding of our origin: creation – because we have used creation stories to make sense of where we come from.

So think about this: when we read creation stories, whether it be scientific ones like the big bang, or religious ones as in Genesis, we had to envision, in our minds, all the parts and possibilities that allow that creation story make sense to our brains.

Why did I bring up creation stories? Well I want to point out to question: what is the key difference between the created and the creator, what is already here, and what is perceived as being there? Can we say that the actual events that are recorded in a car accident (created) and the perceived events (creator) have no relation to one another? The intuitive belief is that we have no real effect on our day-to-day experience. But let’s try being insane.

So what is to say that really the, “big bang”, the event from which the universe has theoretically sprang, is actually derived from our imagination – but not just derived from it, sure we could not picture the universe and all of it’s workings without the imagination, but what if the imagination is the genesis of creation? Whose to say that the origin of understanding and even present experience is ultimately from our perception interpreted via imagination?

The take away: Is the spout (meaning, imagination) which we use to make sense of our reality, really the origin of our world?

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