Enough With the Higher Education, Already

I wonder how you can reconcile the findings of this study with the insistence of the Powers-That-Be that education is the key to a bright economic future:

Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualified, a new study out Monday suggests.

The study, released by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says the trend is likely to continue for newly minted college graduates over the next decade.

“It is almost the new normal,” says lead author Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist and founder of the center, based in Washington.

The number of Americans whose highest academic degree was a bachelor’s grew 25% to 41 million from 2002 to 2012, statistics released last week from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

Presumably, they’ll say that cab drivers, sales clerks, and janitors with college degrees make better cab drivers, sales clerks, and janitors, an assertion for which I don’t see a shred of evidence. My experience in life is that people who like the jobs they have are better at them (as well as vice versa). I’m guessing that the people who racked up big debts paying for college educations didn’t expect to end up as cab drivers, sales clerks, and janitors and aren’t happy that’s what they were able to get. Do I need to add that cab drivers, sales clerks, and janitors who didn’t rack up big debts for college have more disposable income than those who did? That they can buy cars and houses and clothes and all of things that contribute to economic growth?

We’ve had three consecutive presidential administration that’ve followed the will o’ the wisp of higher education as industrial policy. Enough already. What we need is more jobs that require college educations for the people with college educations to do. Concentrate on that for a while.

23 comments… add one
  • What we need is people working in the jobs they were hired for.

    (My experience, solely.)

  • I still want to pass by Tyler and kick that guy’s ass.

  • Icepick Link

    Schuler, I again posit that it easier to explain the behavior of the ruling class if you assume they are actively trying to screw the population. Making debt slaves out of people (after disallowing this debt to be discharged in bankruptcy courts!) just keeps us servile, while they get rich on the skim. Note that The Powers That Be now want to import a bunch more workers – you know, to do the jobs Americans just can’t get. (And presumably so that Senator Menendez doesn’t have to go to the Dominican Republic to get his under-aged Latino hookers. He’s helping make the figurative literal.)

  • I would’ve said something else before I dealt with Rocky, Ice.

    E. thought he was just stupid. I thought he was malicious.

  • TastyBits Link

    To me, it looks like they are trying to raise everybody to above average:

    1. above average people live better lives (money, etc.)
    2. most above average people have a college degree
    3. getting a college degree leads to being above average
    4. more average and below average people need a college degree
    5. the majority of people will be above average

    Lake Wobegon logic.

  • TastyBits, I think you’re largely correct but I think there’s an additional wrinkle. Very highly compensated professionals, e.g. doctors of medicine, lawyers who work for big law firms, etc., skew the averages so much that they’re meaningless.

    I’ve done a bit of back-of-the-envelope calculating around here that’s convinced me that people with college degrees but aren’t in the relatively small cadre mentioned above earn around the median wage but have student loans that reduce their disposable income.

  • Drew Link

    “.. insistence of the Powers-That-Be that education is the key to a bright economic future:”

    Is that really what is being posited? Or is this a straw man argument?

    As a multiple business owner and serial employer, I’d have to say finding educated and qualified workers is a major task. But of course we are not looking for PhD’s. We are looking for good solid people with high school level skills and college level skills……but not necessarily astrophysics skills.

    We find the level of current education and especially of public school graduates to be in need of remedial work. (That was being kind) Indians, not so much. Asians, not so much. Americans, soooooo much.

    A great welder is a great welder. A great painter is a great painter. A great machinest is……….priceless.

    But that doesn’t mean everyone should go into the trades and higher level, college, educations have been obviated. I’d simply suggest they don’t go to liberal schools and get their heads filled with useless mush…….

  • steve Link

    “(That was being kind) Indians, not so much. Asians, not so much. Americans, soooooo much.”

    Interesting. I am having the opposite problem. My Asian/Indian hires have great test scores, trained at the best places in the country ( I am an ambitious recruiter) and have glowing referrals. They are having much more trouble coping in practice. They are smart enough, but dont adapt so well. When faced with a new situation, they have real problems deciding what to do. My buddy and I have talked with some people who are training these kids, and they are thinking about starting a program to help these guys transition better. Since so many of the kids at top programs are Asian, I need to be able to recruit some, just hired another, so I am hoping I just had a streak of bad luck.


  • jan Link

    They are smart enough, but dont adapt so well. When faced with a new situation, they have real problems deciding what to do.


    Is it a problem with cultural adaptation, or simply being in the ivory tower too long, and not in the real world of problems long enough?

  • Drew Link

    That’s a very interesting comment, steve. We find that Indian and Asian applicants do very well in specialties, but perhaps not as leaders or in personal interaction environments. A towering exception is the Indian CEO of one of our companies (Indian Institute grad – reputed to be one of the top 40 ever). You would want to go have a beer with him and shoot the crap any time. Other worldly bright, almost like an exotic physics pro. Engaging and personable. Not the proverbial narrow Indian silently writing software code at his/her desk.

    We meet all types. When I had my pre-op EMG recently, in walks the doctor, a middle eastern descent woman in full head scarf etc. Iranian, I think. You know what I was thinking……but. Being who I am, I like to kibitz and snark. She never missed a beat. Right there with slang, snark, one-offs, bad jokes and just general fooling around with some laughs. Best “bedside manner” for a doctor I’ve seen in awhile.

  • steve Link

    @jan- They are just out of training, so not in ivory tower too long. Besides, that is sort of irrelevant for my specialty. We dont walk around in white coats and talk. Lots of emergencies, blood and guts. One difference is that you do have to cope with the speed of private practice, but most people coming out of training are chomping at the bit and ready to go fast. These are first and second generation.

    @Drew- Guess I have had an odd group. Personality wise, these are mostly great folks. They get along with people very well. This is almost entirely a clinical problem, though the one Asian female keeps telling me she has Asian girl syndrome and the attendant lack of confidence. Will just have to se how it goes.


  • Icepick Link

    Is that really what is being posited?

    Yes, it is. We’re constantly being told that we need to “invest” more in education, that education is the key to a better life, et cetera. We’re told we need more “re-training” to help unemployed people, and are given incentives to go out and get more loans, I mean degrees/certificates. Over and over, again. Rarely is any mention made of what kind of education is needed, or is any prioritizing done.

    When it is done, we’re told we need more people with STEM degrees. Guess what? I’ve got a nice, shiny mathematics degree, and I can’t get a job at Walmart. Last night I was at a meeting with three other engineers (amongst about 20 altogether), and they’re all LTUEs too. One of them was even a “rocket scientist” type, formerly of NASA. They can’t find work either. We were listening to a talk about the efficacy of using volunteer positions at food banks as a way to get ourselves back into the workforce – working in food service and customer service. Can’t even get a fucking job at McDonlad’s or Walmart without having to grovel up from volunteer jobs these days.

    But President “Fuck-you-in-the-ear,-I-won” is going to continue pushing people to make themselves debt slaves. And every possible shithead that will being trying to replace him in 2016 will push the same damned scenario.

  • Drew Link


    Given our past, I’m somewhat reluctant to engage on this. But I can’t help myself. (God or Superman complex)

    So you and I share the view that Obama is a total loser who is absolutely callous to the unemployed, and, rather, wholly behind his financial backers and his lefty causes. The real statistics show his tenure to be simply godawful. He blames everyone but himself. He is heading down the wrong path, but is either so incompetant or otherwise motivated that he just views people like you as collateral damage to a greater cause. The media slobber at his feat and cover up for him. Its despicable.


    But where to go and what to do as a practical matter?

    I was an engineer in a steel mill. Then a small business manager. Then a lender. Then a business owner and private equity guy. At every turning point people told me I was taking unwarranted risks and throwing away the security of what I had previously done. In case you haven’t noticed, I tend to hold my own counsel, and listen to others only at the margin. It has served me well, so far.

    You seem a fine and talented person. With all due respect, have you really probed a hard right or left hand turn to really change your career path? You have experience, brains and fire in the belly. That’s a powerful combination. It would be a shame to not consider all alternatives.

    I say this not just because of your circumstances, but also contemplating my own. Despite Mr. Reynolds mocking about “going Galt” our partnership is winding down. We are all rich already, and the tax and regulatory environment is just whithering under the dunderheads currently in Washington. Obama has been the worst thing for growth and business in my lifetime. We are tired of the lefty bullshit. Call it “going Michelson.”

    I won’t just go play golf. I got my Masters in Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. They have an entrepreneurship program. I need to do something for Christ sake. As long as I’m in IL I will try to take some of those young minds and guide them and their technical knowhow with some practical business and financing advice. (I bet I can accomplish more there than Obama can do in 8 years with his boneheaded mentality.) Its my personal – and yet again – hard left turn, and I bet you can do the same.

  • jan Link


    Kind of getting in your conversation with Icepick… however, that’s commendable what you are thinking of doing. People who have an expertise, skill, or just plain interest can become an asset in a variety of ways where they assist/serve others in some manner, shape or form.

    When my husband was in college, taking business administration classes, they had private sector people teaching a variety of business courses. These are the teachers he got the most out of, and remembers. So, it seems you, with your own ‘passion ‘ and ‘experience’ may be able to put together knowledge and mentoring, creating a truly interesting, memorable class experience for students. In return it will probably be very rewarding for yourself, as well.

    My own aspirations, when I fall into the ‘have the time’ category, is to join a hospice program in N. CA. I’ve already inquired about it, and it is now on the back burner of my mind. As a young nurse it always bothered me how dying people were treated by their families and staff members — usually distracted and incurious about the patient’s emotional space, probably because of their own fears and discomfort about death.

    It’s good to have meaningful ideas attached to the future.

  • sam Link

    –Call it “going Michelson.”–

    Is there anything on God’s green earth more pampered, more coddled, than a top-tier professional golfer? I mean everything, but everything, connected with his (or her) “profession” is either given to him for free or is a fucking write-off: equipment, free (hell, he gets paid for using it); place of business, rent-free; travel expenses, write-off; employees (caddy, swing coach, head doctor), write-offs; … Going Michelson — what a hoot.

  • Drew Link


    I think your aspirations are most admirable. I simply know myself. I worked like a dog for years to get where I am. Its only in recent years that I’ve pulled back a bit, and of course I now have “people” to do the detail in what I used too, and really make my living on the phone giving direction. But at the risk of sounding arrogant, so many technical, creative or managerial types simply do not know how to think like a financial guy, an investment guy or how to raise capital and appeal to investors. I do, and I’ve simply got to do something productive.

    So I will, along with driving my handicap back down to zero, attempt to direct young and creative minds in a productive and successful direction and hope they blossom. I can’t think of a better use of my time.

    I read ahead and saw sam’s mind numbingly stupid comment. See what I mean? These idiots are out there. No clue. Just no clue. Not a chance in hell of creating or enhancing wealth, just bitch, bitch, bitch about the successful liked an old wash women.

  • Icepick Link

    Drew, I have only had one solid offer in the last five years. It was an offer to work a 100% commission job selling financial services to people. (You can take a guess for which company.) And I had to scare up my own leads and contacts. I even considered it quite seriously, but ultimately I couldn’t get around the idea that I was selling expensive services to people who probably didn’t need them, and the whole thing seemed a little shifty to me.

    But that’s it. I’m not kidding when I saw Walmart doesn’t want me. No one wants me, or anyone like me. When you’ve been out of work this long, people automatically assume you’re a shiftless thief and a drug addict. No shit, that’s how it works, or rather, that’s how one stays unemployed.

    And with all due respect to your career path, which business am I going to run? Where am I going to get the capital for ANY business? Private equity is right out, unless there’s a need for investors with 8 cents to their name.

    Drew, there’s no hope for me, or anyone else that’s been out of work a long time. The world economy, all $50,000,000,000,000 annually of it, has decided that we’re worthless and beneath contempt. And the American voters just decided to celebrate that result by re-electing the worst President in the country’s history, along with the worst congress in the country’s history. So what am I supposed to do against that overwhelming tide? Start an 8 cent private equity firm? LOL

  • Icepick Link

    Speaking of the fucking idiots that are the American voters, they’re just finding out what they voted for:

    U.S. consumer confidence took a dive this month, wiping out all the gains of 2012, a drop fueled by the expiration of the 2 percentage point cut in payroll taxes, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

    The tax increase took effect on Jan. 1, and though long expected in Washington, it appeared to take consumers by surprise. It was included in the $650 billion “fiscal cliff” tax package passed by Congress in the early morning hours on New Year’s Day. The bill was dubbed by the media as a “tax hike on the rich,” but the payroll tax provision hit the paychecks of primarily middle- and low-income consumers.

    Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/29/consumer-confidence-socked-payroll-tax-hike/#ixzz2JPC3hYAc

    Congratulations, you stupid shits, you’re getting exactly what you voted for – unexpectedly, of course.

    Meanwhile, the Sandy Relief bill, in which the poorer parts of the country will pay for the richest part of the country to rebuild where they’re shouldn’t be building in the first place, will eat up an entire year’s worth of the “tax hike on the rich”. Given that we always have natural disasters, and that the feds sometimes pay for them, we can expect most of that money to be eaten up by emergency appropriations. In other words, it won’t do a damned thing about the budget deficit except pay for some of the “unexpected” stuff that they never budget for.

    In another story I saw today, it stated that the new “fiscal cliff deal” will lead to 200% debt-to-GDP levels by the time it expires. Thank God the Congress and the President worked so hard fixing things. And I’m sure the study behind that claim didn’t take into account “unexpected events” like natural disasters and wars and recessions.

  • Icepick Link

    I read ahead and saw sam’s mind numbingly stupid comment.

    Well, that’s something else we can agree about. How much tax revenue will CA lose if Phil moves to Florida? I saw somewhere that he’s paid something like a quarter of a billion dollars in taxes over the years. Not all of that was California’s, of course, but a big chunk of it most likely was. Good luck getting that back from all the Latinos moving into Compton! LOL

    (I also saw that illegal immigration is up an estimated 9% in the last few months. Hey, guess what? They’re going to be given de facto amnesty too! You know, so the Dems can get more ‘vibrancy’ and the Republicans can get all of those ‘natural conservative’ votes. Seriously, the nation right now is beyond satirizing.)

  • Icepick Link

    Kind of getting in your conversation with Icepick…

    It’s a public forum and a public conversation. It would be rude of us to suggest you were butting in!

  • Icepick Link

    Here’s how ridiculous the country is right now. Disney has announced plans for a new service for patrons of the theme parks. As part of the program, the customers (‘Guests’ in Disney parlance) will be given bracelets that can track everything they do in the parks: where they go, what they eat, what they buy, etc. The devices will allow for people to opt out. A Democratic Congressman has expressed worries about the possible violation of privacy! From the party that favors warrantless wire-taps in numbers far beyond anything the Bush Admin did, that pressures companies for their digital databases all the time, that wants to frisk your baby and do a body cavity search on your grandmother before allowing you to travel anywhere, and on and on and on. Seriously, how do you parody this?

  • TastyBits Link


    The “Guests” terminology has always amused me. As a guest, I expect my host to pick up the tab. A customer pays for goods and services.

  • Icepick Link

    The ‘guests’ terminology worked better back in the day, I think. There used to be more smiling faces at various points to talk to customers. One nice thing about one pass for everything is that it cuts down on confusion and ultimately cost. One bad thing is that one no longer has someone taking your E-ticket before strapping into Space Mountain, handing you a barf bag and telling you to enjoy the ride!

    (I last saw barf bags on Disney property for the Mission: Space attraction, before they slowed it down. That was a punishing ride for us normal folk!)

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